THERE was great community celebration in Foster on Monday with the official opening of the Prom Coast Centre for Children.
Several of the speakers remarked on the huge community effort that it had taken to get the centre off the ground and what a happy occasion it was to see the centre up and running.
The Director of Community Services at South Gippsland Shire Council, Jan Martin, welcomed a crowd numbering more than 70 to the opening, representing a good cross-section of the Corner Inlet community, as well as distinguished guests such as the Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins, and the federal member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent.
“Today is a day of celebration,” she said, inviting the Foster Primary School choir to sing a song to everyone. “And of partnership between federal, state and local government and the community.”
South Gippsland Shire Mayor Warren Raabe explained that the long anticipated project came about as a result of funding from all three levels of government, starting with a $30,000 grant from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development for a feasibility study. The dream became a reality when the federal government contributed $1.85 million as part of its stimulus package, the Victorian Government $500,000, South Gippsland Shire $225,000 and DEECD a further $150,000.
Now a purpose-built facility has been constructed by DAS Constructions in Pioneer Street, Foster, and Uniting Care Gippsland appointed to manage it. It opened its doors to the community a few weeks ago, offering a wide range of services for children and families, including long day care, before and after school care, kindergarten sessions, and maternal and child health care. Bush Link toy library also uses the centre and there are regular visits from consultants in specialist children’s health and early intervention services.
“This is one fantastic centre for several towns across Corner Inlet to share,” said the mayor, expressing hope that the western end of the shire, including his home town of Korumburra, would be just as lucky in obtaining child care services one day!
The Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins, was called upon to officially open the centre.
“As a Mum, I know that what parents want is for their kids to be happy, be safe and cared for. That is why the Gillard Government is investing so much money in early childhood education. This new centre will help children get a flying start to their education, with the aim that they will become happy, confident learners,” she said.
“I hope this centre will continue to deliver high quality children’s services for many years to come. It fits with the federal government’s objectives regarding early childhood development and the belief that the early years are absolutely critical to developing the citizens we will have in the future.”
There were lots of happy faces on Monday, with kindergarten teachers like Suzanne Anderson expressing their delight in the new building and parents saying how much they appreciated the child care it offers. Happiest and proudest of all, though, was surely Megan Vuillermin. The young mother was the driving force behind the establishment of the centre, lobbying the government and working long and hard on the steering committee to get it built.
She said thanks were due to the three tiers of government for their financial support, but also to the members of the community who had contributed passion, drive and commitment to the project.
“The benefits are overwhelming,” she said. “Here we have a one stop shop for families. It will allow growth in local businesses, which will be able to take on more workers as parents have access to child care. It is a big turning point for the district and its families and I thank everyone who played a part in the journey which led to this destination.”
Jan Martin invited Minister Collins to unveil a painting by author and illustrator Alison Lester, who has close ties to the Corner Inlet district. Her painting of a penguin will have pride of place on a wall of the new centre.
There was then a symbolic handover of a golden key to the centre from Mayor Warren Raabe to the executive director of Uniting Care Gippsland, John Lawrence.
After guests enjoyed a buffet luncheon provided by the South Gippsland Hospital Auxiliary, Community Services Project Officer Marge Arnup made a special presentation to some of the people who steered the project through once the funding had been received. These included: young mothers Sita Morton, Wil Pruyn, Tracey Daldy, Jill Throckmorton, Gill Nicoll and Megan Vuillermin, Welshpool Primary School Principal Geoff Cooling, Cr Mohya Davies, Foster Kindergarten Director Suzanne Anderson, Shelley Fixter and Jodie Pitkin from the shire, Tracey Gibson from Uniting Care Gippsland and Ralph Hubbert from Prom Coast Children’s Services. Some of these then participated in a ceremonial tree planting to mark the official opening – after more than a decade of lobbying – of the new centre.
The public will have an opportunity to tour the new centre at an Open Day this Saturday, September 3. Come along between 9.30am and 12.30pm for a tour and free activities, including the opportunity to contribute to a piece of art to hang in the centre. All welcome.