LEADING the growing Prom Coast Centres for Children (PCCC) in Foster has now become a task broad enough to warrant two senior members of staff.
Appointed only a month ago to the newly-created position of Foster centre director is Sue Millett, who joins early years manager Wilhelmina Pruyn.
Together they guide up to 40 full- and part-time co-ordinators, teachers, educators and administration people who attend to literally hundreds of local children aged from soon after birth to 12 years, while offering support and encouragement to their families.
Headed by a management committee of dedicated volunteers, PCCC is a not-for-profit, community-based, government-approved provider of kindergarten and baby and early childhood services to families throughout the Wilsons Promontory district.
Sue is in charge of the Foster centre, and, working alongside 30 staff, she has the responsibility of almost 200 children enrolled in a variety of programs in 2019.
These include kindergarten classes for three- and four-year-olds, long day care for children aged from babyhood up to five years, and out-of-school-hours care and school-holiday sessions for five- to 12-year-olds.
Sue has taken a considerable load from Wil, who now only has to look after PCCC’s other three kindergartens at Fish Creek, Toora and Welshpool, oversee up to 10 teachers and educators, and mind the business and finance side of the organisation.
PCCC’s Pioneer Street building is home to kindergarten for the two age groups, with some of the kinder children arriving earlier and staying later for long day care, too, while others come along just for kinder or just for long day care.
The Prom district’s maternal and child health service also has a dedicated room at the Foster centre.
This year Fish Creek has 30 children enrolled, with 20 four-year-olds, and 10 three-year-olds. Toora and Welshpool share their combined group of 15 four-year-olds and five three-year-olds, with kinder held week about in the two townships.
Sue has a background in early childhood education and early intervention and has spent many years working with children with special needs, most recently at the South Gippsland Special School in Leongatha and before then with Noah’s Ark Australia.
Sue and Wil said the demand for the services that PCCC, and indeed nearly every kindergarten and child care centre in the South Gippsland Shire, in the greater Gippsland region and across Victoria provide is growing.
“There are more children needing places at kindergarten and in long day care not only because of a rising population but also more parents are working because of increasing financial pressure on families,” they said.
“Other parents are returning to study to gain further qualifications that will also improve their chances of finding work
“How many children we can cater for at PCCC is determined by the size of the buildings and their facilities as well as by the licence for a certain number of places the service gets from the State Government’s Department of Education and Training,” Wil said.
“We serve a huge area and as our current infrastructure at Foster is at capacity, we’re struggling to meet the needs of our immediate families quite apart from the new families who have moved here on the assumption that long day care would be accessible.
“The next nearest long day care centres are at Leongatha and at Yarram, which are full too and are too far away from this district to be practical for local families, and many people simply don’t have extended family nearby who could help them with child care,” she said.
“The State Government makes infrastructure funding available each year and we work closely with the South Gippsland Shire to lodge our grant applications so we can continue to adequately deliver kinder and long day care programmes now and into the future.”
Sue said “we are trying to provide everything to everyone, and here at the Foster centre we are busy all day during the week, from 7.30 in the morning right through to 6 pm at night.
“The State Government is introducing funded three-year-old kinder in Victoria in 2020 as the evidence clearly shows that two years of kinder prepares children so much better for school and for life,” she said.
“Fish Creek is one of the first kinders in the state to receive the extra three-year-old funding, and because of the demand for similar places here at Foster where we don’t have a stand-alone kinder, some of our Foster parents will have to travel to Fish Creek next year.
“Our figures for 2020 already show that there’s so many four- and three-year-olds enrolled for kindergarten at Toora and at Welshpool that both kinders will be open for sessions each week instead of alternately,” Sue said.
“This is really fantastic because strong numbers at these kinders mean a flow-on effect and a likely increase in enrolments at local schools, and so whole communities will benefit.”
Wil and Sue said PCCC is “lobbying really hard for more funding to allow our centres to expand, and we ask people to back our campaign and to tell the State Government that local communities want and need our services.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how we can grow and help our families.”• Prom Coast Centres for Children (PCCC) early years manager Wilhelmina Pruyn is pictured with PCCC’s newly-appointed Foster centre director Sue Millett.