Children’s Hub takes next step

By Vanessa Wiltshire

THE MUCH anticipated Bunbunarik Children’s Hub is another step closer to opening, with the certificate of occupancy being recently granted. This is separate to the process for receiving an operating license, which is underway.

Sandra Slatter, chair of the Heathcote Community Children’s Services Association (HCCSA) board, said she is proud of the huge team and community effort, including up to 1000 hours of volunteer work.

“The Bunbunarik Children’s Hub is a wonderful example of what small communities can do when resourced,” Sandra confirmed. “It has been a three-way partnership between a not-for-profit, a for-profit business and state government working together, with the community group taking the lead.

“The model is replicable and could be utilised by other rural communities who do not have childcare and want to encourage younger families to live and work there,’’ she said.

The facility, which cost $1.4 million to build, will provide spaces for up to 45 children and create 35 new jobs. In addition to childcare and early learning, the Hub will deliver crucial services to families including counselling and speech pathology. These services will be free.

“The Hub is an absolute game changer for our town,” Sandra said. “It means that more families will be able to stay in Heathcote or even more here,’’ she said.

“We have worked closely with local employers including Mandalay and Heathcote Health. This means that there will be drop-off and late pick-up times that align with peak periods of work.’’

Jenny’s ELC has been appointed as the childcare and early learning centre provider. The HCCSA board is working closely with Jenny’s through the licensing process and anticipates an early 2019 opening.

Darren Reid, director of Jenny’s ELC, said that he is excited and proud. “We’ve had to overcome some big obstacles to get to this point,’’ he said. “Working with the HCCSA, the state government, the community and local businesses, has helped us succeed. We are now working on licensing with the support of HCCSA and anticipate positive news soon.’’

The Hub will be a state of the art 660 square metre children’s care and development facility with over 500 square metres of playground and sensory garden space.

In the lead-up to its anticipated licensing and opening, the Hub will open to the community on Saturday, February 9.

“I can’t wait for the community to see this wonderful facility with their own eyes,” Sandra said. “We’ve had some fantastic volunteer support to this point, but to get over the line, we do need extra hands on deck. I welcome anyone who is interested to reach out.’’

Sandra confirmed that discussions are underway with the local Taungurung Clan to ensure their culture is integrated into the Hub. Bunbunarik is an Indigenous word meaning ‘‘children’’.