27 February 2015: Bendigo’s three Labor MPs - Lisa Chesters, Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards - have joined calls from parents and families for the City of Greater Bendigo (COGB) to reverse its decision to close the Bendigo Early Learning Centre (BELC).
Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, said: “Giving families access to good quality childcare and early childhood education in the CBD of Bendigo is vital. To be closing a childcare centre, especially one as highly regarded as the Bendigo Early Learning Centre, is a major backward step for our community and our local economy.
“I believe one of the fundamental roles of local government is to provide essential services such as childhood education. Bendigo Early Learning Centre has long set the standard for quality childcare in this region. It is also one of the few places to provide priority places for vulnerable children and children with disabilities.
“I agree with parents about the importance of continuity; and the quality of care their children are receiving is thanks to the long-term, stable workforce at Bendigo Early Learning Centre. I hope the Council will take their views into account and reconsider their decision.”
State Member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan, said: “News that the doors are closing on the Bendigo Early Learning Centre is a huge blow to families in our community, not to mention the staff, some of whom have looked after two generations of the same family. We have a growing population here in Bendigo and demand for childcare services, especially in the CBD, is only going to increase.”
State Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, said: “My heart goes out to the 100 families and staff affected by the closure of one of our best-loved childcare centres. Not only has the centre provided high quality education for many generations of Bendigo’s children, it also provides mentoring and placement opportunities to 22 students each year from La Trobe and BRIT. The impact of losing this important education centre will be felt for years to come.”
The Save BELC campaign group and the Australian Services Union (ASU) have already collected hundreds of signatures for their petition asking council to reverse their decision.
Save BELC spokesperson Naomi Evans said council’s decision to close BELC does not represent the interests of its ratepayers and was made behind closed doors without consultation.
“Council’s role is to provide quality services that are relevant to the needs of its community. BELC offers high quality education and learning programs for children from zero to five and sets the standard for childcare in Bendigo. Since the closure of Bendigo TAFE’s BRIT Beginners childcare centre in March 2014 there is a scarcity of central childcare facilities in Bendigo,” said Ms Evans.