Child care invite ignored

Families invited Perth councillors and the CEO to a group meeting but none showed. Photo by David Bell.

FAMILIES facing the closure of Citiplace Child Care Centre fear months of disruption as they scramble to find new places, and those needing occasional care or with younger kids may not find placements at all. 

The 53 families who use the centre were taken by surprise when Perth council went behind closed doors and decided to close the Commonwealth-funded centre by September.

Disposed

Most of the staff report that went to councillors is still confidential, but a snippet released to the public says the property will be “dispose[d] by lease … as per the income generating parameters outlined within Council Policy 2.7,” a policy the current council line-up brought in last year to make more money off its buildings. 

Families have slammed the council for not speaking to them ahead of the vote and said councillors might’ve made a different decision if they’d heard them out first.

We spoke to a dozen parents who all told us they’d gladly pay higher fees to keep the centre afloat, and who say the council doesn’t understand that other centres don’t cater for younger kids or offer short term occasional care. 

Eiméar and Michael Mossey are from Ireland, and with their family thousands of kilometres away, Ms Mossey says the centre is irreplaceable: “The care we were given was unbelievable. We have no family here, [Citiplace carers] were like a granny to us. They’re his second family.”

“They talk about footfall in the city, and trying to bring people back. The only reason we have to come to the city is daycare.”

Another parent: “The primary reason I spend time and money in the city is the daycare centre,” and others agreed they’d opt to work from home and find childcare in the suburbs if Citiplace closed. 

Many believed numbers at the centre would pick up as people returned to the office. 

Even those who believe they’ll find placements at other childcare centres are concerned about the disruption during their kids’ formative years.

Dad Kiran Veluri said for his two year old “it took a while” to get comfortable with going to daycare, and Citiplace’s hour-at-a-time care helped his boy get used to it gradually. 

“Now finally he is settled,” and Mr Veluri fears another hard period if they have to find a new centre.

Dad Ming Khor said: “It is my opinion that there are things that a government needs to provide to us: Childcare, education, water, electricity.”

It’s a sentiment that’s reflected in Perth council’s own budget papers, which outlines “education and welfare” as one of its 11 core programs and notes provision of “child care centres” as one of the main activities.

Subsidising

In response to written questions we submitted to the council, an emailed statement attributed to Perth lord mayor Basil Zempilas said that more than 10 child care centres had opened within two kilometres of Citiplace since it opened 33 years ago. 

“The City of Perth has been subsiding the cost to run the centre an average $950,000 a year for the past seven years. 

“On that basis council voted to close the Citiplace Child Care Centre at the end of September, giving families six months to find an alternative child care provider.”

On the lack of consultation ahead of the decision, he said “to speak to staff and families before an official council decision would have been inappropriate. Council was elected to make decisions on behalf of all of our City of Perth ratepayers.”

Centre was a career saver

ARTIST Paula Hart said she wouldn’t be where she was today if not for Citiplace Childcare Centre, as its hard-to-find occasional care let her pick up flexible work to keep her arts career afloat. 

It’s been about 20 years since her daughter Ava went to the centre but she felt strongly enough to attend the gathering of supporters on April 7 and advocate for the centre to stay open.

She had to search hard for somewhere that took children on short term stints without committing to expensive long-term enrolments.

“I finally found this one here.

“It is literally the only place that does occasional care.

Original staff

“If you’re coming in for short courses, you’ve got somewhere to put your kids for a couple of weeks.” 

“It kept my career afloat,” she says.

She was surprised to return this week and find so many of the original staff still there.

“I walk in, they’re all the same staff that Ava had as a child.”

High staff turnover has been a constant problem for the childcare industry for years. 

Multiple parents said they noticed high turnover and staff dissatisfaction at privately run childcare centres, and the longevity of staff at Citiplace made for some much-needed stability for their kids’ early years. 

Stories by DAVID BELL

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