Thursday 1 December 2011

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Beaconsfield brings children, families and facilities together”


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - We have all seen examples of rural decline. The local primary school closes because of the lack of students; the pub, if there is one, gives up its licence, the store and the post office close. It is a depressing decline and a rural centre will then lose its focus. There are other depressing declines that can knock the stuffing out of an area, such as the foreshadowed closure of the Beaconsfield Gold Mine, again with the loss of many jobs.

I want to talk about the opposite today, and coincidently there is an opposite at Beaconsfield. While the primary school, the pub and the store historically were the focus of the community, there is a new and exciting model - the child and family centre concept. Place a child and family centre strategically near the primary school and the local library, with a community house and other services and you have a community focus never seen in the past. That is what has happened at Beaconsfield. It is a tremendous success, embraced wholeheartedly by the community. What we have at Beaconsfield is a primary school with 220 students, a childcare centre with 117, the new child and family centre, a community house and a library all in the one precinct - vital community services that save many thousands of wasted kilometres in travelling.

The community perception is not that these facilities are segmented and fractured but that this is a learning precinct that flows and ties together. Whilst mum or dad might be picking up the kids, they can go in and borrow a new book or a DVD or spend some time on the Internet on the computers in the library or, if they prefer, they can go over to the Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre and have a coffee made by one of the trained care and community baristas. But the central concept, Madam President, is to develop new ways of working with families and young children and to provide services in a connected way.

The Beaconsfield Primary School, the child and family centre, the early childhood care services provide extended hours of operation and cooperation for families and children aged up to six. They have their entry point through the child health and parenting service nurse operating from the child and family centre with approximately 100 babies that are born in the district each year. Their parents have ready access to a wide range of services and support. These include the family support services, the Beaconsfield Neighbourhood House which is part of the new precinct, and the early years intervention services such as speech pathology.

I spoke just last week with the Principal of the Beaconsfield Primary School, Peter Fraser, and he says the community is impressed with the quality of the buildings and the quality of the services and programs that are offered in the entire precinct. This has resulted in willing community volunteers. There is community membership of the advisory board for the child and family centre, the School Association, the community house committee and various interest groups that provide programs of interest. Parents and volunteers are gaining recognition and qualifications such as a certificate II to work and training, senior first aid, a short barista course, parenting workshops and so on. The centre is also a very welcoming place where parents feel free to just drop in and spend time playing with the kids.

What has happened or has been carefully planned in Beaconsfield is a model for communities around Australia. The BER funding, combined with State funding, and the use it was put to in the Beaconsfield community has been an unqualified success story. Combining the Federal and State funding for early learning and care centre with the child and family centre has provided a facility I think beyond the wildest dreams of the community members. It is a model for all communities.

You might remember, Madam President, that during my last electorate tour we went down the Beaconsfield mine to the 1 000 metre level just prior to the Anzac Day disaster. The next electorate tour we will be doing a tour of the child and family centre at the Beaconsfield Primary School.