PLANS have been lodged with the planning department to double the size of the Huntly Kindergarten – one of a number of preschool projects proposed in Bendigo in response to population growth on the city’s outer fringes.
The single-unit kindergarten at Huntly has approached capacity, and with hundreds of additional dwellings to be built in the area in the next few years, an expansion has become a priority.
Shine Bright runs the kindergarten, and chief executive officer Suzi Sordan said they were hopeful of success under one of the state government’s funding schemes.
She attended a state government announcement of $1.6 million towards the construction of a new kindergarten, day care, child health and community centre at Maiden Gully on Wednesday.
It is believed to be the first of its type in Bendigo, offering on-site Allied Health professionals, GPs and maternal health nurses.
The total project cost was between $5 million and $6 million, to be located on seven lots in the under-construction Westbury Estate near Sparrowhawk Road and the Calder Highway. The childcare centre was included in original plans for the housing estate.
The remaining funding is still to be secured, but Shine Bright was hopeful of starting construction next year and to take enrolments for 2020.
The centre will have a capacity of 150 children.
Ms Sordan said including wraparound services would improve access to early years health support.
“This model is based on our visits to services in Melbourne and Sydney,” she said.
“This was definitely something the state government was interested in.
“There is limited early years infrastructure in this growing part of Bendigo and with the growth prediction it became essential.”
Shine Bright will continue to lobby for the final funding.
The kindergarten participation rate in Bendigo was among the highest in regional Victoria, at 97.6 per cent of children in their year before school.
The Maiden Gully project was one of 20 new kindergartens announced in Victoria on Wednesday as part of a pre-election blitz.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the announcements tied in with Labor’s plan for three-year-old kinder for Victorian children.
“This is fantastic news for families in Maiden Gully – one of the biggest growth areas in Bendigo,” she said.
“Investment in the early years is a no-brainer – there’s nothing that is more impactful than supporting education and development in these vital years.”
Liberal candidate for Bendigo East Ian Ellis said there was also a need for new primary schools in Bendigo.