rebecca.thistleton@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Parents fight for centre

PARENTS have accused local, state and federal governments of buck-passing ahead of the planned closure of Elsternwick Children’s Centre on Christmas Eve.

Eighteen months after the centre’s impending closure was announced, parents are angry that they have not been offered an alternative in Elsternwick.

The council-run centre was based in a building belonging to Alfred Health’s Caulfield Hospital, which called in the 20-year lease to redevelop the land. Nicole Owen, whose two-year-old son, Liam, attends the centre twice a week, is part of the Save Local Childcare Coalition, a group of parents that has lobbied all levels of government to keep the centre open. Ms Owen said each had handballed responsibility.

‘‘No one will tell us when the site will be developed and our biggest worry is that it will sit vacant for a year or more,’’ she said.

Parents had asked the state government whether the centre could continue operating until the site was redeveloped but had not received a response. Ms Owen said she had tried unsuccessfully to find a place for Liam in several alternative centres and had been offered a transfer to the council-run Caulfield centre.

Glen Eira councillor Neil Pilling said the council needed a long-term childcare strategy to show how future demand would be met. The state government left childcare in the hands of councils, but Glen Eira Council was depending on the private sector to plug holes in the childcare system, which was unrealistic given land prices in the area, he said.

“Developers would make much more money putting units on a block instead of a childcare centre,” he said. “There have been no new childcare centres built in Glen Eira since 1999.”

Health Minister David Davis said the land was needed for a new brain injury facility. He said Glen Eira Council should develop a plan for childcare services to cope with a growing population.

Caulfield MLA David Southwick said parents had been offered places at Caulfield Children’s Centre where all staff would be transferred. Mr Southwick said he approached the education department to find a new site.