Knox Council calls on more investment for kindergartens

Knox City Council are calling on greater investment from the Victorian State Government. Picture: ON FILE.

By Parker McKenzie

Knox City Council has called on the Victorian state government to increase investments for kindergartens in the area, while flagging five key projects for development.

According to the council state-funded three-year-old kindergarten has put pressure on existing facilities and classrooms.

The Victorian government is investing almost $5 billion over ten years so that children across the state will have access to two years of funded kindergarten programs starting in 2022.

Knox City Council Mayor Cr Susan Laukens said she recognises the significant challenges of kindergarten reforms.

“Knox recognises how quality kindergarten experiences can positively impact our children and we have a long history of investing in not only early years facilities but also service delivery,” Cr Laukens said.

“The Victorian Government’s initiative to provide two years of funded kindergarten before starting school will bring long term social and economic benefits to the community, but has also created a tipping point in what we can financially contribute as kindergarten expands.”

Council is seeking 85 per cent funding for five kindergarten infrastructure projects from the Victorian government.

Council said in a statement the projects will collectively cost $43.9 million and would impact their ability to respond to other community infrastructure priorities and financial challenges without government funding.

Included in those five projects are Haering Road Kindergarten in Boronia, Talaskia Kindergarten in Upper Ferntree Gully and Alice Johnson Kindergarten in Ferntree Gully.

“Our existing older facilities cannot be easily modified to meet growing demand and funding available to address this is grossly inadequate,” Cr Laukens said

“Many children may miss out without a significantly increased investment from the Victorian Government to support infrastructure needs. Without this we can’t ensure the viability and sustainability of kindergarten services into the future.

“We need a true partnership which reflects a real understanding of the local challenges faced in implementing this reform, allowing us to forward plan and give our youngest citizens the best start in life.”

The Victorian government recently agreed on an infrastructure and service plan with Knox City Council to evaluate supply and demand for kindergarten services in Knox and examine what areas are likely to require additional infrastructure investment to support the roll-out of three-year-old kindergarten.

A Department of Education spokesperson said they were working closely with Knox City Council.

“The Department of Education and Training is working constructively with Knox City Council on its plans for more kindergarten services to support the roll-out of three-year-old Kindergarten,” the spokesperson said.

“This includes discussions around a building blocks partnership, which involves a pipeline of government-supported infrastructure projects to help create additional kindergarten places in the council area.”

The Victorian government has earmarked $1.68 billion over the next decade to support the construction and expansion of kindergarten facilities across Victoria.

Council said they will continue discussions with the Department of Education and Training regarding a building blocks partnership agreement for co-investment toward these priority projects.

“As state-funded three-year old sessions increase from five hours a week in 2022 to 15 hours in 2029, Council’s modelling has shown local early years facilities will struggle to meet demand,” Council said.

“By 2029, a total of 359 kindergarten places cannot be accommodated in council buildings. This impact will be felt even sooner in Bayswater, Boronia, Scoresby, Knoxfield and Wantirna.”

Eligible Victorian organisations, including local councils, can access state co-investment grants under the building blocks grants program.

Available grants have increased significantly since the commencement of the three-year-old kindergarten reform to create additional kinder places across Victoria.