Little kids big losers


Sir – Three new remote-community child care centres, built at a cost of more than $4m, will close due to a lack of funding, leaving little kids out in the cold.
The new centres located in Atitjere (Harts Range), Yuelamu (Mt Allen) and Nyirripi were built by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and have only been operational for six months.
The Central Desert Regional Council sought an additional $55,000 per centre so that they could employ coordinators to support local indigenous staff in each service. Instead, the Department of Social Services decreased their funding by almost $100,000.
I am  stunned by the offer. We have the evidence that employing coordinators in the centres not only improves their usage, but they also protect the taxpayers’ asset. Everyone wins. We’ve provided the evidence to the Government and their response was to reduce funding. They don’t seem to be interested in evidence based practice.
I’m exasperated at the intransigence of the Commonwealth Government. We are being offered $128,000 a year to run each centre. They want the centres full, they want children to be safe. It is not enough money to run the centres, employ local staff and also employ a coordinator to help train, supervise and support the local staff.
Central Desert Regional Council President Adrian Dixon is furious with the lack of vision shown by the Commonwealth Government. He said: “This is an attack on children, this is an attack on families, and this is an attack on Aboriginal people living in remote Communities. This is treating us like we’re second class citizens.”
The Council will close the centres immediately, leading to a loss of 15 full-time and part-time jobs for Aboriginal people and the termination of a critical service for kids and working parents in remote Central Australia.
Cathryn Hutton
Central Desert Regional Council CEO
[ED – The Alice Springs News Online is seeking comment from NT Senator Nigel Scullion.]


  1. To the contrary, the Government is interested in evidence based practice which is why they reduced funding.
    The Government doesn’t and shouldn’t fund initiatives that have poor outcomes.
    The evidence at hand is that the communities wanted this initiative and opted for centres that would maximise local employment opportunities.
    Government agencies listened and complied.
    Having spent $4 million on building the centres and then employing 15 local staff to run them (that’s five staff per centre) the centres have not operated effectively.
    Worker absenteeism has been very high, a child care service has not been provided.
    Furniture and other items belonging to the centres have gone missing.
    The Nyirripi centre shows signs of vandalism.
    Now the council wants to employ coordinators at even more expense to try to get the centres working properly.
    The council consulted and came up with the current model, now they find it doesn’t work and they want Government to bail them out.
    There is no evidence the coordinator model they propose will work, or even that the coordinator positions can be filled.
    The MacDonnell Shire has been advertising similar positions for months but centres in Papunya, Liebig and Kintore remain shut.
    When these centres have run the coordinator have needed to do far more than help train, supervise and support the local staff.
    Most coordinators have not stayed in the positions for long.
    How child care centres on remote communities can operate effectively is a work in progress but not one that the Government can or should endlessly support.

  2. Pretty simple really, Central Desert Shire. Put off some of your interstate workers in your offices and keep the locals employed!

  3. Yes Local, the problem being that the many interstate employees don’t understand how to make community organisations work.
    For example, they thought that just because communities say they want local employment means that the local Aboriginal staff will perform their jobs and regularly turn up for work.
    Absenteeism in the centres has been running at a very high rate, while salaries have continued to be paid.
    Yes, there have been plenty of “cultural” reasons for the 15 staff not turning up for months on end but at the end of the day the child care service has not delivered.
    Close them down and start again is not such a bad idea.

  4. Also worth considering that bringing in another provider makes a lot more sense if the three MacDonnell Council centres were included.
    They suffer the same problems, are equally dysfunctional; and two of the three have not even run for months.
    Six childcare centres under new management is well worth trying.

  5. Will Cathryn Hutton confirm the Central Desert Regional Council operates these facilities with conventional valid leases obtained from the relevant ALRNT Land Trusts?
    Criminal damage needs be a police matter.
    Education and Health services in these communities need work together to provide child care services also requiring non-worker parent involvement, with such involvement used to satisfy Centrelink work tests.
    Are failures to accept employment, failure to work, or terminations, reported to Centrelink for Centrelink to address?
    What does Centrelink do?
    What efforts are there to employ others to replace non-attendees?
    IF these facilities are properly leased from ALRNT private land-owners, what other purposes can these leases be used for?
    Many local government councils appear still without valid leases for “their” operating facilities in similar communities.
    Without valid leases it is difficult to properly manage and operate businesses.
    Can Senator Nigel Scullion confirm all the ALRNT local government council facilities now possess valid lease agreements with their relevant ALRNT Land Trusts?


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