Listen to rural day care experts

BORDER SUPPORT: Cathy McGowan’s comments about funding for mobile childcare services have been supported by Albury Wodonga Community College chief executive Rodney Wangman.The head of the region’s mobile childcare services has pleaded with Education Minister Simon Birmingham to learn from, not argue with, criticism ofnew legislation.

Senator Birminghamthis week accused Indi MP Cathy McGowan of “misleading” her electorate by claimingproposed childcare reforms would make mobile services for farming families unviable.

Albury Wodonga Community College chief executive Rodney Wangman has supported Ms McGowan, saying the MP had a strong understanding of what the rural childcare needed because she helped to set up theservice about 25 years ago.

“Cathy’s comments to the minister were appropriate, it wasn’t misleading, and the minister would be very wise to use more of Cathy McGowan’s experiences,” he said.

MrWangman, Ms McGowan and Mr Birmingham had one thing in common: they knew currentchildcare fundingwas not working.

AWCC lost $200,000 from its bottom line over recent years as operating costs rose higher than government grants, forcingchildcare services atOaklands, Tallangatta Valley and Talgarno to close in December.

Senator Birmingham said the new model would be better for families because it targeted those who worked the most and earned the least, and increased the rebate cap from $7500 to $10,000.

ButMrWangman said proposed legislation lacked detailabout how to keep remaining mobile childcare services runningand reopen others which had closed.

“I’d like to see the legislation passed, but with detail that is embedded that supports rural-based services specifically because, at the moment, it’s not there,” he said. “I’m unable today to have confidence in, will this mean that the recent closures at Oaklands, Talgarno and Tallangatta Valley will be able to be reopened in the new funding arrangement? And will those other locations be able to be reopened under this new legislation?

“My gut feel says it won’t be sufficient.”

The mobile childcare was designed to prevent a return to days where farmers had to bring children with them near dangerous machinery.

“We should have equal access and equity to parents in Oaklands as there is in Albury-Wodonga or metropolitan Sydney because if the minister’s going to say this is about providing services to the needs of all families, why should the people of rural Australia be considered as lesser class citizens?” Mr Wangman said.

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Light at the end of dark tunnel for advocate

IT’Sparticularly sad that it has taken decades for the voice of many men like Steve Fisher to be heard.

But to the credit of the Tasmanian advocate, and a number like him, they have been vindicated by the Royal Commission into child sex abuse.

The fact that it took such a major inquiry to finally force major church groups to face the demons within their ranks is more than disappointing.

The exposure this week of a “network of perpetrators” within the Church of England Boy’s Society in Tasmania and beyond was a watershed for the campaigner.

Mr Fisher says it brought an immense feeling of justification.

No doubt those seeking to keep the crimes under wraps formany years had hoped that those making the now proven claims would give up if they just held their line.

Thankfully they didn’t.

Mr Fisher says the hope is now that children will be believed, and anyone trying to take advantage of young people won’t be able to hide it easily.

“There were times…when you just felt like giving up, but it was that resolve of knowing you were right and wanting to prevent it happening to other children –that’s what kept us going,” he said.

More broadly the recent findings, and those over the progress of the royal commission, must serve as a warning to organisations and institutions of all shapes and sizes.

Every child is precious and they deserve to be protected and cherished.

The early response of the Anglican Bishop of Tasmania Richard Condie is promising. He has initiated a process of church discipline against former Tasmanian church leader Phillip Newell, who, the report says was aware of the complaints about the boy’s society.

It can only be hoped that the church will follow through with the process, and Mr Newell will be called to account for his role in this harrowing history of just one organisation.

For most of us it is hard to contemplate how the reputation of an organisation can be put ahead of the safety of young people. Explaining that will be something to behold.

If there are to be any positives from the long running royal commission, it will be that the light is shone upon the final dark corners of the places where predators lurked, and they will never prevail again.

And hopefully someone will say thanks to Steve Fisher for his dedication.

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Griffith could ease Sydney’s pain

With a private hospital, schools, theatres and plenty of restaurants, Griffith has a lot to offer potential government departments.Griffith has the opportunity to help ease Sydney’s congestion burden, but it will need to shake off old ideas about life in the bush.

TheSenate Finance and Public Administration References Committee will soon hold an inquiry into moving government agencies from Canberra to regional areas like the western Riverina.

It comes after the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation moved 21 jobs to Wagga, a move local governments are keen to replicate in the area.

Council general manager Brett Stonestreet said Griffith had the size and capacity to take on more public servants, but generations of leaders had overlooked regional areas.

“For decades they haven’t looked at the long-term population spread of the nation,” Mr Stonestreet said.

“The downside of those policies has been increased congestion in Sydney, less affordable housing, a need for costly transport infrastructure… they’re not making any new dirt up there.

“Regional areas can help relieve the impact of metropolitan congestion, we can even deal with our own waste without having to find an empty tin mine.”

Mr Stonestreet’s reference to the failed Ardlethan dump proposal highlighted some of Sydney’s biggest problems: The city of five million needs to export its waste because land is at a premium. Urban sprawl has sent commuters up to 100km away from the CBD, with the average travel time in excess of five hours per week. The median house price has also jumped, up to more than $1 million.

Meanwhile, Griffith’s median house price is $300,000, while commuters typically spend five to 10 minutes in morning traffic. The city’s water and waste facilities are under-utilised and recent economic growth is leading to more confidence in the property market.

However, the perception of a lack of services and opportunities in regional areas –perceptions that often prove to be false –have kept potential workers and families on the coast.

“There’s a negative perception west of the Great Dividing Range,” Mr Stonestreet said.

“We need to do more to break down that perception.”

Riverina radiologistNickStephenson said he had heard of surgeons belittling country areas, but they were filled with opportunities for growth.

“We’re now a regional capital for medical services with about 100 specialists and we’re starting to draw young doctors naturally because of that,” Dr Stephenson said.

Former Griffith MPMichael McCormack saiddecentralisation is good for regional communities and good for the economy.

“Regional Australia deserves the benefits of public sector employment just as much as any capital city,” he said.

Submissions to the inquiry close on March 9.

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Suburb profile: Coal Point

SUBURB SNAPSHOTCoal Point owes its name to the first coal mine establishedatLake Macquarie.

Over a century later, the suburb has progressed well beyond its industrial roots.

Today, Coal Point is best recognised as a tight-knit community with alush bushland outlook, quiet streets and magnificent waterfronts.

On the western shores of the lake, Coal Point is situated on the peninsula between Kilaben and Carey Bay.The land was originally owned by missionary Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld.

In the 1840s, he established the Ebenezercoal mine on the south-western side of the suburb –at the site of the present Threlkeld Reserve – after the failure of hisAboriginal mission.

LIFESTYLECoal Point consists largely of freestanding homes on spacious blocks. Itswaterfronts are renownedas some of the grandest on the lake.

TIGHT-KNIT: Coal Point is a small community with less than 2000 residents. It also boasts some of the lake’s most magnificent waterfront properties.

With a population of under 2000 residents, the exclusive neighbourhood has a median age of 49; older than the NSW average. It also has a higher-than-average median income and the most common professions aremanagers and professionals.

The multiple reserves and lakeside activities are popular with locals. The suburb has apublic school and is just two kilometres from shops and cafes at Toronto.

FROM THE EXPERTS-From David Westerman, First National Toronto

Some fresh interest in the area and proactive marketing has seenCoalPointjump out of the gates recently.

TRANQUIL: Coal Point’s multiple reserves and lakeside activities are popular with locals. It is a stone’s throw from shops and cafes at Toronto and Warners Bay.

Owners are seeing strong demand in their exclusive “nook” as buyers jockey to secure a limited supply of properties in this lake side haven. Principal of First National Toronto David Westerman said locals enjoyed a special lifestyle that was hard to explain.

“The community is very close-knit and people look out for each other,” he said. “From a lifestyle perspective it is hard to top.”

CoalPointenjoys some of the best waterfront properties in Australia and demand is strong. The localCoalPointprimary school is beautiful and is attracting young couples and first home owners to the area.

Properties are limited – a prudent consideration for anyone wanting to invest.