Griffith Child Care Centre Inc began life as a dream of Councillor Dorothy Waide, a former teacher at St Patricks Primary School and in her later years a Councillor on Wade Shire Council and then Griffith City Council.
Dorothy had a long-held dream to expand early childhood services from just preschool to extended hours services to enable women to return to work. In 1983, the Federal Government and State Governments across Australia joined forces to roll out a new delivery model for Early Childhood and with it funding to support fees.
They would establish 5000 new centre-based long day care places and 1120 new outside school hours places.
Long Day Care was not new but it was found, more often than not, located in inner-city suburbs close to factories. It was unregulated and was compiled by a mixture of models. This new package was clearly about providing the extended hours care to meet the increasing number of women to the workforce.
From the Federal perspective, at this stage, it was essentially still a babysitting service. Each state was responsible for delivering the design of the service, building the facilities and determining which communities received them. The States were responsible for providing the capital funding for buildings and the Federal Government would provide the ongoing operational funding, to cover a significant proportion of the operating costs.
Dorothy Waide through the early 1980s was constantly researching childcare needs and constantly on the lookout for suitable sites. At the time Neville Dwyer was the Coordinator of a Mobile Children’s Service which was one of four established in 1979 by the NSW State Govt, as part of their contribution to the United Nations designated “Year of the Child”. Griffith Mobile Resource Unit (GMRU), Inverell Mobile Services, The Magic Yellow Bus Redfern and the Wollondilly Mobile were all established during that time. Their brief was to deliver services to families who were isolated.
The GMRU was based in Griffith’s local Neighbourhood House, when Neville commenced in 1981, it’s base was East Griffith Shopping Centre. GMRU later moved to the towns first Police Station in Benerembah St.
Dorothy Waide was on the Neighbourhood Centre Board along with the Mobile Board. Dorothy and Neville continued to have long conversations about growing children’s services.
In 1984, after years of lobbying, Dorothy realised her dream was coming to fruition, with the announcement that Griffith was to get a 40 place Long Care Centre.
Local government was handed control and in the first two rounds had three building models to choose from. Griffith City Council had two options for location, the end of a parcel of land that was used by students at Griffith High School for a car park, land the Council owned and controlled, or to site the facility in the new social housing estate being established on the southwestern outskirts of Griffith, Pioneer Estate. Pioneer was selected.
The land belonged to Housing, the building was funded by the State Government and was built by local builder Terry Greedy. The Council planning committee at the time made alterations to the design, adding air conditioning instead of relying on the louvred vents that were designed into the buildings. The building was delivered in time for the new 1985 year.
The Child Care Centre was very much an unknown in the community, families were wary and questioned mothers who were seen (at the time) as ‘abandoning’ their children in the service.
Neville Dwyer was asked by the then subcommittee of Griffith City Council to join the service at the end of its first year. His high profile and work across the broader community of Griffith would be a catalyst for change and how the service would be seen and utilised Neville worked on the dynamics of how Early Childhood was perceived and the focus changed to the educational value of the service and how education and care cannot be separated, acknowledging that learning begins in the early years of life.
The focus was set on education, care, families, relationships and how all these factors are essential in delivering the best possible outcomes for children, families and the community.
In 1988 the Griffith City Council moved the management of the organisation to an Incorporated Association, who would have sole responsibility for managing the organisation. The Management / Board over the past 30 years have extended the service from its initial 40 places to 73, this was achieved in 2001 with the extensive renovation and extensions that added a preschool playroom, kitchen, laundry and offices.
2014 saw some additional renovations to the Dorothy Waide site with some internal playroom changes, a staff study area and the new cot rooms being installed to the existing building.
A ‘National Award of excellence’ was used to cover the cost of purchase and installation of; Solar Panels, replacement of floor covers and upgrade of playroom furnishings.
In 2006 the organisation was asked to take over the Management of PCYC Brightsparks Preschool and the Cubby House Occasional Care service. The occasional care service was not viable, however, the preschool had potential to grow and with new funding being available the following year to enable expansion.
The former Ex – Servicemen’s Bowling Club came up for tender in 2007 and GCCC Inc secured the right to access and refurbish the facility. Capital funding along with funds raised by the previous Brightsparks preschool parents provided the catalyst for the investment.
GCCC Inc Board and Management then settled into what became nearly 9 years of fluctuations to come to the fruition of the preschool.
Local Architects, Sherene Blumer and Troy Patten, project managed and designed the makeover of the new preschool site with the work being completed by local builders Mark Tyndall and Jim Shannon. Majority of the materials and subcontracted work was provided by local people.
The result is a preschool which has exceeded all benchmarks that were set and currently services 26 different ethnic and cultural groups and has been able to provide an outstanding quality early childhood program from day one. The premises are also a Griffith landmark that has been restored to its former glory with little change to its internal or exterior structure.
Acknowledgement – Neville Dwyer 2017