For the last 18 years, MacKillop Family Services’ Mobile Children’s Service has delivered quality education programs for isolated children and families living in rural NSW. The service has been available for children aged 0 - 8 years and their carers, and is known locally for supported playgroups delivered in the Brewarrina and Walgett Shires and surrounds.
The Mobile Children’s Service has been funded through the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA). MacKillop was notified by the NIAA on 25 October 2021 that funding for the service, contracted to run until 31 December 2021 would be extended for another 12 months. However, MacKillop was also notified that –on an ongoing basis – the extended funding would be reduced by a third.
This reduction in funding has resulted in changes that will impact the number of families who will be able to access the service in the future.
Brianna Dennis, District Manager for MacKillop Rural Community Services says Program Manager, Marina Linke and program staff have been working with the community to let people know how the reduction in funding will affect the service and where it will continue to be delivered.
“Our educators provide quality early learning and childhood education sessions, in the form of supported playgroups, to remote families and children where centre-based programs are not readily available, accessible or where there is low uptake in cohorts of the community,” Ms Dennis said.
“Unfortunately, cuts to funding requires us to reconsider our service options which will affect the number of people we can employ to deliver the service and the numbers of families who can take part in the supported playgroups.
While less funding means MacKillop will have reduced capacity to deliver to the same communities, the Mobile Children’s Services team is working hard to ensure services are scheduled fairly across our communities.
“The reduction in funding means we are no longer able to deliver the Mobile Children’s Service in Hebel, Queensland, but we will still run playgroups at Brewarrina (weekly service expected), Lightning Ridge (weekly service expected), Carinda and Goodooga. Where possible and when there is a need, we will offer services at Cumborah, Grawin, Weilmoringle, Angledool and surrounding properties.”
Ms Dennis added, “While we are still working out new schedules, exact dates and times are yet to be confirmed and we are currently recruiting for two part-time roles in Brewarrina and Lightning Ridge, which will enable us to deliver services to these communities within our capacity.
“The decrease in funding came as a shock to us and we know it will be a disappointment to the community, but we will continue to do everything we can to support isolated children and families living in rural NSW get access to early learning and childhood education; we know what a difference it makes to those who take part in our services.”