The Weilmoringle community, located in the upper Culgoa floodplain of New South Wales approximately 180kms north of Bourke, previously had no access to services such as transport or early childhood education.
By working together in tandem with the Department of Education, Weilmoringle community leaders, team members from Community Connections Solutions Australia (CCSA), MacKillop Family Services has successfully established Gidgee Preschool, helping to provide sustainable local solutions which will be adaptable to the unique needs of the community over time.
“I’ve always dreamed we’d have a preschool and I’ve asked and tried over the years to see if we could get funding for a preschool – this was not successful – and now finally it’s arrived”, said Aunty Josie, Weilmoringle Community Elder and member of the working group.
“I have a little boy who is going to attend the preschool; it’s important to socialise and communicate with kids his own age and get him settled and ready so he knows what to expect when he goes to school”, Aunty Josie said.
CCSA CEO Meg Mendham said she was proud to work so closely with the local community to guide the project and help navigate through the requirements.
“With our strong history of governance and management we have been able to successfully implement this pilot coordinating all key stakeholders whilst advising on strategies in establishing services in rural and remote communities”, she said.
The project is one which engenders a lot of passion and pride as there are unique challenges and hurdles to overcome in regional and remote areas.
“MacKillop is delighted to have been selected to deliver Gidgee Preschool to the Weilmoringle community”, said Robyn Miller, CEO, MacKillop Family Services.
“There has been a great need for many years to establish an accredited preschool in the community. Gidgee Preschool opened in August and we now have five children attending. They are so excited on their preschool days and they have already progressed in their learning and confidence. They are writing and reading their names, learning to count, recognising colours and learning about healthy eating – making their transition to school so much easier.”
Nat Heath, Assistant Manager Aboriginal Services at the department describes the importance of the new preschool in setting the standard for other communities to emulate in the future.
Developing the preschool includes everything from getting the right people behind it, submitting applications for approval, getting the building into shape and ensuring it is well resourced and has the infrastructure that’s needed.
“We worked closely with CCSA and MacKillop Family Services throughout the important milestones in the project, helping to ensure strong connections with the community were established,” he said.
“In delivering on this goal, we have learnt so many significant things that we can take to new situations and it will be great to see if we can expand to more communities in the future.”
To be eligible for the Safety Net program, communities need to be classified as “very remote” according to ARIA+ classifications, have no more than 10 preschool ages children in the community, and not have access to an early childhood education program.
The preschool was officially opened on the 25th October and will be operated by MacKillop Family Services.