Tuesday, 21 June 2022


Panton Hill Pre School

Panton Hill Pre School

Ms GREEN (Yan Yean) (19:11): (6431) My question is to the Minister for Early Childhood in the other place, and the action I seek is for her to do all in her power to ensure that the Panton Hill kindergarten remains open. The kindergarten is the only service based in the rural north of the Nillumbik shire, and it services families in Panton Hill, Smiths Gully, St Andrews, Strathewen and beyond. The kinder is located close by Panton Hill Primary School so is an important feeder for the school. Tragically, for the second time in two years, the kindergarten is at threat of closure due to the withdrawal of an operator contracted by Nillumbik shire.

Minister, I thank your department. Its staff and Nillumbik council have been working together to support this much-loved kinder. It is disappointing to hear that the previous management body, Sparkways, has not managed local preschools as well as it could have. I and the member for Eltham are very pleased to hear that new operators have been found for Eltham North preschool and for Hurstbridge kindergarten, which were also under threat. The families of Panton Hill and beyond are seeking this outcome for their kinder too. Indeed two of my own staff are cheering this outcome on, as they are both graduates of this great kinder. Fortunately the current mayor, Frances Eyre, is very supportive and is actively advocating for the kinder to remain open. This is in contrast to what occurred during the leadership of the previous council, the Clarke–Egan era. The then mayor stated two years ago on Facebook that if a private business withdrew the service, it was nothing to do with council. The previous mayor, Peter Clarke, also touted a number of kindergarten buildings to the Eltham Men’s Shed. He took them around to three of those council kinders and asked, ‘Which one do you want?’. I am really glad that it seems to have changed under the leadership of this new council.

This government has really nailed its colours to the mast with its three-year-old kinder initiative, which has been rolled out now across the state. We have invested in upgrading facilities so that that can occur. Then last week we had that groundbreaking announcement of free kindergarten and also the introduction of preschool. This is not the time for kindergartens to be closing; this is the time for them to be growing. Nillumbik has some of the highest participation rates for women in the workforce, and during the skill shortage we absolutely need this to continue. A lot of fire-affected families still, 13 years on, live in this community and they need this little kinder nearby.

I see that a member for Northern Victoria Region in the other place asked a question on this. She is a former minister. Better late than never, but she has now come on board. But I would really urge the minister to do all in her power to ensure that the Panton Hill kindergarten remains open.