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Speech by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Opening of SDN Linthorpe Street Child and Family Learning Centre

Location: SDN Linthorpe Street Child and Family Learning Centre, Newtown, NSW

E&OE

Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Susan (Braham, – President SDN Board) for your warm words of welcome.

I’m delighted to be here in Newtown this morning to help you celebrate the completion of a major upgrade to these premises, home to the SDN Linthorpe Street Child and Family Learning Centre.

You’ve certainly come a long way since the service first started more than 70 years ago.

I’m told this building used to be a doctor’s residence in the 1880s.

It’s been used for several purposes since then all of them centred on children.

Perhaps that’s why, to this day, the building and grounds seem to have such a happy and comfortable feel about them.

I think this is a fantastic environment for staff, parents and children alike.

Altogether, my departmentthe Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services contributed $466,000 towards the project.

Let’s not forget, as well, the generous contributions through the SDN Building Fund and the $35,000 donation from the Thyne Reid Charitable Trust.

From what I’ve seen today, I believe this money has been very well spent indeed.

The money was used to pay for much-needed extensions and renovations. I’m told this involved:

  • A new playroom for 18 children, reception area, administration office and children’s bathroom with a nappy change area
  • Renovations to the kitchen, verandah and ramp
  • And off street parking places a necessity, for inner city Sydney.

I think parents here today can be confident their children will continue to be cared for in a very healthy, safe and stimulating place.

I believe what we have with SDN Linthorpe Street is a great example of just what can be achieved when the government, the child care sector and the community work together in partnership.

I’m sure we all recognise the importance of child care in modern Australian family life is greater than ever before.

The challenge for us in Government, and for child care services, is to respond to the ever-increasing demand for affordable, flexible and quality services.

From what I’ve seen of the centre today I think the people at SDN Newtown are meeting this challenge head-on.

For its part, the Government has been determined to make childcare more affordable and we have allocated a massive $8 billion over four years, nation-wide.

As well, we are testing a whole range of flexible child care options to better meet the special needs of families who live in rural and regional areas, people who work outside standard business hours and shift-workers, farming families and families with a sick child.

We are also working on improving the quality of Australia’s child care services by extending quality assurance systems for long day care and introducing new systems for family day care and outside school hours care.

But child care is not just about systems, dollars and numbers, it’s also about ensuring that children have the best early childhood experiences possible.

As the federal Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the area of early childhood development is one I’m passionate about.

I think we’d all agree the first few years in a child’s life are so important.

What they experience early in life makes a big difference, as they grow up.

For instance, we have to do as much as we can early on to make sure that as children grow older, they don’t end up becoming entrenched in the welfare or criminal justice systems.

So I was absolutely delighted with the Prime Minister’s announcement last month that the Government will spend an extra $10 million on initiatives for early intervention and prevention to support Australian families and children at risk.

All the experts agree that we need to understand more about how child care, in particular, contributes to children’s development.

This is one of three key areas that I’ve singled out for special attention in a recently released early childhood consultation paper.

The public consultations will help to set the framework for a first-ever national vision for children and an agenda for action.

I’m very pleased with the consultations, so far, especially with the cooperation we are getting from the state and territory governments, who also have major responsibilities for many children’s issues.

Turning now to the official part of my job today.

This upgrade really got off the ground because of the hard work of many people.
At the risk of repeating earlier comments, I want to personally single out a few of those for their special efforts.

In particular, we owe our appreciation and thanks to:

  • Susan Braham, and the rest of the SDN Boardfor your vision and enthusiasm in getting this project up and running.
  • Tonia Goddard, the previous SDN CEOwho up to her retirement in October last year, was involved with the upgrade from the very beginning.
  • Ginie Udie, the current CEOfor tirelessly following in Tonia’s footstepsand, I must say for getting such good media coverage for SDN’s brilliant scholarship initiative
  • Linda Mitchell, the consultant for the projectwho put so much time into working alongside the architects
  • And the architects themselves, Tanners & Associates; and the builders, Barker ConstructionGiven the heritage status of this property, I’m sure it was a very challenging project. So, congratulations for a job well done.

Finally, a big thank you goes to the parent organisation SDN, and to the centre staff and families for your support and your ongoing commitment to keep improving this important community service.

We are here today to celebrate a milestone in your community.

While the children may not remember the significance of this occasion, what is important is that they remember their time at the centre as a happy and enriching experience.

Thank you for listening to me speak. I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can at morning tea.

It now gives me great pleasure to declare the SDN Linthorpe Street Child and Family Learning Centre extensions and renovations officially open.