Cherbourg Mayor Elvie Sandow with some of the children at the Gundoo Early Learning Centre (Photo: CASC)

August 23, 2023

Cherbourg Mayor Elvie Sandow believes laying a strong foundation in early childhood is the key to addressing youth issues in the community.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Mayor Elvie called for a “fair deal” for early childhood education and incentives to attract workers.

“This is where it starts … we’re changing the mindset, we’re not just a child-minding centre,” Mayor Elvie said.

“There’s a lot of discussion at the moment around the Voice, but who is the voice for these little people here?”

Aunty Jacqui Tapau, director of the Gundoo Early Learning Centre in Cherbourg, supported the Mayor’s call for more training and incentives, not only for existing workers but to encourage young people to choose early childhood education as a career.

And she was hoping high school students would come along to help out or start traineeships.

“We need younger people in our community to come along, walk through the centre, hopefully do an induction and be put on to our relief list,” Aunty Jacqui said.

“We are targeting young people so that we can train them up. We need a succession plan as we’re getting older; we need to train up our young people so we can keep our childcare centre within our community.”

Aunty Jacqui and Mayor Elvie agreed that pay rates and incentives in the industry were very low in Australia.

“The workers are doing an excellent job, but we are seeing a lot of burnouts with staff leaving, it’s all one big cycle,” Aunty Jacqui said.

“We train and retain. Training is offered on site at Gundoo, which I think we do really well.

“We do a wonderful job to give our people the opportunities and support to work toward achieving Certificates and Diploma qualifications on the ground at our centre.”

However, retention was still a problem because of the lack of incentives.

Mayor Elvie said children who have access to early childhood education are ready when they get to school.

“They walk in, they sit down, they’re ready to learn, they’re in a routine. The kids that don’t access early childhood education are bouncing off walls because they’re not in a set routine,” she said.

Mayor Elvie said Gundoo was very affordable.

“We just want out families to access (Gundoo) … early learning is laying the foundation to transition them into school,” she said.

Mayor Elvie and Aunty Jacqui said they have been on a journey to fight for better recognition of the role of early learning for more than 20 years.

“We still haven’t stopped, and I know government is slowly listening, setting up a peak body now for early childhood, (it’s been) a long time coming,” Mayor Elvie said.

Gundoo Early Learning Centre is run by the Cherbourg community, not by council.

It has a board of directors and a committee made up of local residents.

Aunty Jacqui called on Cherbourg residents – “our elders, aunties, uncles, mums and dads, our community people” – to join in.

“We have got an open door here, everybody is welcome,” she said.

Gundoo is not only an early childhood education centre, it also acts as a community hub and drop-in centre.

People are invited to drop in during the day, sit and have a cuppa and get help with everything from filling out paperwork for birth certificates to learning how to connect with health professionals.

Aunty Jacqui said there was also a need for volunteers at Gundoo.

“If you’ve got a skill, or even if you just feel like getting out of the house … come and read a book to our little ones or with your children,” she said.

“Maybe do some baking or make some damper with our babies, you’re more than welcome.”

She said these things could really make a difference in  a child’s life and make them smile.

“It really warms your heart the conversations you have here with the children, they’re very warm,” Aunty Jacqui said.

“If you have had a bad morning, they don’t see that. They just see the person wanting to spend some time with them. Come in, kick a ball, do a painting, it’s all beneficial and you will go away feeling all warm and respected.”


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