By Gav Ross

AN ENTIRE community is celebrating a major funding announcement ensuring the long-awaited  will be built within a few short years.
Just days after early building design plans were revealed to locals at the Corinella site, the committee behind the project discovered that a crucial State Government funding commitment was about to be confirmed.

Bass Valley Children’s Centre committee members with Harriet Shing at last Friday’s momentous announcement included, from left, Anita Stafferton, Claudia Heuberger, Louise Watkins with baby Evelyn, Tanya Hughes, Amber Rees, Marie Gallagher and Christina Keeble. G084915

Bass Valley Children’s Centre committee members with Harriet Shing at last Friday’s momentous announcement included, from left, Anita Stafferton, Claudia Heuberger, Louise Watkins with baby Evelyn, Tanya Hughes, Amber Rees, Marie Gallagher and Christina Keeble. G084915

Member for Eastern Region Victoria, Harriet Shing, stopped by the site, currently occupied by the JLM Kindergarten, to make the announcement to an elated crowd made up of committee members, parents, Bass Coast Shire Council representatives, pre-schoolers and students from Bass Valley Primary School next door.
She confirmed that a major grant of $900,000 under the Children’s Facilities Capital Program had been green-lit.
Coupled with a commitment of $995,000 from the council, $40,000 from Bendigo Bank’s Grantville and San Remo branches and $75,000 from community fundraising efforts, the project total has been estimated at $2.2m.
There is a shortfall of $300,000 which is currently being sought from Regional Development Victoria.
However, at this stage, the committee is positive the project is ‘100 per cent’ going ahead.
The new hub will provide improved services for a large number of rural and isolated townships in the Waterline area, including a funded kindergarten program, long day care, three year-old kindergarten, occasional care, Maternal Child Health, family services, early intervention programs, and research partnerships.
The centre is expected to cater to over 80 children across its kindergarten, long day care and occasional care programs.
Ms Shing said last week’s funding announcing is a “huge win” for the community.
“A significant baby boom in recent years has created an urgent need to invest in centres like this that will benefit Bass Coast families for years to come,” Ms Shing said.
“Gippsland deserves better services and infrastructure for education and early childhood development, particularly after having to make do for many years.
“We know that integrating family services with kinder programs makes accessing quality education, support and resources flexible and convenient for children and parents.”
Bass Valley Children’s Centre president Christina Keeble was understandably ecstatic, along with other committee members who have battled for years to make the hub a reality.
She began her speech at last week’s announcement with an inspiring quote from American writer Margaret Wheatley.
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about,” she repeated.
“And I feel this is exactly what has happened here.
“Parents in our area for the first time will have access to services that have never existed here.”
Cr Clare Le Serve, who has been at the forefront of trying to improve children’s services in the Bass Valley area for decades, said it was an emotional day for her.
“It’s emotional because it’s generational and I’m here with my daughter and grand-daughter,” she said.
“We’ve fought for this for a long time.”
Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Jordan Crugnale, described the Children’s Centre as “brilliant investment”.
“A brilliant social investment for our newest youngest additions to our communities, that we hope have the best start, support and guidance to be well in life in everything they do,” Cr Crugnale said.
“This investment is for their parents and guardians to have space for their own personal and professional development in whatever form that takes.
“This is community building running on a full tank!”
Architects are still steadily working through the design of the hub and construction could start within 18 months.

The hub will have…
The $2.2m integrated children’s hub will feature an array of programs and services, including:
• Funded Four Year Old Kindergarten Program
• Long Day Care
• Maternal and Child Health Services
• Early Childhood Intervention Services
• Family Services
• Counselling Services
• Supported Playgroup
• Parenting Groups
• Occasional Care
• Community Meeting Spaces
• Outside School Hours Care
• School Holiday Care
• Immunisation Services