Mission Australia set to close Tanilba Bay Early Child Learning Centre on March 15

The future remains uncertain for many of the 28 families and four staff of a Tanilba Bay preschool following a decision by Mission Australia Early Learning to close its doors mid-March.

The centre’s operator confirmed this week it would be shutting down the centre on March 15 and that it was ‘committed to working closely with educators to ensure the best possible outcomes for children, families and staff’.

The impending closure, however, has enraged a number of families who say they are being forced to travel outside the area because there are no child care centre vacancies on the Tilligerry peninsula.

Tanilba Bay resident Vicki James, speaking on behalf of a number of preschool parents, said that the closure would severely impact on the families and staff “who would always go above and beyond” in their care for the young children.

UNCERTAINTY: Amy Straker with son Josh, 9, and Vicki James outside the Tanilba Bay Early Learning Centre due for closure on March 15.

UNCERTAINTY: Amy Straker with son Josh, 9, and Vicki James outside the Tanilba Bay Early Learning Centre due for closure on March 15.

“I know that some families have found places elsewhere but there are others I have spoken with who are not sure where they will go or [who] don’t have the means to travel to the nearest vacancies at Salt Ash,” she said.

A spokesperson for Mission Australia – a not-for-profit provider of long day care, preschool and out of school hours care - expressed “sadness” to be saying goodbye to the team and families at Tanilba Bay. 

“We are incredibly proud of our team and the absolute professionalism and care that they have shown throughout their time with us,” the spokesperson said.

“Ensuring children in our care can thrive in a nurturing and healthy environment is at the core of our philosophy and our unchanging promise to families and carers.

“With the lease at Tanilba Bay expiring in December 2019, we have been considering the long-term feasibility of the service.

“As a not-for-profit early learning provider, we must consider the long term sustainability of Mission Australia Early Learning and our ability to provide ongoing quality, affordable care for families.

“Despite the best efforts of staff, Tanilba Bay has struggled to grow in occupancy over the last few years and this has been compounded by an oversupply of early childhood places in Tanilba Bay. We are working alongside our educators to look at redeployment options with other nearby services.”

The spokesperson acknowledged that the news would be disappointing for families, so “we have provided families with information on other local services in the area and vacancy information. We are confident that other local providers will have room to offer placements to our impacted families.”

Ms James, who has one grandchild attending the centre and a second who was due to begin in four weeks, said she personally knew of a number of new families waiting to start at the preschool.

“Now we are being forced to find alternative child care and there are no vacancies in Tanilba Bay, so what are we supposed to do? And where will the staff go?”

”This has become a terrible burden on a number of families. This was a tremendous preschool with innovative programs and staff who often went above and beyond their normal line of duty. It’s an absolute shame that is closing down.”

Ms James said the letter from Mission Australia stated that the operation was no longer viable, “but there are families waiting to start and now we have to find alternative child care when there are no vacancies in Tanilba Bay”.

“I am wondering why they could not have tried to get another early child care operator to take over the licence.”

Another Tanilba Bay mother, Amy Straker, who has had three children pass through the centre in seven years, said the closure would be a “huge loss to the Tanilba Bay community”.

”This centre has become known for its caring and nurturing nature and for some parents to now have to travel outside the area will make life more difficult,” she said.

”My third child left in December last year but I feel for the families and staff who are being moved on.”

Mission Australia’s website says that children learn through play in an environment rich with choice and its Tanilba Bay centre aims to extend children’s knowledge and to develop independence, respect and a sense of ownership for their environment through learning experiences.