All childcare centres do valuable things, but not many can say they have single-handedly prevented an empowered community from becoming a disempowered one for 14 years.
Clare Valley Children’s Centre, which recently won a Brand South Australia Flinders University Sponsored Education award, is one of the few.
“If we weren’t here there wouldn’t have been an option for childcare for lots of our families,” said Centre Director Amanda Narroway.
“Before us, there wasn’t any childcare, and people would have to travel to another town, or stay at home with their children.
“That means the majority of our mums are now able to work, while others study, and a few come for respite.
“The majority of our families come from the town of Clare but a few travel in, especially if they work here. Some of the children are on the bus for 40 minutes.”
Listening to Ms Narroway speak, it’s clear that she and her team have a passion for their local community that goes far beyond simply providing a service.
“We’ve been open for around 14 years and everyone thinks we are a big family,” she said. “All of our parents get the chance to know the staff well, to have a chat and to feel secure.
“We do have another childcare place in the area, which was established fairly recently, but we are the only not for profit, and all of the money we raise goes back into the centre.
“Our biggest focus is on building our relationships. These are really important to us, and our families are really important to us.
“I think we also have a sense of stability because we’re at capacity and because we’ve been here for 14 years. That means we’ve had time to cultivate a really nice feel about the place.”
A full integrated facility including Childcare, Kindergarten, Play group, Learning Together at Home and a Toy Library, the centre also has a Healthy Families program on site.
“Before we had Healthy Families on our site, our families had to go up to the hospital, then to us for kindy and childcare,” said Ms Narroway.
It’s also clear that, beyond creating a generally useful, family friendly space, a high priority is placed on the quality of the learning experience itself.
“We’ve done lots of research on brain development and play,” she said.
“Our facility, particularly our outdoor area, has been made into a beautiful place that children want to explore and make memories in.
“We have a wide range of trees and proper seasons because of the region we’re in, so that’s really lovely.”
Winning the Brand South Australia Education Award and being recognised for it in their local community has, Ms Narroway says, inspired her staff to work even harder.
“We were extremely proud to win, and it was lovely that Brand South Australia held the awards here in Clare Valley,” she said.
“There were a lot of people in the audience who knew us and it was great for morale for the next few weeks. We had ten staff at the awards.
“Brand South Australia coming and recognising people locally in our own community, with the local newspaper people there, made it a big community event.
“I wouldn’t have been about to take as many people with me if it had been in Adelaide.”
She also said the award was particularly prized because of the Flinders University sponsorship.
“Some of us have come from Flinders, and we also have some Flinders students who come through from the University, so that made it extra special,” she said.