MORE than 20 years of providing childcare services for the Aboriginal community and vulnerable families in Murray Bridge is being celebrated by country agency ac.care.
The organisation is celebrating 21 years of Minya Porlar Creche after a 20th anniversary community party could not be held last year due to COVID-19 regulations.
“We are celebrating 21 years of delivering early childhood education and care to the Aboriginal community and vulnerable families of the Murraylands,” ac.care children’s services director Meri Daniel said.
Ms Daniel has worked for the organisation for 20 years, soon after its commitment to providing childcare in Murray Bridge began when ac.care was asked by the community to be the auspicing body for the service 21 years ago.
Over that time, she has seen the importance of offering tailored and culturally-appropriate care to vulnerable children and supporting parents to work, secure employment, study or benefit from respite from their caring roles.
“I've seen families come back around with the next generation over that time and also many staff complete training and continue to work at the creche or contribute to the broader community in health or education thanks to the training provided as part of their employment,” Ms Daniel said.
“We made a commitment from the start to not only provide high quality early childhood care and education to the community to prepare children for school, but also deliver career opportunities for community members.”
Early childhood educator Alma Wilson is among the Aboriginal staff to gain an industry qualification while working at the creche and continue to contribute as part of the care team.
“I just love coming in, interacting with the children, when they give me cuddles and their beautiful smiles,” Alma said.
The centre models best practice in Aboriginal-specific child care and provides opportunities for children to experience local language, a nutrition program, natural play environments, links with other community based programs and cultural experiences focused on the Ngarrindjeri nation on which the creche operates.
“We connect with the community and celebrate culture every day,” Ms Daniel said.
This focus on culture is treasured by ac.care’s senior Aboriginal advisor Kathy Rigney.
“Sharing language, knowledge, stories and history with our children is important,” Ms Rigney said.
“It is great to see the kids speaking some of the language and singing in Ngarrindjeri.”
Ms Rigney’s own son was cared for at the creche almost 20 years ago when she needed a suitable childcare place for her child while she pursued employment opportunities.
“I love working and family were too far away to babysit for me, so it was great to have the creche available,” she said.
“I have so much respect for the service as an Aboriginal creche and the staff that work there.”
Ms Daniel explained the centre went beyond childcare to providing broad support for vulnerable families, including connection to other services.
“We not only ensure the community has the education opportunities children deserve and need, but also assist families who may be struggling with everyday life challenges,” she said.
“We work closely with a lot of service providers here in Murray Bridge, making sure the families have access to all the supports they need to improve their life and experiences at home with their families, especially with increased challenges families have been facing in recent years.”
This includes the creche providing a bus service to help families with limited transport access the centre, as well as take children on excursions into the community.
ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks said he loved visiting the creche to see children happily playing and learning among each other and with the adults committed to caring for them in a loving environment.
“Minya Porlar Creche is the type of place you send your kids for terrific care in a culturally supportive environment,” he said.
“Being a small centre, families are assured their children receive quality care meeting the specific needs of their children.”
The creche is operated by ac.care with funding from the Department of Employment, Skills and
Education and operates Monday to Friday from 8.15am to 5.15pm, caring for up to 18 children each day, with childcare subsidies available to offset out of pocket fees to parents.
Call (08) 8531 4400 for enrolments and more information.