History of Children & Family Services

Since the 1970s, Council has had a strong and unique involvement in services for children and families. The growth of child care services in Waverley has in some ways paralleled development in other local government areas. These developments were initiated by the federal government in the 70s in an attempt to introduce a more universal system of child care with a strong community focus.

While interested families were coming together to organise child care and other services, they were supported by community workers, usually employed by local government. Government grants too, were becoming available to set up and operate centres. Many of the present day services in Waverley reflect these beginnings but others are unique to Waverley.

In the 1950s joint agreements between the Department of Health and Council had led to the building of baby health centres. These centres were intended to provide post war mothers with advice on the health, nutrition and development of their young babies. The agreements probably represent Council’s first attempt to meet the specific needs of young families in the community services area.

Waverley’s first formal child care service commenced in 1974 when Family Day Care was set up under a pilot scheme funded by the Federal Government. At that time, there were no centre based day care places for children under 2.5 years and unlicensed child minders of varying quality advertised in the local press. Council took over the running of the Waverley Child Care Centre in Clementson Park from the Sydney Day Nursery and Nursery Schools’ Association in 1977. Negotiation with the Association led to it being opened as the first Council-run Long Day Care Service with 52 places including 11 places for 2 year olds.

A pre-school had been opened by Council in 1976 to cater for 40 children. Built on land left to Council by Mrs Gardiner in Rattray Street, it later became Gardiner Child Care Centre and the street was renamed to honour her bequest. By the early 80s this was also operating with federal funds as a long day care service.

In the following years there was increasing demand for long day care. A generous supply of both private and State funded pre-schools meant that Council made no further attempt to become involved in the provision of pre- schools.

It was not until 1997, when Council took up funding from the State Government for 5 places for additional needs children, that shorter hours became an option in Council services.

During the 70s Council’s Community Welfare Section as it was then known, had employed social workers and generalist community workers who were involved in the development of all of these services. With local residents, they also assisted in the development of the Out of School Hours Services which were originally co-ordinated by Council.

Waverley Temporary Family Care which was established in 1977 provided short-term crisis care in foster homes. This service supported local families in crisis situations. In 1983 the management of the service was transferred to Barnardos, an agency which provides short and long term foster care across the State. Changing demographics meant that more and more families were being assisted from other areas.

In 1978, Council provided funds for the appointment of a convenor for the opening of the Hopp In Occasional Child Care Centre in the Waverley Woollahra Arts

Centre. In 1983 a terrace house was provided at 14 Denison Street so that the service could expand to 5 days per week. With a name change to the Grace Child Care Centre the service moved to purpose built facilities provided by Council in Clementson Park in 1994, and now operates as a 39 place community based long day care service. Council provides a tenancy subsidy for the centre to operate at the premises at Newland St.

By the late 70s child care was well established in Bondi Junction. In 1979, a group of concerned parents gathered evidence that clearly demonstrated the need for child care services in the South Bondi / Tamarama areas. Council sponsored The Kindamindi Child Care Centre which opened in 1980 at 1 Illawong Avenue. Parents formed a Co-operative and assumed full responsibility for the running of the centre in a building provided by Council.

In 1979, Bondi Beach Cottage (BBC) was established as a family support service in a Council property in Curlewis Street. The range of services funded by the State Government includes family support, counselling and groups, tenancy advice and child care. The service met a need for many years for emergency and occasional care before moving into a mixed model of occasional and long day care at refurbished premises at 42 Brighton Boulevarde. Council continues to provide support to BBC including a rental subsidy.

From the early 1980s, Council has promoted the inclusion of children with additional needs, particularly children with a disability, children at risk and children from families with high support needs. This came about as a result of Federal guidelines on access to child care and because of Council’s commitment to meeting the needs of these groups.

This commitment initially led to the building of Bronte Child Care Centre in 1980 for special needs children and the employment of a Social Worker (Family Support Worker) in 1980. It also led to the employment of a Speech Pathologist, to improve conditions and training for staff and to the ongoing development of all these programs.

Throughout the 1980s changes in government policy led to a distinct shift in the groups which long day care served so that working families received highest priority. As work force participation increased amongst women most centres were full and had long waiting lists for working parents. The late 80s and early 90s in Waverley was a period when waiting lists for under 2 year olds were two to three years long and many children never received places in their centres of choice.

In 1996 Council programs with additional needs children were further expanded with sponsorship of the federally funded Supplementary Services (SUPS) program which aimed to increase access and equity for all children with additional needs to federally funded services in Waverley.

The Early Childhood Centre in Wairoa Street, Bondi Beach was extensively refurbished in the early 90s and also provides a home for many playgroups and for the Bondi Toy Library which Council continues to support.

In 199I, because of demand, a decision was taken by the Federal Government to expand the number of child care places available. This was done by extending the government subsidy to parents to those using private child care centres. Across Australia, this effectively created a huge number of available places. No planning controls were in place. There followed a period of significant expansion of places and eventually oversupply particularly in the 2-5 year old range. All private pre-schools in Waverley for example converted to long day care and achieved child care assistance after 1991.

This had little initial impact though on the supply of 0-2 places as women returned to work and places became scarce. In 1994, to address this problem, Council refurbished and extended Gardiner Child Care Centre to include 16 additional places for 0-2 year olds. This service also acts as a work place childcare centre for Council’s own staff who receive priority of access.

In 1995-1996, one of Council’s largest undertaking in the children’s services area, Waverley Child Care Centre, was opened, a purpose built facility with 67 places (now licensed for 71 places) for children aged 0-5 years. The centre has excellent playground facilities and generous and attractive internal facilities.

In 2012 Council built and opened Mill Hill Early Education Centre (52 place licensed service for children aged 0-5 years) with Early Childhood Nurses located on the 2nd floor of the building.

In 2018, Council’s early education and care services includes 230 centre based places for children aged 0-5 years (48 places for children aged 0-2 years) and 117 Family Day Care places. Previously funded specialist support roles such as speech pathology and special needs worker ceased in 2006.

There is much evidence around the need for early intervention and support for families with young children. In response to family needs, an integrated early intervention model enables Council to provide support to families in its child care services. A part time family support worker partly funded by the NSW government delivers individual support, limited case management and referral services as well as follow up for families in crises and/or with additional needs. Council offers regular parent group education workshop on topics of interest/concern to local families. Some families are on Council’s waitlist for quite some time. Access to information and Council activities provided by the family support worker is really important during this time. Families with children with additional needs are able to access Council’s priority waitlist.