Childcare shortage: councillors left holding the babies
Among the parents who gave City of Sydney councillors a piece of their misery … actor David Wenham. Photo: Simon Alekna
SO DESPERATE are some inner-city parents for childcare that a group of about 200 mothers, fathers, toddlers and babies crammed into the Town Hall on Monday to give City of Sydney councillors a piece of their misery.
Councillors described scenes in which toddlers crawled around the lord mayor’s feet, jigsaw puzzles and crayons were scattered across the Town Hall’s floor, babies bounced on their mothers’ knees in the gallery and one industrious child made off with part of a microphone.
”It was the most amazing scenes that council has seen,” said Edward Mandla, a Liberal councillor. ”Just the noise. The actual sound of having all the children there. When they left our ears were ringing.”
The parents went to the afternoon meeting to tell the councillors of their desperation for decent inner-city childcare.
Two developments were being debated, including a new childcare centre in Bourke Street, Darlinghurst, and an upgrade to the Fitzroy Gardens playground in Kings Cross.
Dissenters, while mostly agreeing that the city needed more childcare facilities, were worried about the noise they would bring and, in the case of Fitzroy Gardens, there were concerns that an upgrade would destroy the heritage value of the site.
Residents, including the actor David Wenham, told stories of never-ending waiting lists to get their children into childcare and of the dire state of parks and playgrounds in the city.
Claudia Bowman, a mother of three children under the age of four living in a Kings Cross apartment, said she belonged to a ”growing demographic of young families choosing to stay in this area once they decide to have kids or moving into the area after they have kids”.
”When you live in an apartment, your kids don’t have backyards to play in, so it’s very important to have the shared public spaces,” Ms Bowman, 29, said.
Council approved the Fitzroy Gardens upgrade but deferred a decision about the new childcare centre, according to Labor councillor Linda Scott.
Cr Scott said she ”campaigned hard” on improving inner-city childcare and described it as one of the most urgent issues for the council.
”I literally door-knocked and people opened their doors and started crying [about the lack of inner-city childcare]” Cr Scott said. ”I can’t express to you the emotions.”