A once thriving center for cattle and wool is facing a dramatic decline in its declining population as a staff shortage threatens to close the town’s day care centre.
- Community leaders pull out all the stops to lure daycare director to Julia Creek
- Residents say the center will close if they can’t find someone and families are likely to leave town
- The council says it’s hard to attract people to rural towns, but there’s no problem convincing them to stay
Founded in 1890, Julia Creek in northwest Queensland is one of the oldest towns in the state.
“In a town of just over 450 people, we have 11 families who would be forced to move to places where these services are available or who would have to stop working in the community,” said McKinlay Shire’s chief executive, Trevor Williams.
“That would be the worst consequence.”
The board-run Julia Creek Early Learning Center has been advertising for a qualified director since January.
The center will lose its funding and will be forced to close its doors if an educator is not recruited within the next 12 months.
He said he did everything he could to lure an employee to the area, including a $10,000 cash incentive.
“We tried to make the offer as attractive as possible,” he said.
“There’s a heavily subsidized home, a two-minute drive to work, not to mention a safe, friendly community with great facilities.”
Mr Williams described it as a troubling situation.
“We approached a number of recruitment agencies, including specialist childcare providers, with no success,” he said.
“Families will leave”
Georgia Crocker and her husband Dane run a business in Julia Creek. Her sons Billy and Angus attend the early learning center when mom and dad work on the property.
“The center doesn’t just serve Julia Creek,” Ms. Crocker said.
“It serves a whole area where kids from the cattle ranches will come into town for a day or two every week.”
She said there were kids in town who went there five days a week.
“It’s not just a child care service, it has so many other benefits – the socialization, the learning aspect with the kindergarten program preparing them for school,” she said. declared.
Ms Crocker said families would leave the area if the service became unavailable.
Some families needed dual income, she said.
“And not just an income, but a career – without a child extraction service in place, parents’ goals change and they will look to other cities where this service is available,” she said.
Mr Williams said attraction, not retention, was the main issue affecting the recruitment of staff at Julia Creek.
“Communities like Julia Creek, a lot of people find it very easy to fit into life here.”
He said he hoped a qualified candidate would come knocking soon.
“The clock is ticking on this,” he said.
“We just hope to find the right person to continue what has been an extremely successful operation of our daycare here.”