Sad farewell to centre

THIS year’s Donald St Festival will be tinged with sadness for the folk at the Laverton Children’s Centre, commonly known as Gumnuts.
Instead of using the festival as a day of recruitment, it will be a day for sad reflection because the centre will not reopen once sessions close at the end of the year.
The resolution to disband was formally made last Thursday night at the centre’s annual general meeting.
A Hobsons Bay City Council decision to demolish the Gumnuts building on Donald St sparked the move to close the facility.
The Council will build a super centre, integrating an existing toy library and occasional care centre, which is expected to open in January 2007.
Hobsons Bay City Council said the new centre comes after a study showed a better standard of facilities were needed to bring Laverton in line with the rest of Hobsons Bay.
Gumnuts initially was due to close for a year with the other facilities, while the new centre was being built.
But Gumnuts coordinator Anne Jandula said the new centre could not accommodate their program, which runs 10 sessions a week for threeyearolds.
“We run five days a week and the Council could only accommodate us for two days,” she said.
“The actual concept of the facility doesn’t work in with Gumnuts, with occasional care and respite care also using the facility.
“The new facility is going to be fantastic, it’s going to have child care facilities, a toy library and occasional care, but what we feel is that the council didn’t look at our uniqueness and cater for our needs.”
Mrs Jandula said other alternatives offered by the council turned out also to be nonfeasible.
“It wasn’t going to work in the buildings they offered us, including a portable in a primary school with no fencedin play areas.
“There was no toilet in the portable and you can’t let threeyearolds walk into a breezeway into toilets also used by older children.
“We’ve talked to the mayor and they were trying to be as facilitating as they could, but it was just not going to work.”
Mrs Jandula said Gumnuts had also investigated other options to keep the facility open.
“But no one wants to rent a property for 100 kids to run through their house,” she said.
Hobsons Bay Council community services director Peter Hunt said: “We offered them rooms and times in the new centre, because obviously we have got to accommodate the range of services.
“We’re happy to be able to continue with these discussions, but it appeared the two to three days on offer did not seem to meet their needs – which is a bit of a pity.
“The option to look at other venues is still there.”
Mr Hunt said neighbouring centres were already filling the gap the centre’s closure had left in children’s services.
“We believe most people will actually be accommodated at nearby centres,” he said.
“Some centres have said they will put on extra sessions if need be.”
Mr Hunt said the new centre would provide an enhanced range of services for the community.
“It will be a great centre for Laverton,” he said.
Mrs Jandula said Gumnuts had focused on social skills and handson craft activities for many children over the years.
Gumnuts is inviting anyone who had an involvement with the centre to attend the Donald St Festival taking place in the street from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, 27 August.
“We invite anyone who attended Gumnuts to say goodbye to the building and the walls which nurtured their life as a threeyearold,” Mrs Jandula said.

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