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Dear Minister, Kurrajong Members and Candidates...


Dear all, (Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, of the ACT Legislative Assembly, election candidates and editorial team at the RiotACT) Regarding Rutherford Crescent, Ainslie (Block 1, Section 87) the site/building was originally designed into the corner of Bill Pye Park as a pre-school (like Baker Gardens). When the preschool closed it was given to a non-government organisation to use as office space. This organisation is now proposing to demolish the existing facilities and build 10 residential units. This proposed development will have a significant impact on the local residents and the Ainslie Community.

More details here: https://ywca-canberra.org.au/community-services/housing-support-unit/yhomes-ainslie-development/ And concept here: https://ywca-canberra.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Proposed-development-concept.pdf

As a mother of a 3-year-old who lives in close proximity to the park and frequents it weekly if not more... I can attest to the fact that preschool and day-care places are extremely difficult to get into in this suburb!! As unexpected but very lucky parents we had not realised that we needed to put our names down BEFORE our child was even born to get a place in any day-care centre in this or adjacent suburb. Therefore, to enable my partner to work we had to send my son to a day-care in Fyshwick until he finally just recently got accepted into North Ainslie Primary School Preschool for 2021.

Our household is certainly not opposed to public or social housing; in fact, we have social housing all around us. One example of a poor use of space / funds is the social housing next door. A lovely 70-year-old lady (who was widowed years ago) living in a 3-bedroom house on an 800sqm block, we often help her care for the garden and put her bins out each week. This block next-door to us on our street would be better suited to have a new development of units than Rutherford Crescent (Block 1, Section 87). There is actually already a set of three units on the corner of Raymond Street and Gillen Street, Ainslie that is social housing that has an older lady living in one of them (whom we also help out from time to time).

My main concern, as a mother in the area, is our local public primary school, North Ainslie (which is under 500 meters away) has 5 rooms closed due to lead paint ... given that Rutherford Crescent, Ainslie (Block 1, Section 87) was formerly a preschool can we consider returning it to its original purpose? Additionally, there was already overcrowding (over 700 students) at North Ainslie Primary school prior to the 5 rooms closing. North Ainslie School is already having to build onto its oval as there is not enough room for all the students. We bought our house because of the proximity to Bill Pye Park and North Ainslie School, however in recent years population density has increased as 'in-fill' development has taken off, both in the form of many dual occupancy dwellings and medium-density development, especially at the Limestone Avenue ends of Cowper Street and Angus Street and on the site of the former service station at the Ainslie shops. Based on a report by the Macroeconomic Branch, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate for the Chief Minister the population in North Canberra is only going to grow...

District: North Canberra

Actual 2017: 55,810

Projection 2058: 91,597

Change (people): 35,787

Source: https://apps.treasury.act.gov.au/snapshot/demography/act

Another great source of findings and evidence in favour of returning the Rutherford Crescent, Ainslie (Block 1, Section 87) site to a preschool is in the ACT Government’s very own 'Early Childhood Strategy Consultation Sessions: Final Report May 2019', including that:

  • The early years of schooling is when parents can make connections within their communities. When children are engaged in free early education, it enables their family and carers to also engage in the community and seek support.

  • In smaller schools there is a sense of community and being looked after.

  • There needs to be ethical provision and strong links between these three-year-old facilities and four-year-old government preschools, because the transition from one to the other is incredibly important. Continuity of care is important to children who establish relationships with staff and management.

  • It will be challenging to add an additional year group into the existing school structure because of infrastructure and space limitations. Further, that existing four-year-old programs could not simply absorb the three-year-old program given the significant differences in the developmental stages and needs of these two age groups.

From the evidence above, directly from the ACT Government, it does not make any sense that this site should be demolished, particularly at a time when the ACT Government will need viable preschool sites to meet the need for an increase in the capacity of preschool places. As previously mentioned, North Ainslie Primary School (NAPS) is already experiencing overcrowding issues which will only worsen with the introduction of 'introduction of universal access to 2 years of free preschool for three-year-old children in the ACT'. I understand that the NAPS Parent’s and Carer’s Committee has made representations to ACT Ministers to raise concerns about existing overcrowding issues and to ask that the North Ainslie preschool site be returned to pre-schoolers. Ainslie residents support this idea wholeheartedly!

Returning North Ainslie preschool to its original use will bring many benefits, including:

  • As a small preschool North Ainslie would provide a sense of community and being looked after.

  • Facilitation of connections within the Ainslie community enabling each child and their family/carers to also engage in the community and seek support as needed.

  • An improved opportunity to provide ethical and strong links between this facility and the nearby NAPS enabling a smooth transition for children and families from one to the other as the child grows.

  • Provide continuity of care for children within the NAPS community.

  • Increase infrastructure and space to ease existing overcrowding pressures at NAPS and Majura Primary.

  • Provide a beautiful purpose-designed preschool site that would increase capacity for the additional three-year-old age group.

As you can tell, I feel very passionately about this. issue and would be very grateful if you could investigate and implement a way to save this beautiful, historic and important site. In the meantime, I will be using my 20 years of professional marketing and advertising career to make sure that this issue is brought to the attention of those who will be affected by this development. It has been suggested that it may be possible to provide the YWCA with an alternative site that would allow them to build their 10 units closer to community links and reliable public transport while also saving the North Ainslie preschool for use by the growing NAPS community.

I am hopeful that a positive outcome is achievable. Kind regards,

Brooke

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