In April, thanks to pressure from the Northern Rivers Preschool Alliance, supported by the IEU, State Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced additional funding for flood-affected early education services.
The IEU wrote to Mitchell in late March. The letter said in part:
“In the aftermath of the devastating floods in Northern NSW, many of our members who work in this region have been significantly impacted in their places of work. Up to 15 community preschools have been rendered inoperative due to the damage caused by flood waters.
“These teachers have been actively involved in securing assistance for the clean-up, repair and relocation of their services so they can continue to provide quality education and care.
“The families rely on the preschools to provide care for their children while they attempt to rebuild their lives. The children need the security and routine from their trusted educators to enable them to recover from the trauma of this disaster in a caring familiar environment.
“The IEU urges you as Minister and your department to urgently direct adequate resources to support these teachers and their colleagues to rebuild their early education services. Currently these services are relying on volunteers for cleaning and donations of resources to enable them to operate.
“The union is concerned about the ongoing effect this disaster will have on these teachers, particularly regarding burnout and fatigue which will exacerbate the current teacher shortages. We believe that teachers should have access to funded counselling, if they request it, to be able to continue to perform their jobs in this difficult situation.
“The IEU urges your Department to:
- Expedite approvals for temporary venues and staffing waivers so services can continue to offer education to all children.
- Continue financial support needed for teachers whose services have been interrupted so they continue to get paid.
- Enable (temporary) extensions to the number of approved places for services that are operational.
- Provide counselling for affected staff. •Guarantee funding to repair damaged preschools and replace those that were destroyed.”
On 5 April Mitchell announced that schools, early childhood education services and vocational training services across the northern rivers and north coast areas would receive $67 million to help their recovery from the floods.
The package includes $9.5 million psychology and counselling for school and early childhood staff and trauma training so they can support students and $9 million to help services rebuild.