A LONG community campaign to increase childcare services in Walla has been boosted by a federal government grant of $277,000.
The town, which presently has a mobile service two days a week, will gain a newly built 50-place long day care centre through the Building Better Regions Fund.
Greater Hume Council had earlier committed $250,000 in cash to the project as well as providing land located behind the town hall.
Concept plans have been drawn up and the community hopes the building could be completed within 12 months.
Walla community development committee secretary Leonie Carey said committee members were surprised and excited to succeed with their first application to the fund.
“We sort of thought we’d give it a go at applying and then thought if it doesn’t happen this time, we’ll try again next time,” she said.
The committee knew of people who had taken their children out of town or moved from Walla altogether because they couldn’t access childcare.
“They’re not using other things in town because there’s nowhere to leave their children,” Mrs Carey said.
Committee vice-chairman Kim Lieschke cited examples of youngsters having to hang around their parents’ workplaces after school and the farmer whose preferred farm hand applicant didn’t take the job because the town lacked children’s services.
Mr Lieschke said Walla offered significant employment opportunities through the growth of businesses in the town.
“Walla for a small country town is going forward and we’re very fortunate for that,” he said. “What we want to do though is keep families in Walla.
“It’s an essential need that can only support the other services in Walla like the school, the footy club, whatever, the snowball effect.”
Mr Lieschke and Mrs Carey praised the assistance of Community Early-Years Childcare and its manager Anne Bowler.
Mrs Bowler said the present Walla service would increase to five days a week as it evolved from the mobile model to long day care.
The new centre would include a pre-school program, which Walla hasn’t had “for many years, if ever”.
“All of these rural communities deserve to have early childhood services as part of their infrastructure,” Mrs Bowler said. “Two days a week in 2017 is not enough.”
Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said the Building Better Regions Fund received more than 500 applications, of which about 100 were approved.
“The Walla community have fought long and hard and should be commended on their commitment to the project,” Ms Ley said.