Fight to keep Bumblebees Preschool open
FAMILIES of the some of the region's most vulnerable children are angry and disappointed following the Federal Government's decision not to fund a program which offers support to very young children who have been sexually abused, physically abused, witnessed domestic violence or experienced trauma.
The community is now fighting to find the funding so those in need will have the opportunity - through early intervention - to access assessment, therapy and education in a safe and supportive environment.
The unique Bundaberg-based program which has operated from Phoenix House since 2003 is run nowhere else in Australia and will be forced to close next month unless alternative funding can be sourced.
Phoenix House director Kathy Prentice said the program had been recognised by the Australian Government's Institute of Family Studies as an Aboriginal promising practice, but despite its effectiveness, the funding application was rejected.
She said society should judge a government by its support, or lack of support, for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
"Very young children are without a voice, they are the most vulnerable in our society," she said.
"Without Bumblebees Therapeutic Preschool, it really leaves parents with nowhere to turn," she said.
Ms Prentice said Phoenix House was trying to source funds from the state or federal governments or even privately, which she estimates cost about $150,000 a year to run.
"We've approached the state and federal governments to see what is available but unless we can secure funding it will have to close on February 28," she said.
Alison Clark's daughter Destanee Duncan graduated from Bumblebees last year and said the program was remarkable.
"Without it I wouldn't know how to relate to her and she wouldn't be about to start prep confident and happy," she said.
"The difference I've seen to the other children, at graduation they were totally different, and they were able to hug other people instead of being shy.
"It made a world of difference."
Trisha Mabley has had a long association with Phoenix House and is campaigning to have the funding reinstated.
"It's such an important service and without it these children will be missing out," she said.
"There is nothing else for children this young."
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said he was aware of the situation and was looking into alternative funding options.
"My office has been contacted by constituents concerned that Bumblebees has been unsuccessful in its recent funding application," he said.
"I have contacted the minister's office to seek advice on what other options may be available."
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Social Services said she was unable to comment on the decision process which had the funding cease.