Bambi’s future uncertain

What next: Staff, parents and students at Bambi Kindergarten fear for the centre's existence. Picture: Chris Lane
What next: Staff, parents and students at Bambi Kindergarten fear for the centre's existence. Picture: Chris Lane

One of Campbelltown’s oldest preschools could be forced to shut its doors at the end of next year with management blaming Campbelltown Council for the dire predicament.

At the start of this year Bardia’s not-for-profit Bambi Kindergarten moved from its Stevens Road site – where the centre had been located since 1952 – to a new premises on Arthur Allen Drive.

The move occurred after the state government purchased land, which included the Stevens Road site, off the federal government for development purposes.

In order to ensure the survival of Bambi, UrbanGrowth NSW (the state government-owned developer) relocated the centre to the Arthur Allen Drive premises.

Campbelltown Council will take ownership of the facility at the end of 2018 which poses a problem for the preschool after the council decided that a tender would be put out for potential tenants at the facility from 2019 onwards.

Bambi director Alicia Harrington said the preschool only relocated because the council offered the not-for-profit centre a 31-year lease for a nominal rent of $1 a year. Mrs Harrington said it was a verbal agreement between the parties, but the centre didn’t push for a written contract.

“We did discuss (a written agreement) at a couple of points in time but because the council was so forthcoming in meetings and with plans, we didn’t think they would go back on their word. We were beside ourselves (when informed about the tender process),” she said.

“I’m worried about our current families and those on the waiting list. What happens to them? I’m also worried about our staff – we have nine staff at Bambi.”

Council’s director of city governance Michael Sewell confirmed there had been discussions about a 31-year lease, but it was “not considered appropriate” by council officers and there was never an agreement.

Mrs Harrington said the council suggested Bambi change from a preschool provider to a long day care provider, though the idea was rejected as it would change how the centre had operated and been structured for the past 65 years.

Mrs Harrington also said the council suggested raising fees to $85 a day, though that could not happen as it would breach an agreement the preschool had with the Department of Education. Current daily fees for a four-year-old are $12.50, $8.50 for a low-income family and $45 for three-year-olds.

“We are not a private enterprise. We are a sole charitable organisation,” Mrs Harrington said.

Mr Sewell said Campbelltown Council had “no record of ever providing recommendations in respect of what Bambi should charge its clients”.

He said a proposal put forward by Bambi showed the facility would operate during school terms from 8am-4pm but the council believed the facility would need to have longer operating hours to meet the needs of working parents in the community – hence the tender process.

“It was therefore identified that it would be in the best interest of the community for council to consider other options for the provision of a range of child care services at the facility,” Mr Sewell said.

Bambi was opened in 1952 by the wives of serviceman who served at the Bardia Army Barracks.