MENTAL BREAKDOWNS: Country kindies in crisis
OVERSTRESSED educators, sub-par resources and families turned away from childcare - if blanket policies remain, this is the future of kindergartens across rural Queensland.
And it's closer than one might think.
This year, Mundubbera Kindergarten has reduced its days from five to three and staff said the only thing keeping them afloat is fundraising carried out in town.
"The funding model currently, which is being reviewed, is that if you do not have enough children in your kindergarten program then you don't qualify for funding," inclusion support worker Leesa Beasley said.
"The disconnect there is that if you don't have a lot of children, that's when you need the funding.
"This is why kindergartens like Mundubbera are in trouble with financials, we are not viable."
Ms Beasley said staff in Eisdvold would ring around at the beginning of the year asking parents to bring their children to kindergarten, so they could keep its doors open.
Unlike primary and high schools, kindergartens are not given a budget from the State Government nor are staff wages funded.
"We have to fundraise for everything because the funding we get doesn't fully cover the wages or our running expenses," kindergarten co-director Judith Huth.
"It used to be a funding model that would cover 50 per cent of your wages or 80 per cent of your running costs but that funding hasn't gone up exponentially with the CPI, so it no longer covers that."
Mrs Huth has been working in kindergartens in the region for more than 30 years.
Mrs Huth said insurance costs have gone up four-fold in 30 years but during that time but funding hasn't matched.
To compensate, for the lack of funding parents have stepped into committee roles, donated trade skills and volunteered weekends to do maintenance.
But it's taking its toll.
"At Eidsvold Kindergarten we have had several presidents and treasurers who have ended up in hospital with mental breakdowns over the great toll that it takes emotionally, because it is such a hard business to run," Ms Beasley said.
"It's never just 'okay, we need to make a certain amount of money', it changes depending on how many children you have, the community expectation that year and the needs of every child."
Staff agreed it wasn't the case that past committees had mismanaged money, but that the model simply didn't work for rural kindergartens.
"When you look at Brisbane and larger centres, where they can fill their numbers every year and have a waiting list, absolutely a per-child funding model can work," Ms Beasley said.
"But out here, the difference between funding we receive for a larger cohort and a smaller cohort changes the viability of the centre."
"Now we're left fundraising for our own wages."
Until policies change, Mundubbera Kindergarten will continue to fundraise in the local community.
A gala ball will be held on June 1 at the Mundubbera Shire Hall.
The kindergarten is aiming to raise $10,000 which will support them for the rest of the year.
Early bird tickets are $60 until May 18 and can be purchased at the Eventbrite website or by calling Shoni on 0428 408 439.