Just over ten years ago, on 19 July 2011, Mikarie Child Care Centre was officially opened by the Governor of NSW, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO.
This was closely followed by Mikarie opening its doors to children for the very first time on 8 August 2011. The centre was unique, as it was – and remains – the only long day care centre in the Sutherland Shire able to cater to children of all abilities.
The need for the centre had first become apparent when Sylvanvale conducted research in 2010 that revealed a profound lack of adequate early education for children with disability in the local community. The research also highlighted the benefits of inclusion not just for children with disability, but for all children and the community more broadly. A comprehensive consultation process with families of children with disability and clinical experts followed, and the project was given the green light.
Since it opened, Mikarie has gone from strength to strength. It has won numerous awards, including the ‘Building Inclusion Award’ at the 2018 HESTA Early Childhood Education & Care Awards and the ‘Inclusivity Practices Program Excellence’ category at the 2019 Early Childhood Education Awards.
The centre has continuously worked on ways to be even more accessible and inclusive. In 2017, it expanded to include the Emu Room for children with high support needs who would often not be able to attend a mainstream long day care centre or preschool. In 2018, it launched a supported playgroup open to the whole community, aimed at children aged 0-3 years who need support to meet their developmental milestones. Then in 2019 it opened a fully accessible sensory garden.
This year, Mikarie has worked with ‘Push the Limit’ to educate the children further about inclusion, and with Aboriginal elders from Dewrang Art, to teach them local indigenous culture.
Throughout its ten year existence, Mikarie has had a positive impact on the lives of so many children and their families. All children are supported to achieve their true potential through a high quality learning curriculum targeted to their individual needs, as evident from Mikarie’s ‘Exceeding’ rating through the National Quality Standard.
The centre also gives all its parents, regardless of their child’s support needs, the peace of mind and freedom to go to work. For families with a child with disability, it gives them more time, by taking care of the child’s therapeutic exercises during the day.
Mikarie is a place where remarkable stories are made. On one occasion, a child took his friend’s orthopaedics home with him, because he wanted to be just like him. In another instance, all the Mikarie children lay on their stomachs during music time, as one of their friends had recently had a hip operation and this was the only position he could be placed in.
There was also the time when a Mikarie child who had learnt signing at centre, signed “hello” to a boy with a hearing impairment at a park. The boy and his mother were so excited, as this was the first time anyone outside his family had ever signed to him.
We are very proud that Mikarie children learn social inclusion and that inside we’re all the same. These are values which will stay with them for the rest of their lives, and which ultimately benefit the whole community.
Our enormous thanks to each and every one of our educators, children, families and carers, and supporters for readily embracing Mikarie Child Care Centre, for being part of its legacy and for helping to make it the remarkable place that it is.