The Generations Early Learning Centre at Merbein was officially opened by this week by Member for Northern Region, Mark Gepp, at a ceremony attended by residents and host of invited guests including Member for Mildura, Ali Cupper.
Construction of the $2.73 million Generations Early Learning Centre was completed in early November last year after an eight month building period and opened its doors in January this year.
Speaking at the official opening, Chaffey Aged Care’s CEO Darren Midgley said that the innovative project is one of Australia’s first rural intergenerational early learning centres, co-located with a fully operational residential aged care facility.
“The construction of the Generations Early Learning Centre was supported with funding from the Victorian Government through a grant of $1.3 million provided as part of the Children’s Facilities Capital Grants and Building Blocks program and the Federal Government’s Murray Darling Basin Economic Development Grant of $500,000, which assisted with financing the project,” Mr Midgley said.
“We are six months into operations and each day we see magic when we bring both generations together.”
The centre provides places for 72 children and it is anticipated to create more than 25 jobs as the service reaches its full capacity.
Generations Early Learning cares for children aged six weeks to six years age and offers excellence in early childhood education and intergenerational care and learning environment, child led, inquiry based learning and kindergarten programs.
“We believe that intergenerational programs link older and younger generations creating areas of mutual benefit and shared appreciation of diversity and formation of those close intergenerational relationships,” Mr Midgley said.
“The inspiration for the intergenerational early learning centre came from experiences observed at Chaffey Aged Care as we piloted a music program, called the ‘music generations’ program.
“That brought our aged care recipients and pre-schoolers from the community with their parents into the aged care facility where they made music with the residents.
“What we saw when that happened was absolutely magic.
“We saw engagement with our care recipients. We saw children touching our care recipients and we saw our care recipients beginning to move and reduce their experiences of social isolation. The benefits we observed were just so profound.
“It was these observations that inspired us to build the Generations Early Learning and we knew from the benefits that we saw there, that we had to do something further to connect the generations within our community.”
Mr Gepp toured the facility in advance of the formal opening and took time-out to read a story to some of the children at the centre.
He said he was greatly impressed with what he had seen describing it as “a wonderful facility and a beautiful concept”.
“Any concept that brings together our generations is a great thing,” he said. “I don’t think there is anything quite like connecting our young people with our older generation. Sharing those life experiences and connecting with the younger generation.
“If you ever want an example of how successful this model is, you need look no further than young Zoey, who was asked who her best friend was and she said “Norma”.
“Norma that probably fills your heart with so much joy and what a beautiful story that is from here. And that’s what it is all about.”
Mr Midgley paid tribute to the architect and construction company who designed and built the impressive facility.
“The building was designed by Morgan O’Brien from GSD Architects and we are very grateful for Morgan’s contribution and it was constructed by the Kings Construction Group, who did a fantastic job in a very short time,” he said.