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Jumbunna grows with community

23 November 2022 at 6:18 pm
Danielle Kutchel
A holistic approach to early childhood health and education shows what happens when a service provider grows with the community.

Danielle Kutchel | 23 November 2022 at 6:18 pm


Jumbunna grows with community
23 November 2022 at 6:18 pm

A holistic approach to early childhood health and education shows what happens when a service provider grows with the community.

A community-based preschool in regional New South Wales is now a hub for the health of its community.

Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre, in Casino, NSW, is now an inclusive, holistic environment where families can access support and therapy for children with additional needs, along with accessing a preschool program.

Jumbunna’s growth is proof of how needed its services have been in the regional community of Casino.

It became an early intervention centre in 1992 after originally starting as a community-based preschool. Jumbunna provides early intervention for around 130 children each year, including children with disabilities, delays in development or those who are at risk of delays for environmental or biological reasons. It serves many families from vulnerable backgrounds.

The name Jumbunna is an Aboriginal word that means ‘talk together’, forming the ethos behind the centre.

“By playing, working and talking together, [we] learn to understand and accept each other. We start that at a very early age so that when they grow, they’ve got that acceptance and understanding when they become teenagers and adults,” explained Karen McDermott, general manager at Jumbunna.

Jumbunna has now grown to include supported playgroups, mobile preschools that visit nearby remote communities, and parenting support. The centre is also an NDIS provider.

Some service providers travel to attend the centre and hold clinics, including a paediatrician who comes over from Lismore. This is useful for families that aren’t able to access paediatricians, whether for financial reasons, difficulty accessing transport, or inability to get a referral.

Staff at Jumbunna have embedded themselves in the community to learn more about what services are needed, and its commitment to the health and wellbeing of children has travelled by word of mouth to more families.

They’ve also developed relationships with local health services and the Aboriginal Medical Service. To better support local First Nations children, Jumbunna hosts the Happy Program which checks hearing and vision.

McDermott said Jumbunna has recently connected with an organisation that provides behavioural support and counselling, adding another element to the centre’s holistic approach.

But as the centre grows, more room is needed, and McDermott has successfully applied for a grant to fund construction of a new community hub next door. The land for the new hub was donated by members of the community in recognition of Jumbunna’s role for so many families.

“We will have the opportunity to open up to more [people], and what we aim to do is get more people here so that our community can access it in a place where they feel safe and comfortable,” she explained.

“It will also be open to the community for meetings and whatever the community needs. Hopefully it will be finished early next year.”

For its achievements, Jumbunna is a finalist in the HESTA Excellence Awards in the field of disability services.

McDermott said the recognition is “a real honour”.

“We want to get out there that… this is the best place for children to have their early childhood and disability supports and family supports, all in that one wraparound environment,” she said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to actually showcase what we do, and hopefully someone will see it and think, yes, that’s what we need to do and we can do that elsewhere.”

If Jumbunna wins at the HESTA awards, there are also plans to run a research project to collate quantitative data to prove the success of Jumbunna’s model.

McDermott, who has been with Jumbunna for several decades, has had a front row seat to the transformation that the centre has undergone so far, but she said the real highlight has been seeing the community’s trust in the centre grow.

“It makes my day when I see a child that I taught, bring their child back to us because they felt safe here. That is one of the best highlights of my working career, because I think well, we must be doing something right if they trust us with their child.”

Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.

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