Preschool land ownership back on the agenda
AFTER denying Kulai Preschool's request for a land transfer in November last year, Councillors will consider a similar request from another preschool.
Coffs Harbour City Councillors will consider the request from Toormina Preschool to transfer 50 Minori Drive to Toormina Community Preschool Incorporated at their Thursday night meeting.
The Toormina Preschool has evolved over the years from a small community driven service operating under a Trust, with Council protection, to a viable operation about to become financially independent.
Cr Sally Townley, who tried unsuccessfully to urge her fellow councillors to support a similar transfer of land for Kulai, says she congratulates Toormina Preschool and is happy to see them gain autonomy.
"Some months ago, I moved in Council that we grant the same sort of autonomy to Kulai Preschool," Cr Townley said.
"Kulai is the only Aboriginal educational establishment in Coffs Harbour and has been running without Council financial assistance for fifty years. Unfortunately, Councillors denied Kulai's request to have the land transferred to them in the same way that Toormina Preschool's request is now being granted."
Toormina Preschool was created by a Deed which allowed for the eventual transfer while Kulai was created by a different means.
"But I believe there is a need to give equal opportunity across the board. We don't have to treat each case the same but we do have to treat them equally."
The Kulai Preschool community were bitterly disappointed when their request was denied.
A staff report before councillors at the time advising against the transfer suggested that: 'to transfer the property to the existing tenant without recouping its market value (approximately $425,000) would set an undesirable precedent for the transfer of public property into private hands, and would not be in the financial and long term interests of ratepayers.'
Councillors Sally Townley, Tegan Swan and John Arkan were in favour with councillors Denise Knight, Paul Amos, John Cecato, Michael Adendorff and Keith Rhoades against.
After the vote Cr Cecato accused Cr Townley of raising the Kulai matter for political gains.
But Cr Townley says she will try again for Kulai to be granted freehold title to the preschool land in the same way that Toormina Preschool is expecting.
"I think the November decision was a missed opportunity to deliver self-determination to this incredibly important cultural centre.
"Early childhood education is so important and when it's combined with a sense of Aboriginal cultural awareness, belonging and pride, Kulai is laying the strong foundation for the future of Gumbaynggirr people and the wider community."