Forty years ago, not long after Karratha was established to accommodate the workforce of the Hamersley Iron mining company, a pre-school was started for the families that came to work there.
As homes and infrastructure emerged alongside ambitious new mining ventures, most of the planning for the new town was focused on the booming mining industry. The Australian Inland Mission (AIM), which had been in the Pilbara since 1913, had its own vision for a strong, healthy community in Karratha.
As part of this vision, in 1972 the AIM opened Karratha Kindergarten, a mobile preschool for children living in caravan parks.
Today, Frontier Services, the successor in the Uniting Church to the Australian Inland Mission, continues the service as Karratha Occasional Care. More than 80 children now access the child care service, located alongside the Karratha Family Care which operates playgroups and children’s activities.
“Karratha Occasional Care is a wonderful example of how we were there in the beginning and have continued to meet the changing needs of the community,” said Frontier Services Regional Manager WA Trish Thomson-Harry. “Today, it is the only occasional care service in the town, providing flexible options for families in Karratha.”
“Parents can bring their children in for a day or for an hour while they do the shopping, take a break or do whatever needs to be done.”
Up to 20 children, aged two to five, are in care at one time.
“They love being outside, riding on their cars and bikes and playing in the sand pit,” said Coordinator Katherine Ramage. “We do lots of craft and music activities as well.”
Back in 1972, the Karratha Kindergarten aimed to support the new families working in the booming mining industry, many of whom lived in caravan parks.
Originally, a pre-school was located in the recreation room of the Rosemary Road Caravan Park. In 1998, when the Caravan Park was converted from a residential park to a tourist park, the child-care service moved to its current location inside the Karratha Family Centre.
Providing child care for families living in mobile accommodation and caravans is still a priority for Karratha Occasional Care.
“We are still working to meet the needs of people who come to live in Karratha,” said Ms Thomson-Harry.
As Karratha Occasional Care marks 40 years of service this year, Frontier Services celebrates 100 years since the establishment of the AIM and a century of support for the people living in remote Australia.
Find out more about the Centenary.