A $4 million early childhood hub in Ballarat’s west is a step closer to fruition with the first sod turned at the site.
Victorian Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos joined Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh in Coltman Plaza on Wednesday morning.
The Lucas Community Hub will include two kindergarten rooms, three maternal and child health consulting rooms, and rooms for visiting services such as early childhood intervention and family support services.
There will also be multipurpose meeting spaces and informal spaces for playgroups, lifelong learning programs and parenting groups.
Ms Mikakos described the centre as a one stop shop that would enable easier access to services and bring more families to the area.
“The reason this project is particularly exciting is because we are going to have a co-location of services all within the one facility,” Ms Mikakos said.
“To have a kinder in this local community that is accessible, together with all those other maternal child health services, is going to be a tremendous resource for local families.”
Cr McIntosh said the hub would cater for a growing population in Ballarat.
“It brings an opportunity to look after the new 1500 babies that will be born in Ballarat next year,” she said.
“It is so important that we understand this growing population and what the needs are. It’s not just about building the houses, we want to make sure the infrastructure to support that growth is here first.”
While the design work is completed, the tender process is still underway with an announcement of the construction group expected at a council meeting on December 14.
Company Integra is behind the development of Lucas and the design of the hub has a focus on incorporating the history of the Lucas girls.
“The architect has listened, understood and interpreted in the built form our Ballarat history,” Cr McIntosh said. “You can see the reflection of the Ballarat tartan and the Lucas ladies’ thread through many parts of the building.”
Ballarat MP Joshua Morris welcomed the announcement, but expressed concern over the absence of a state government school in Lucas.
The City of Ballarat will provide $2.4 million towards the project, while the state government will fund $1.6 million. Expected completion is January 2018.