[singlepic id=422 w=320 h=240 float=left] Families in the southern suburbs of Cairns today celebrated the official opening of the new Early Years Centre and kindergarten service at Bentley Park.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt, on hand to celebrate the opening, said the $4.4 million Early Years Centre, located at Bentley Park College, was the fourth centre of its kind to open in Queensland since 2008.

“This wonderful new facility will offer our local community a one-stop-shop for early childhood education and care, family support and health services for children aged up to eight years,” Mr Pitt said.

“Completed by the Bligh Government this month, in time for the start of the 2012 school year, it’s the last of four early years centres to open across Queensland under a State Government $32 million, four-year commitment.

“With the opening of this wonderful new Early Years Centre at Bentley Park, with its linked satellite services in Gordonvale and Edmonton, there are now early years centre services in 13 communities across Queensland.”

Mr Pitt said the new facility was already giving the community access to a wide range of early childhood resources, programs and activities.

“The Early Years Centre is a purpose-built hub for children and families, including a kindy. Already we’ve seen parents with children who have special needs reaping the rewards of an integrated service,” he said.

“One mum enrolled her child at the kindy because there are child health nurses who can effectively support the kindergarten staff in addressing her daughter’s needs.

“Another mum was worried about her sick infant when dropping off her older child for the first day of kindy and was able to see a child health nurse immediately for advice.”

Mr Pitt said the Early Years Centre had been operating from temporary premises on the Bentley Park College site since early last year, while the permanent facility has been built.

“This brand new facility will allow the Early Years Centre to expand its already successful play and parent engagement activities through the Parents and Learning program,” Mr Pitt said.

“They are also partnering with Arc Disability Services Inc toy library and introducing specific programs aimed at shaping young minds and connecting families with kindergarten.

“Child health services are also being run through the centre and are already being accessed by local parents, complementing the services already offered at Community Health on Robert Road.”

Mr Pitt said the centre and its kindergarten were operated by The Benevolent Society, with the support of the State Government.

“The Bligh Government has committed some $5.4 million over three years to The Benevolent Society to support children and families through the Early Years Centre at Bentley Park,” he said.

“We also provide funding to the Society to operate the Early Years Centres in Browns Plains and North Gold Coast and their respective satellites.

“We are pleased to support the fantastic work being done by The Benevolent Society across the state to offer these wonderful Early Years Centres.”