One of the four priorities of KU’s strategic plan for 2020-2022 is to ensure the organisation’s financial sustainability and scalability.

To achieve this, KU has been investing in and building the infrastructure, systems and services to support our financial position now and into the future. Two major ways KU achieved this in 2021 was through the establishment of two new, yet very different types of services in Melbourne – KU Maidstone and KU Dianella.

Investing in Our Future – KU Maidstone

In recent years, KU has been seeking sites to establish new early childhood services to expand our reach and impact, particularly in Victoria. KU recently acquired a site in the Melbourne suburb of Maidstone with the intention of designing and establishing a purpose-built integrated service, bringing together a kindergarten program with long day care and early intervention services.

Maidstone is located 8km from the Melbourne CBD and has been described as a ‘booming’ suburb with a rapidly changing community profile. New housing opportunities and high density housing in surrounding suburbs are expected to attract young singles, couples and families to the area. Population forecasts predict a 65% increase in the population of Maidstone from 2018 to 2041, with the 0-4 population expected to experience a growth rate of 7% per year during this time.

Building works for KU Maidstone commenced in 2020 and were completed in September 2021. To assist with the significant construction costs of the service, KU was awarded a $1 million grant from the Victorian Government through their Building Blocks program to help more Victorian children access funded three-year-old kindergarten.

A significant amount of time and effort was dedicated to establishing KU Maidstone in 2021, including finalising the construction of the building, furnishing all the interiors, recruiting qualified staff, applying and preparing for service approval, marketing the service and supporting families through the waitlist and enrolment process.

The service opened in January 2022, and provides long day care for 65 children and kindergarten programs for 33 children. KU Maidstone will also provide an innovative service delivery model, offering allied health services including speech pathology and occupational therapy to support the higher than average numbers of children in the community with developmental delay or disability.

The establishment of KU Maidstone was a significant achievement for KU as it was the first time in decades that KU had purchased a site to design and build a KU owned and operated early childhood education service.

The decision to establish KU Maidstone was based on KU’s strategic growth and financial objectives, including to expand our reach and impact to support more children and families. Owning the site provides KU with greater flexibility as to the structure and types of services we can provide, allowing us to better support the needs of children and families as they evolve over time.

From a financial perspective, owning the site and building provides KU with greater certainty around the future delivery of services which supports our financial security. Furthermore, the current and predicted population growth in Maidstone over the next two decades, particularly with younger children, should provide sustained demand for high quality early childhood services which will support KU over the longer term.

The acquisition of sites to build new early childhood services will continue to be an important way for KU to expand moving forward, with KU having recently purchased a block of land in the Melbourne suburb of Newport. Construction of the building is expected to take place in 2022 and it is anticipated the service will cater for 84 children providing long day care, kindergarten and allied health services.

Through the efforts made to establish KU Maidstone in 2021, more children, families and communities will be able to experience the KU difference.

Empowered Partnerships – KU Dianella

The City of Wyndham, located in the outer south-western suburbs of Melbourne, is one of the largest and fastest growing municipalities in Australia. In 2020, the population was 288,212, with one third of all residents having moved to the area in the last five years. The population is also incredibly diverse with almost half of all residents being born overseas, as well as young with 58% of residents aged 35 years or under.

With the number of four-year-old children in the area expected to increase by more than 60% from 2019 to 2040, Wyndham City Council plans to build community facilities that include 19 new kindergartens over the next twenty years to meet diverse community needs and keep up with demand.

The number of four-year-old children in the area is expected to increase by more than 60% from 2019 to 2040

To support the provision of these kindergarten services, Council released a Request for Application (RFA) seeking a range of early education and care service providers to form their ‘Early Years Provider Panel’.

In 2020, KU responded to the RFA and was excited to have been selected by Council as one of the five providers on the approved panel along with Early Childhood Management Services, One Tree Community Services, Sparkways and Bestchance. For the new kindergartens being built, Council will select the most appropriate partner to deliver the services.

In 2021, Council opened Dianella Community Centre, a newly built integrated community facility in Tarneit. The purpose of the new centre is to provide access to services including kindergarten, maternal and child health, playgroups and community programs, in addition to consulting rooms, a community gathering space and more. KU is proud to have been selected to deliver the kindergarten services at this site.

KU Dianella Kindergarten caters for 99 children and opened in January 2022. KU provides high quality early childhood education and care through sessional kindergarten and, in the future, early intervention services to meet the needs of children, families and the community. In addition, KU is responsible for all regulatory requirements; ensuring the service is financially viable; working closely with Wyndham’s Community Support and Enrolments Team to support enrolments; and developing positive relationships with any relevant stakeholders.

The partnership between Wyndham City Council and KU is strategic, collaborative and innovative. By partnering with KU and the approved providers, it helps to inform the design of services, provides flexible solutions, and positively influences work practices. It also enhances Council’s ability to meet its strategic objectives and ensures future services are planned and delivered to meet the needs of the community.

From a financial perspective, KU benefits from this type of partnership as it provides the opportunity for KU to deliver additional and similar kindergarten and early intervention services in the future. Moreover, the types of services Council are looking to provide both now and in the future are large kindergarten hubs in areas with significant growth and demand. This is more financially viable for KU compared to alternatives such as being an early years manager for standalone kindergartens.

In addition, while KU pays an annual fee to cover various costs associated with the service, Council pays for the set-up costs of the site, providing a much smaller investment and financial risk to KU, while also allowing KU to expand our reach and presence in Victoria.

The partnership between KU and Wyndham City Council has been a positive and productive one and we are excited to announce that KU has been successful in securing another site with Council to support the delivery of a new service in Manor Lakes in 2023.

We look forward to our relationship with Wyndham City Council to continue to grow and evolve over time as we collaborate to deliver innovative services that meet the strategic objectives of both organisations and the needs of the community.