Royal Far West community meeting hears calls to bring bus to town

THE Gunnedah community has called for the compulsory screening of children before they start school “to give them the best shot at life”. 

A town hall meeting, hosted by Royal Far West in Gunnedah on Thursday night, brought together the health, education and government industries to discuss with parents how the Gunnedah community can halve its childhood learning vulnerability rate from 20 per cent.

Watch the event live here:

It comes on the back of the 2015 Australian Early Development Census Data revealing one-in-five children in Gunnedah is developmentally vulnerable and not ready to start school at the age of five.

The seven-member panel addressed the crowd at Gunnedah Town Hall before questions from the floor heard calls for the compulsory screening of children before they start school – similar to compulsory immunisations in certain day cares.

To help kickstart that screening process in Gunnedah would be securing a visit from the Royal Far West (RFW) bus. 

RFW – a charity that provides healthcare to children in rural and remote parts of NSW – will match the funding and bring the bus to Gunnedah if the local community can raise $25,000.

The bus will stay in Gunnedah for three to four days to have local children assessed on everything from education to hearing, dental to movement, motor coorindation to immunisation.

“No child should present to school without having its developmental level screened,” RFW CEO Lindsay Cane declared.

“We need to make the national commitment to reduce the childhood vulnerability rate from 22 per cent to 10 per cent.”

Gunnedah councillor Gae Swain backed the call. 

"It takes a community to raise a child,” Cr Swain told the meeting. 

“Having a good community doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen without putting our shoulder to the wheel.”

Julie Van Dorst, of St Xavier’s School Gunnedah, spoke of the strong support RFW was providing the community.

“In Gunnedah it can take months and months to get them the services (some kids) need,” she said.

"That's when RFW comes in.”

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