A cash injection means it could soon be raining in the so-called “childcare desert”. Councils, community groups and private enterprises in the North West will be able to apply for grants to establish new childcare facilities as part of a Federal Government plan to invest in 20 new centres across regional Australia. In last month’s Federal Budget the Government announced it would invest in regional and remote child care to increase access for families. The Government announced it would provide $19.4 million to establish up to 20 childcare services in areas where there is an absence or limited supply. The Pilbara’s lack of childcare facilities has been a growing issue in recent years with families in Port Hedland experiencing waiting lists of about two years. A lack of available workers has also hit the industry, with Port Hedland not-for-profit One Tree trialling a FIFO childcare program in January last year which provided 23 educators in Port Hedland, Onslow, Pannawonica, Roebourne, Paraburdoo and Derby. Speaking to the Pilbara News, member for Durack Melissa Price said she was aware that several Durack regions had a challenging time with this issue, particularly during COVID-19 travel restrictions. “The new Budget allocation of $19.4m to fund up to 20 new services in disadvantaged regional and remote areas where there is a lack of suitable child care, will be opened for a competitive grants process later this year via the via the Community Child Care Fund Open Competitive grant. “Councils, community groups and private enterprise will be eligible to apply so I am looking forward to those opportunities becoming available in Durack to help make local child care more affordable and accessible.” It comes as a landmark report released by the Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute on March 22 labelled the Pilbara a “childcare desert”. The document found the east Pilbara was one of the worst areas in the nation, with six children vying for each place while the west Pilbara had four children per place. According to the report, Tom Price had the second-greatest shortage in the nation with nine children vying for every childcare place.