When business works with industry to boost inclusion

“I would love for everyone to build inclusive childcare centres, even if they don’t use them,” Debra Dotto.

While their daughters played together for hours, Mums Debra Dotto and Louise Barry struck up a friendship that has led to a much-needed inclusive childcare collaboration.

The pair are both involved in child care, but in very different ways. Debra is a business owner and property developer, who already owns childcare centres.

Louise is an experienced special needs teacher. She has more than 20 years working with children with disabilities and their families.

As they chatted over time, their conversations turned naturally to what they knew best – childcare.

And after talking about some of lack of inclusion for children with disabilities and their families, they knew something had to be done.

That is when Debra decided that her next project was to build an inclusive childcare centre that would have Louise at the head of the disability support services.

Several  years later the land has been purchased and plans developed.

“I was glad to have Louise’s expertise,” Debra says, “I am developing an understanding of the needs of the children. And she is going to be part of the team at the centre, working with Mrs Julie Hadley-Thomas who herself has 32 years experience in Child Care. Julie will be a mentor to our team”

“Everyone is so excited, we already have a waiting list of childcare workers who are willing to be trained to have children with disabilities in their classes and to work at the new centre.”

But she had no idea what was going to happen when she embarked on this project.

“When I started on this project I knew nothing about designing or building an inclusive childcare centre. There are centres that have children with disabilities but often they don’t have the facilities to support them,” Debra said.

“When designing the space, we did things like making rooms and hallways bigger to accommodate children in wheelchairs or walkers.

“Another inclusive idea we had was putting in white rooms or areas for children with sensory sensitivities to support them.

“The plans also include a special room for therapists to make it even more inclusive, so they can come onsite and deliver therapy services during school hours.”  This room will also be used as an area for parents and Carers to meet and discuss issues that are important to them.

It took Debra several years to find the right piece of land, but when she saw the plot on the northside she knew it was just right. Now after 2 years of negotiations with the Brisbane City Council and in the final throws of the planning approval process with  the Council, the centre could begin construction later this year.

But it’s more than just bricks and mortar. The centre needs to be program and service ready, which is where her partnership with Louise and Julie close the inclusion gaps.

“I can put a roof over the children’s heads and provide the facilities they need, but it’s more than that.

“It’s the programs and services that will be delivered within those walls that will make a real difference.”

“Louise is my biggest strength for this project because she has the training, skills and knowledge I need.”

Together they make a strong team, sharing the vision together, that all children need help to appreciate the diversity around them.

There are many opportunities for businesses and service providers, special needs teachers, sports groups, community groups and more to share their skills and knowledge to create better inclusion.

For the first time in Queensland the ILC Jurisdictional-Based Grants are expected to be released later in 2018. These grants are aimed to support communities to deliver social and economic inclusion for people with disabilities across the state. CSIA, in partnership with National Disability Services (NDS) Queensland are running ILC Application Skills workshops across the state.

Head over to the inclusion ready section of the website or email [email protected] to find out more.