TAREE'S First Steps Count project has achieved a major milestone with the lodgement last week of its development application with Greater Taree City Council, according to project chairman, Colin Rose OAM.
Dr Rose said the planned First Steps Count child and family centre adjacent to Manning Gardens Public School would provide integrated early childhood services in a one-stop shop community facility.
It will have a particular focus on the needs of Aboriginal children and their families and will work towards "closing the gap", he said.
"First Steps Count has the long term goal of alleviating multiple adverse effects of disadvantage on children and will maximise opportunities for children to develop personal strengths, skills and abilities."
The First Steps Council management committee has been working towards establishment of the centre for five years with strong business and community support including from the Aboriginal community.
"We are especially grateful for the assistance of Greater Taree City Council which has provided the land for the centre, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation for major funding for the project, Architects Without Frontiers for funding the initial master plan and to all those individuals and organisations who continue to support the cause," Dr Rose said.
"The management committee will now concentrate on securing the additional funds needed to establish this much needed community facility."
The centre will encompass early learning, child care, parenting and family support, antenatal, health and nutrition programs and other support services.
"It should not be hard to convince potential supporters that (the location of these services under one roof) is the best way to enhance access for disadvantaged families and families at risk," Dr Rose said.