Surprise award shines a light on preschool director

ABOVE: Jumbunna preschool director Karen McDermott at the new community hub yarning circle.

Susanna Freymark

Karen McDermott had no idea what was about to happen at Jumbunna today, Thursday, February 23.

The preschool director thought Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre was being acknowledged with an award. She never thought it was for her own dedication and work.

State MP Chris Gulaptis came to the preschool in Casino with the Premier’s Award under his arm.

Jumbunna board members Cheryl Simpkins, Kim Morris and Josh Miller were at the preschool to see the award presented to Ms McDermott.

“The work you do does not go unnoticed,” Mr Gulaptis said.

Local pediatrician Chris Ingall described Jumbunna as “a wonderful treasure and a glittering jewel” in his letter supporting the award.

“Put simply, children with ability and disability are cheek and jowl, learning from each other and becoming more tolerant to each as a result,” Dr Ingall said.

Ms McDermott has been at the preschool for 34 years.

There are 100 students and 47 staff at Jumbunna.

Karen McDermott, Josh Miller, Cheryl Simpkins, Kim Morris with mothers and children and Chris Gulaptis and election candidate Richie Williamson.

Jumbunna is more than what happens at the preschool in Casino. There is a NDIS program, playgroup, a mobile preschool, parental education and a program for pregnant mothers starting soon.

The program for mothers is in partnership with the Aboriginal medical centre in Casino.

Ms McDermott said they have a “reverse integration program”.

She said 80% of the children at Jumbunna have additional needs. This is the opposite of mainstream preschools.

The play based setting at Jumbunna is working.

We get feedback from schools that children from Jumbunna can sit in class, put their hand up to ask a question and more, Ms McDermott said. The children are school-ready.

Because of this some schools even have on their enrolment forms the question – Did your child go to Jumbunna?

Board member Mr Miller said the love the children get at Jumbunna is phenomenal.

“I’ve never had a fight to get Thomas (his son) to school,” he said.

“Jumbunna is certainly one of a kind,” Mr Gulaptis said.

The community hub in a new building next to the preschool was funded by a state and federal government Bushfire Economy Recovery grant.

The land was donated by the Casino Food Co-op.

The building gets its occupation certificate next week and should be opening soon, Ms McDermott said.

The hub will have a room for Dr Ingall and rooms for workshops and events. A yarning circle outside made out of sandstones creates a welcome to the space.

Jumbunna is extending its loving reach and making an impact in the community.

It is as Dr Ingall said – “a glittering jewel”.

Jumbunna board members Josh Miller, Kim Morris and Cheryl Simpkins with preschool director Karen McDermott. Photos: Susanna Freymark

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