Gracemere toddler, 3, found on childcare bus fighting for life in central Qld

The dad of a three-year-old who was found in a hot bus said the three-year-old was the “heart of the daycare,” as his daughter fights for her life in hospital.

A three-year-old toddler is fighting for her life after she was left on a hot childcare bus for several hours.

The father of the young girl, Shane Austin, said Nevaeh had been picked up from home on a bus at 9am on Wednesday, before she was taken to the Le Smileys Early Learning Centre on Lucas Street in Gracemere, near Rockhampton.

Staff at the centre found the girl in an unresponsive and semiconscious state, with emergency services called to the area just before 3pm. Nevaeh was then rushed to Rockhamtpon Hospital in a critical condition.

Five police vehicles also arrived on scene.

Speaking to the Courier Mail, Mr Austin said his daughter had been transferred to Brisbane and was suffering from kidney failure and is receiving a deep brain scan.

“She’s the most loudest little girl they tell me … she’s the heart of the daycare,” he said.

As of Thursday morning, the centre remained closed.

‘I know this feeling all too well’

In February 2020, a similar situation occurred in Cairns after three-year-old Malik ‘Meeky’ Namok-Malamoo died after being left on a minibus by childcare staff for more than six hours in hot temperatures. She said she was “sick to her stomach” and “angry” after hearing the news.

The Edmonton Goodstart Early Learning Center was fined $71,000 and the bus driver Michael Glen Lewis, who discovered the child, was sentenced to six years in jail over manslaughter chargers.

On Thursday morning, his mother, Muriel Namok appeared on Sunrise where shared her anger at the situation repeating itself.

“This is terrible,” she said. “I know this feeling all to well.”

Ms Namok said that parents should be able to trust child care centres to protect their children while in daycare, and said they needed to be “held accountable”.

“It is important because we are trusting these people without children. They are taking our children,” she said.

“They are taking our children and we are trusting them to bring them back. For this to happen, they need to be held accountable.”

Later speaking to Allison Langdon on Today, Malik’s Godmother, Rowena Bullio, said Wednesday’s incident was “unbelievable”.

“To hear what happened yesterday, just total disbelief,” she said.

“We were just in disbelief. And there is anger.”

In October 2020, the law was also changed so that educators and child transportation providers must conduct risk assessments and put in place policies to protect children. This includes policies around embarking and disembarking the vehicle so all children are accounted for.

Keppel MP: ‘shouldn’t have happened’

Assistant Minister for Education, and the local Labor MP of Keppel, Brittany Lauga also spoke about the incident and said it “shouldn’t have happened”.

“Tonight is a little girl in Gracemere who is fighting for her life in hospital after being allegedly left on a bus at daycare,” she said.

“I know this little girl is very much in the thoughts of all of us tonight, wishing for a full recovery. My thoughts are with this little girl’s family and friends.

“Families need to have peace of mind that when they send their children off to school, kindy or daycare, they will come home safe.”

Speaking from the childcare centre on Wednesday, Queensland Ambulance Service Central Region operations manager Jason Thompson said the event was “traumatic,

“I get goosebumps just as I speak about it now,” he said.

“Police will investigate it thoroughly, it’s a trying time no matter what the situation is, you could put yourself in their shoes (childcare centre staff); they would be very distressed.

“When a child is sick it is traumatic and when one is critical and unconscious, your heart goes out to them, the (QAS) crews are travelling well but they are traumatised.”

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