Child care centres across Queensland have been urged to continue bus services despite the latest incident of a toddler being left on board.
Authorities are investigating how three-year-old girl Navaeh was left on a bus outside a centre near Rockhampton for almost six hours on Wednesday, just over two years after the death of a boy of the same age in Cairns under similar circumstances.
Watch more on this story in the video above
Watch the latest News on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
State Education Minister Grace Grace said laws changed after the death of Maliq ‘Meeky’ Namok-Malamoo in February 2020, placing obligations on all services transporting children.
That includes a requirement for centres to have written procedures in place for transporting children, while the government also launched the “Look before you Lock” campaign.
“As a result of this campaign, we have seen the numbers of children being left on buses significantly reducing,” Grace said.
“However one child is still too many.
“The (education department) does not hesitate to take serious action when services fail to ensure children’s health and safety, and where other tragic incidents have occurred, the necessary action has been taken.”
One option for the child care industry to prevent further incidents is to cease providing transport for children.
However Majella Fitzsimmons, the president of the Australian Childcare Alliance Queensland, said that would negatively impact the education of thousands of children.
“There’s an element of need for bus pick-up and drop-off,” Fitzsimmons told 7NEWS.com.au.
“That’s for those children – mainly vulnerable and disadvantaged children – who don’t have transportation to be able to attend early learning centres.
“We know about why it’s important that children attend early learning centres, because if we don’t have that early intervention, sometimes these children may not have any formal learning until they’re in school.
“At the age of five and six, it’s too late then for early intervention.”
She rejected suggestions the two incidents indicated widespread operation failures across the Queensland child care industry, saying the latest incident will prompt services to look at their procedures.
“Today, lots of services across Queensland and, I dare say, across Australia will be reviewing policies and procedures, not just for buses, but anything where a child could be harmed,” she said.
Police say Nevaeh was collected from her home about 9am on Wednesday, strapped into the van’s second row and taken to Le Smileys Early Learning Centre at Gracemere, near Rockhampton.
The minivan was parked at the centre’s front door, but the two staff failed to ensure she left the vehicle.
As temperatures climbed to almost 30C, Nevaeh remained strapped into her seat, clutching her bag.
“It would appear that Nevaeh was the only child on the bus,” Police Detective Inspector Darrin Shadlow said.
“When they have returned to the centre, the driver and one other person who were on the bus at the time, had forgotten that she was there.”
Almost six hours later, a staff member setting off for the after-school pick-up finally discovered the unconscious preschooler.
Call for answers
She was rushed to Rockhampton Base Hospital in critical condition before being flown to Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, where she remains.
Her grandmother Pamela Parker said she had spoken to her three-year-old granddaughter Navaeh on the phone and her “prognosis is good”.
But she has called for urgent answers as to how Navaeh was left on the bus.
“This is a little girl. She’s someone’s daughter, she’s someone’s granddaughter, she’s someone’s sister, she’s someone’s best friend,” Parker said.
Maliq’s mother, Muriel Namok, said her thoughts are with the Gracemere girl’s family and the incident brought back memories of her son’s death.
“This is terrible, I was sick to my stomach, angry,” she told Sunrise.
“I know this feeling all too well.
“It is important because we’re trusting these people with our children and we’re trusting them to bring them back.
“They need to be held accountable.”
– With AAP