Anti-vaxxers’ launch own daycare centre to 'screw the govt'
ANTI-VAXXERS have come up with a new scheme to avoid tough new No Jab No Play laws stopping unvaccinated children from attending day care - by starting their own centre.
NSW effectively banned unvaccinated children from day care as of January 1 and directors face a fine of up to $5500 for flouting the law.
But Amy Moffatt, who describes herself as a "vegan mum to a toddler living off grid near Byron Bay" publicly posted to an online community board calling on parents to "be part of an affordable day care co-op".
"I have been mulling over the idea of saying 'screw you government, I'll do it my own way'," she posted.
She said the mission of "The Kids Co-op" was "to provide an affordable, community-run, self-funded childminding co-operative open to all, where no regulations or legalities are imposed by government or funding bodies, and all decisions and operations are decided upon democratically as a community."
Ms Moffatt said she was "not willing to talk to journalists about it" when The Sunday Telegraph made inquiries.
The co-op has 126 member that have joined in the three weeks since inception.
The region is notorious for low vaccination rates due to the continued growth of the hippie and alternative counter culture that established itself in the shire in the 1970s.
Mullumbimby has a vaccination rate of just 50 per cent and Byron Bay just 60 per cent among five year olds.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he would seek prosecution of any unregulated child care business.
"Now I am aware of what amounts to a crazy insurrection, I will seek legal advice from the department and, if it is possible to prosecute this person, I'm inclined to do so," Mr Hazzard said.
Minister for Early Childhood Education Sarah Mitchell said there were penalties of up to $100,000 for operating an education and care service without an approval. .
"For anyone to be reckless and not go through the proper approval process is illegal," Ms Mitchell said.
"Setting up a service to intentionally break the law is irresponsible and puts innocent children at risk, and I have absolutely no issue cracking down on any illegal operators."
In December, the local Byron Shire newspaper The Echo also highlighted how anti-vaxxers are exploiting a loophole that allowed them to get their unvaccinated children into daycare for 2018 by enrolling them before the changes came into place on January 1, because the law is not retrospective.
Ellon Gold from Byron Bay Periwinkle Preschool said many parents had pre-enrolled their unvaccinated children for 2018 before the law changed.
"It certainly hasn't stopped unvaccinated children from going in 2018," Ms Gold said.
NSW Health confirmed it was up to "individual care facilities to decide whether or not they accept children who were enrolled prior to this year's change of requirements, using a conscientious objector form."
Mr Hazzard said he would move to close any such loophole.
"I will be looking at all measures to ensure the children in our preschools and day care centres are kept safe, hopefully common sense will prevail but, if not, we will look at whatever legal changes might be possible or necessary to address it," Mr Hazzard said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said: "I flatly condemn the anti-vaccination movement. It's based on unscientific conspiracy theories. Vaccinations save lives. Without them our youngest children are at risk".