Illawarra child-care operator fined for breaches

An Illawarra child-care operator has been given a hefty fine as a clear message to the industry it cannot afford to ignore health and safety regulations.Rebecca Hindson has been ordered to pay more than $10,000 in fines and costs for a raft of licence breaches.The 36-year-old owns the Wilbur group of child-care centres at Albion Park, Kanahooka, Shellharbour, Gerringong, Warrawong, Unanderra, Lake Heights and Blackbutt.Among allegations by the Department of Community Services were claims of unqualified staff looking after children under two years old, harmful chemicals and live power cords left within reach of children, dangerous play equipment and dirty, unhygienic rooms.Most breaches occurred in August 2007.Hindson did not appear in Wollongong Local Court yesterday but, through a letter by her former lawyer, indicated she would not be contesting the matter.The centres are still operating but are in receivership, the court was told.MHRH Ptd Ltd, which holds the centres' licences, was fined $2000 and ordered to pay costs of $5000 for five licence breaches.Counsel for the department Patrick Sadie urged magistrate Paul Johnson to impose a substantial fine to send a message to the industry."There is a huge reliance on those who run these centres to comply with regulations for the safety and protection of children," Mr Sadie said."Failure to do so can lead to catastrophic consequences," he added.Mr Johnson agreed, saying "children can be easily harmed if hazardous things are put in their way".Sixteen breaches against the two companies which own the centres, Hindsons Preschools Pty Ltd and Hindson and Carberry Pty Ltd, were withdrawn as the companies have gone into liquidation.

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