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Three decades of care for Nepean staff

02 Jun 2021


Somerset Cottage Early Childhood Education and Care Centre first opened in May 1991 and 30 years on they’re still instrumental in providing high-quality education and care for the staff at Nepean Hospital.


The 68 place centre provides services for children from zero to five years of age for staff working at NBMLHD, particularly those employed on the Nepean Hospital campus.


Manager of Somerset Cottage, Melinda Thoms, says the service is vital to support parents working at the Hospital and ensures we continue to attract and retain our highly-skilled health professionals.


“We are honoured to support hardworking families based at Nepean. Since opening in 91, I’ve seen Somerset Cottage evolve as the needs of the health community have changed,” says Melinda.


Originally a 40 place long day care, a nursery was added in 1998 to care for an additional 20 children in response to the demand for care for children under two years of age.


“We open at 6am in the morning to assist our shift work based workforce and we now see up to 68 children per day exploring, investigating, enquiring, playing and most importantly, having fun learning at Somerset,” says Melinda.


Their safe and supportive environment sees the return of staff from parental leave with the comfort of knowing their babies are close by. Mothers can continue to breastfeed their child with dedicated feeding rooms available, and parents can visit the service throughout the day. 


In the past 30 years they’ve seen children go from taking their first steps to getting their first jobs. Lisa-Joy Brown, a NBMLHD staff member for 31 years, currently working in our IT department is part of a three generation history at Somerset.


“I was working on Nepean Switchboard when my children were at Somerset Cottage. I mostly worked evening shifts and I was able to visit my children at Somerset during my dinner break,” says Lisa-Joy.


Lisa-Joy’s daughter, Courtney, an Enrolled Nurse in N1G has not only followed in the footsteps of her mother by working at NBMLHD, but her three year old daughter, Isabel, now attends Somerset, just like her mum.


“It’s amazing having accessible child care at work. It makes my life easier and it’s comforting knowing Isabel is just there,” says Courtney.


It’s been almost one year since Somerset Cottage moved to their new location on the campus to make way for the new hospital tower.


Lisa-Joy, Courtney and Isabel recreate their family photo in front of the new Somerset Cottage building.


Lisa-Joy, Courtney and Isabel marked their family tradition by taking a photo in front of the old Somerset building before it was demolished.


“I remember Courtney wanted to marry one of the child care workers. One day when I went to pick her up, Courtney got upset cause she wanted to go home with her ‘husband’,” says Lisa-Joy.


“It has been bittersweet. I’m pleased that we’ve got a lovely new centre, but I was also sad to see the old building, with all the memories, going,” says Lisa-Joy.


While the service has grown and changed, keeping pace with best practice in early childhood education, they have remained responsive to the needs of the workforce.


“We’re in a new location, and the old building had a lot of memories, but what hasn’t changed is that our staff and their families continue to have access to high-quality child care,” says Melinda.