The importance of university child care: Attending the dedication of Munro Center, University of Queensland

Bill Dennison ·
18 September 2014
Queensland Floods | 

During our ten-year stint at the University of Queensland, we were fortunate to have access to high quality on-campus child care. This child care was a decisive factor in maintaining dual careers for my wife Judy O'Neil and for me. As well, our children developed lifelong friendships at the two child care facilities: Munro Centre (ages 0-3) and Campus Kindy (ages 3-5). During the 2011 Brisbane floods (which occurred when we were on sabbatical in Brisbane), the Munro Centre facility was completely inundated. Munro Centre is an independent parent-run facility and the University of Queensland provided a building at a reduced rental. Rather than rebuilding in a vulnerable location, the university temporarily relocated the child care into a section of campus using demountable buildings. The University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor at the time, Professor Paul Greenfield, was quick to support the Munro Centre during this tumultuous transition.

Photo of the 2011 flood at Munro Centre.
Photo of the 2011 flood at Munro Centre.

Judy and I were visiting friends of Munro Centre parents in Brisbane when we learned that the new Munro Centre was being officially opened in its new location (not on Munro Street any more, but they have chosen to retain the name). We attended the opening and ran into some old friends (e.g., Alastair McEwan) and had a chance to catch up with Professor Peter Hoj, the University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor who we met when he was visiting Washington, D.C. and we met the Chancellor, John Story and his wife Sally. We shared the story that our daughter, now nineteen years old and attending St. Mary's College of Maryland, had recently traveled to Greece for a backpacking trip to meet her Munro Centre friend, now attending the University of Queensland. Lifelong friends living halfway around the world from one another is one of the things for which Munro Centre gets some credit.

Chancellor John Story (left) and Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj (right) at the dedication of the new Munro Centre.
Chancellor John Story (left) and Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj (right) at the dedication of the new Munro Centre.

As part of the opening ceremony, Peter Hoj talked about how important child care was for his young family in Denmark. He stressed the need for proximity of the child care facility to the workplace, the need for parents to be confident that their children were well looked after and how particularly important child care is for women to be able to maintain their career development. Peter's heartfelt words resonated with us and we had many fond memories of our University of Queensland child care experience. Judy was the President of the Munro Centre parent association for a stint and recruited me to be the Munro Centre Santa Claus. This led my children to ask "Daddy, where were you? You just missed Santa Claus!” but several Australian children asked, "Why did Santa have an American accent?" Judy recruited our talented Science Communicator from the Marine Botany group, Diane Kleine, to design a Munro Centre logo. It was nice to see that the logo has survived the transition to the new location.

The Munro Centre
The Munro Centre at its new location

There were several things that were enjoyable about this experience. One aspect was the satisfaction of finding that the University of Queensland continues a tradition of enlightened leadership. Another was the fortuitous timing of being present during the 2011 Brisbane floods, horrified that the Munro Centre was destroyed and now seeing the beautiful new faculty opening several years later. We joked that 'rising from the ashes' was what came to our collective minds, but it certainly was not an appropriate metaphor given the reason for its demise. It was also nice to see the young families and kids and consider the continuity that the Munro Centre has had in the life of the university community.

Munro Centre friends Sarah Cummings (left) and Lizzie Dennison (right) in Australia (top) and in Greece (bottom).
in Australia (top) and in Greece (bottom).
Munro Centre friends Sarah Cummings (left) and Lizzie Dennison (right)

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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