Community Connections Solutions Australia celebrates a half century of supporting ECEC
Community Connections Solutions Australia (CCSA) has celebrated 50 years of supporting early childhood services in Australia. From its beginning in 1969, when the group was known as the Country Preschools Association, CCSA has grown organically, from the ground up, to become a place for services to receive representation, and a collective voice for government lobbying and support across service delivery.
In 2020, the organisation is now one of the pre-eminent representative bodies within the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. To find out more about the journey, The Sector recently spoke with CEO Meg Mendham to learn about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the last 50 years.
Origins – the 1960s/1970s
The CCSA story begins in 1969, when the Country Preschools Association was formed to support the management of preschools in rural New South Wales.
Shortly after the group was formed, the change in societal attitudes which was the 1970s began. A period of great change, the 70s saw female participation in the workforce increase, and at the same time, a greater pool of knowledge and understanding about the developmental needs of preschool children come to light.
It was against this backdrop that CCSA was at the forefront of a drive for sufficient early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres to meet the needs of working families, and an improved provision of quality.
Change in the air – the 1980s and 1990s
With changes in the industrial landscape, coupled with the “recession we had to have” the 1980s and 1990s were a time of both steady growth and also challenge for the ECEC sector.
During this time, Unions became more active, the Teachers Awards were introduced, and for those leading and managing services, their working lives became more complex.
As a range of different types of centre based care for children were introduced, members were dealing with a much wider range of employment types.
CCSA continued to grow and change in response, and a key focus was on providing employment information.
In late 1989 the Federal Government of the time applied a funding freeze to the sector, with CCSA mounting a publicity campaign in response. The culmination of this campaign A Day of Protest was designed to highlight the “dire financial situation” of most country centres, and to educate communities and the media about the benefits and scope of ECEC.
Beyond 2000 – the last 20 years
From the early 2000s the regulatory, legislative and administration demands placed on the ECEC sector increased, and CCSA grew rapidly and expanded services offered to provide the expert support that members were asking for.
As the value of early education became more widely recognised, the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Framework were introduced. These changes, together with the introduction of WorkChoices, and a national system of Modern Awards and New National Employment Standards, all posed unique challenges for both members and CCSA.
Professional development became a focus for many members, as they met the challenge of keeping up-to-date with a rapidly evolving sector, and CCSA’s training and consultancy services were expanded. In 2005 Business Solutions was formed to address a recognised need to help services meet their payroll and financial obligations. More recently, CCSA has been working to provide intensive funding and business management support to individual services.
From little things, big things grow
In the earliest days, CCSA had one employee, supported by a board of regional representatives. As recently as 1992, CCSA only had three staff and operated from a small office in Katoomba – having earlier operated out of the CEO’s home!
Heading into 2020, CCSA has 27 employees, and will celebrate three years in its larger new location with space and facilities to meet the ever-increasing support provided to members.
CCSA’s 50th anniversary celebrations paid homage to the fantastic work of members, Board Directors and staff from establishment to the present day. A video, banners and a display of documents, photos and old records illustrated the many significant social and political changes over 50 years, and CCSA’s capacity to respond, initiate and lead in quality ECEC provision.
Those attending had the opportunity to walk together with staff and Board Directors on our reconciliation journey, and to work on a collaborative art project representing the work of the current CCSA team in the collective journey. The evening festivities included rich conversations reflecting on the past the present and the future, delicious food and drink, and music and dancing.
“CCSA looks forward to seeing what the future holds. With a long history of adaptability, CCSA will continue to meet the needs of members and the early childhood education sector, and be a strong presence advocating for high quality and affordable early childhood services for all children,” Ms Mendham said.
A video commemorating the achievements of CCSA over the past 50 years has been created, and can be viewed here.
CCSA strives to support all services, but especially those in rural and remote communities, with every pillar of governance and management including regulations, financial management, human resources, and compliance. More information can be found on their website.