HESTA ECEC Award winners announced at ECA Conference
The Sector > Quality > HESTA ECEC Award winners announced at ECA Conference

HESTA ECEC Award winners announced at ECA Conference

by Freya Lucas

September 08, 2021

Australia’s top early childhood educators and services were announced last night during a COVID-safe celebration at the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) National Conference, in the 2021 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards.


The prestigious Outstanding Organisation award was secured by the Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, recognised for their work to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and families experiencing disadvantage, while City of Canterbury Bankstown’s Karen Roberts received the Individual Leadership accolade for her many years spent championing children’s rights.


A dedicated service for First Nations families


Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre was recognised for its dedication to meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and families experiencing disadvantage across the Gunnedah region.


Leanne Pryor, Education and Care Manager at the centre, said the team felt “so privileged” to win the award, which she said validates the hard work done by the whole team. 


“Our educators are amazing and inspiring. The quality of care they give to the children is outstanding and their commitment to families is excellent.”

The centre provides a range of programs, including out-of-home care, a Gamilaraay language program, and the Learning for Life speech program to support children and families at all stages of their  early learning journey. More than 300 children have participated in the service since it started in 2013 and 80 per cent of the children identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.


Ms Pryor said the prize money will be used to run cultural training opportunities for other service providers, early childhood education services and schools.


A champion for children


In the Individual Leadership category, Karen Roberts was recognised for her outstanding contribution to early childhood education, continually going above and beyond to be a champion of children. Throughout her career, she has worked tirelessly to uphold children’s rights, promote inclusive education, and lead with empathy and enthusiasm. 


She described the win as “the proudest and humblest moment” of her  45-year career in early childhood education and care.

“Much of [my development] has come about thanks to the fabulous people, those leaders and colleagues who believed in me, encouraged me, mentored and inspired me along the way,” Ms Roberts said.


Award reinforces the value of kindness and being mindful


Lilyfield Early Learning Centre (ELC) received the Advancing Pedagogy and Practice award for their innovative early learning approach that empowers children to have a voice, including through a junior Parliamentary process.


The service’s community-focused learning approach empowers children to have a voice and active choices. 


“In the Lilyfield ELC family, kindness counts, and we couldn’t be more grateful that our curriculum, which focuses on emotional literacy, has received such recognition,” Centre Manager Zoe Rule said.


The centre plans to use the prize money to extend their ‘Mindful Moments’ program, which includes guided meditations, yoga, and dreamtime stories for children, to other services and further support their educators’ understanding of mindfulness in early years.


Winners congratulated for inclusive practice, innovation 


All of this year’s winners are from New South Wales, and HESTA CEO Debby Blakey extended her congratulations to the winners for their innovation and drive, and for creating inclusive learning environments where children can thrive.


“The passion and dedication these early childhood educators demonstrate every day is crucial for setting the next generation of young Australians up for success,” Ms Blakey said.


“These professionals are the unsung heroes and I am so pleased HESTA can help recognise their contributions and share their stories through the awards program. Well done to the winners, finalists and all those who took the time to fill out a nomination.”


The three winners each took home $10,000 in prize money, generously provided by longstanding awards sponsor ME – the bank for you.


ME CEO Adam Crane said the bank was proud to celebrate the deserving winners.


“Their consistent display of outstanding leadership in early education and care goes above and beyond, helping every child receive a quality early education,” Mr Crane said.


For more information, visit hestawards.com.au

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