KU announces the winners of the Making the KU Difference Awards
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KU announces the winners of the Making the KU Difference Awards

by Freya Lucas

October 21, 2021

KU Children’s Services has announced the winners of the 2021 Making ‘the KU Difference’ Awards, which were presented at an online event recently.


Each award recipient has been recognised for their outstanding contributions to KU, children, families and communities over the past year.


Children and families 


Bei Bei Liu, an early childhood teacher (ECT) at KU Bradfield Park, was awarded the Making the KU Difference for Children award. 


Ms Liu was described as “a dedicated teacher who consistently provides great care to the children and invests a significant amount of time, effort and thought into all her projects to facilitate children’s learning.” 

“She uses rich literacy embedding technology and creative arts to spark children’s ideas, thinking and imagination and this enables a rich learning space that expands children’s learning and thinking,” a KU spokesperson said.


Kelley McNamara, who is the ECT at KU Mayfield, won in the Making the KU difference for families, described as “an exceptional leader who goes above and beyond when supporting families with their child’s individual needs”. 


“Her knowledge and experience about neurodiversity, coupled with the strong partnerships she forges with families, ensures they feel valued and supported,” the spokesperson said.


Communities and Staff


Jan Bulger, an educator at KU Shalvey, was successful in the Making the KU Difference for Communities category, noted for her extensive links to the local community that enable frequent collaboration in order to support the families, children and staff at the preschool.


“Jan has created relationships with businesses in the local community that provide staple food items such as bread, fruit and vegetables, to help and support the families particularly during COVID-19 with so many families affected,” a KU spokesperson said.

“Jan is dedicated to making a difference with the children, staff and the wider preschool community, and is a great asset to KU Shalvey. Families often comment on how grateful they feel to receive such staunch support.”


When it comes to caring for staff, Director of KU ANSTO, Amanda Ford took out the Making the KU Difference for Staff award, noted for being an outstanding and supportive leader who always gives her all to the staff, families and children at KU ANSTO. 


“During COVID-19, Amanda has shown extreme levels of empathy and compassion towards staff and children, consistently communicating with families and educators to develop the most efficient plans to maintain children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing,” the spokesperson said. 


“Under Amanda’s leadership, the KU ANSTO team received an Exceeding NQS rating in every Quality Area, a huge achievement in regular circumstances, let alone during the pandemic. She is an inspiring and caring leader who fosters an inclusive team culture.”

Quality, sustainability and innovation 


The KU Macquarie Fields Team were noted for Making the KU Difference to Quality, with leader Jackie demonstrating dynamic leadership and her commitment to the unique and complex demographic of her community. 


“Jackie has guided the team through professional learning and a rigorous reflective process to showcase exemplary practice in understanding and responding to the complexities of the centre community. KU Macquarie Fields Preschool is a Centre of Influence and within that framework Jackie used her expertise and knowledge as the team worked to develop the KU Guiding Children’s Behaviour – Parent Approach, a training package specifically designed to guide and support families in managing and understanding children’s challenging behaviours. 


“Jackie and the team consistently show a dedication to quality improvement in pedagogical practice,” a KU spokesperson noted.


When it comes to Making the KU Difference through Sustainability, Educator Elysia Wright from KU Petersham was lauded as an inspiring leader in embedding sustainable practices. She has organised community grants as well as implemented a community garden in line with COVID-19 regulations to support the preschool’s sustainability and community plan for a nature corridor for birds and wildlife.

The KU Sector Capacity Building Program Team are Making the KU Difference through Innovation, noted for developing the innovative ‘Inclusion Gateway’ online platform, where preschools supported by the KU Sector Capacity Building Program are able to log in to access a wide range of evidence based inclusion information, resources, professional learning, social story templates and podcasts. 


The ‘Inclusion Gateway’ was developed in response to the challenges of working remotely due to COVID-19 and following feedback from preschool leaders about the need for flexible access to learning materials to allow for all team members to engage and increase their capacity to include children with disabilities and additional needs.


Representation, reconciliation and inclusion 


KU Laurel Tree House were recognised for Making the KU Difference by Representing KU by creating a home away from home for children in the Inner West. 


“Sharmila is a wonderful communicator and a genuinely caring person whose natural leadership makes young children feel at ease in her presence. Under her leadership, many families with little support outside immediate family have been given the opportunity to see their children flourish,” a spokesperson said.


Over the past few months, Sharmila and the team have supported families through the challenge of the service’s impending closure. The centre’s value in the community was evidenced in 22 pages of “love letters” from the community.

Making the KU Difference through Reconciliation was an important category in the Awards, with one educator and three directors receiving special acknowledgement:


  • Jan Bulger, Child Care Educator at KU Shalvey
  • Kathy Lawton, Director at KU Petersham
  • Jodie Daly, Director at KU Playford Park
  • Rachel Cunningham, Director at Honey Bird.


Jan has been engaged with the Shalvey Department of Education’s Primary and Secondary school’s Aboriginal Liaison Officers for over 15 years and has strong relationships with local Aboriginal children, families, and community members. Jan organises with the school, to bring Aboriginal children into the preschool each year to create artworks and other experiences to support the children’s connections in their community. Jan has been a great ambassador for KU with Aboriginal peoples and communities in the outer west.


Kathy has taken every opportunity to introduce local Aboriginal educators, Elders and leaders to the Petersham community. She has hosted training for other centres in the region and challenged every aspect of the centre’s teaching to stimulate thinking and discussion that focuses on social justice issues to promote and protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and intellectual integrity and rights. The KU Petersham team also welcomed, supported and mentored the first KU Employee Experience Aboriginal trainee.


Jodie continually shares the current issues that are being voiced by Aboriginal peoples locally and nationally, with her team, families and staff. The centre has engaged with many local and traditional peoples including an artist in residence. Jodie understands the obligation that cultural knowledges are guarded by the storytellers and upholds and respects this fact ensuring appropriate consents and remuneration. She works collaboratively to ensure the centre is culturally safe for Aboriginal children, families and visitors.


Rachel constantly provides historical and contemporary information that highlights the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to staff and families. She has led the team to explore a range of policies and processes to redress past injustices. Her approach is to extend the thinking to a higher level that requires deep reflection and acknowledgement that a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is entwined with the guidance of families and community.


KU Gwynneville Team won the Making the KU Difference for Inclusion category for their role in supporting a large number of children with additional needs each year and consistently working collaboratively to recognise and celebrate children’s cultural diversity. 

Physical play spaces have been modified in order to facilitate each child’s potential to maximise mobility, vision and hearing. The team have also engaged in a signing course, which has assisted children with language development needs and hearing difficulties, and benefited the wider group of children who have enjoyed learning to use a manual communication mode to enhance their use of language.


KU Marcia Burgess Award


In the final category, Karen Penfold, Director at KU Randwick Coogee, secured the KU Marcia Burgess Award for her demonstration of a deep understanding of her responsibility to children’s wellbeing in her work. Faced with a difficult child wellbeing issue in 2020, she showed strength and resilience in advocating for vulnerable children and was a catalyst in ensuring that the child was placed in a safe and trusting environment.


Karen is committed to the prevention of child harm and is responsible for advancing the understanding of child protection issues within her team at KU Randwick Coogee and in the Inner South region. 


Karen has made a sustained and positive impact on children’s lives and works collaboratively with the KU Child Wellbeing Team and the Department of Community and Justice to achieve successful outcomes for the protection and wellbeing of children.


To learn more about KU Children’s Services please see here

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