2022 VEYA finalists showcase the best of Victoria’s ECEC sector has to offer
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > 2022 VEYA finalists showcase the best of Victoria’s ECEC sector has to offer

2022 VEYA finalists showcase the best of Victoria’s ECEC sector has to offer

by Freya Lucas

October 28, 2022

Finalists in this year’s Victorian Early Years Awards (VEYA) have been announced, showcasing outstanding leadership, achievement, dedication and innovation in improving outcomes for children aged from birth to eight years and their families.


2022 marks 17 years of VEYA recognising stand out early years professionals and organisations in seven award categories focused on improving engagement in learning, supporting parents, building collaborative community partnerships, improving child health and wellbeing, exemplary practice in early childhood education, leadership and significant improvement on learning and teaching practices.


Ahead of the winners being announced on 9 November, The Sector, with the support of the Victorian Department of Education and Training, has prepared the following piece, which showcases the work of some of the finalists. 


Nature Kinder Program – Keele St Children’s Centre 


Recognising the disadvantage and vulnerability experienced by its kindergarten community, the  educational leadership team at Keele St adopted a collaborative and consultative approach guided by critical reflection to establish a Bush Kinder program which is relevant and meaningful for their community.


Held as part of the service’s focus on connecting to Country and nature, the Bush Kinder program has been established at Yarrabend to increase participation and support children to learn in natural environments and open spaces.  


The team consulted with key stakeholders to understand the history of Yarra Bend and its cultural significance, and with Parks Victoria and the Merri Creek Management Committee to develop a program about local flora and fauna.  

Educators are supported by the leadership team to embed the Bush Kinder program within the service, and the Educational Leader and Service Coordinator actively participate in each Bush Kinder session to provide practical support and role model best practice educational strategies.


During the development of the Bush Kinder program, Keele Street’s leadership team supported educators to visit other Bush Kinder programs, work alongside industry colleagues and experts to observe, ask questions and critically reflect on the pedagogy and purpose behind outdoor “place-based” education. This approach to learning and development was also extended to the children, when the service leadership engaged wildlife safety experts to share with the children practical skills and knowledge about the wildlife that they may encounter whilst onsite at the Bush Kinder.


Launch Housing’s Education Pathways Program


Developed in 2015, Launch Housing’s Education Pathways Program (EPP) is designed to provide wrap-around services to support children experiencing homelessness and family violence to remain in or to connect with education. 


The EPP was started in response to the significant number of children presenting to Launch Housing who were not engaged in formal early learning or education, and aims to improve educational outcomes and life opportunities for children experiencing homelessness and family violence by supporting their attendance and engagement in kindergarten and primary-school.  Launch Housing work partnership with kindergartens, schools, and other agencies to better support children and their parents. 

Families with young children are referred to the EPP when they present to a homelessness intake assessment point. The EPP assists with enrolments and material aid (such as uniforms, cost of educational activities, healthy lunchbox foods). It also provides access to speech pathology and developmental and educational psychology for children requiring additional support. EPP works closely with the child/ren’s place of learning to understand and respond to their unique needs.


The EPP is the only homelessness service in Victoria with a specific focus on engagement in education in the under-12 space. The EPP doesn’t have a catchment area, which means they can follow children as they move between regions and provide consistency in support.


In 2019, the EPP was formally evaluated and findings showed significant improvements in attendance and engagement in education for children supported by the program. The evaluation also identified that the support provided by the EPP significantly reduced the stress and anxiety levels of parents/caregivers experiencing homelessness.


Toy Well Toy Library – Toy Libraries Australia 


Preschool children from migrant and refugee families in Victoria are supported by Toy Well toy libraries – a free toy lending library which is an initiative of Toy Libraries Australia.


Toy Well toy libraries are established at Community Hubs Australia (CHA) sites located within primary schools. There are currently six Toy Wells operating in Hume, Dandenong, Geelong, Fitzroy and Wyndham, with plans to double this by the end of 2022.


An evaluation of CHA by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found that children from backgrounds where English is not spoken at home are among the most developmentally vulnerable in the Australian community, and interventions are needed to support their learning. 

For many families who have recently arrived in Australia, playing at home is not something which is familiar, and for those who have experienced trauma, such as being a part of the refugee experience, play may not be a priority. 


Families who are new arrivals likely do not have toys in their home, and parents are often not confident in supporting their child’s learning through play. 


Toy Well addresses these needs by providing: 


  • toys and resources for children and parents to engage in high-quality play-based learning at home
  • families the opportunity to visit CHA sites to borrow toys, and encouraging them to attend playgroup where they can learn about the importance of play-based learning for young children
  • the opportunity for parents to practice what they learn at playgroup at home
  • a safe and enjoyable context for families to meet, create friendships and develop support networks
  • volunteer opportunities for parents
  • a fun and welcoming entry point to engage with other services co-located within the community hub.


The winners of the VEYA Awards for 2022 will be presented on Wednesday 9 November 2022. The Sector sends its congratulations to all those who were recognised this year. 


To learn more about each of the finalists please see here.  

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