HESTA celebrates Early Childhood Award finalists
The Sector > Jobs News > Finalists announced for 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards

Finalists announced for 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards

by Freya Lucas

September 06, 2023

Superannuation fund HESTA has announced the finalists of its 2023 Early Childhood Education and Care Awards. 


The awards celebrate and highlight the work of educators and carers at the centre of Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, celebrating those who have demonstrated excellence in improving learning outcomes for children. 


Nine early childhood professionals have been named in the finalist list, with the winners to be announced at a dinner in Adelaide on Friday, 6 October 2023. 


“Congratulations to our amazing finalists, whose commitment and passion as early childhood educators shine daily, giving our children and future generations the best chance to fulfill their potential,” said HESTA CEO Debby Blakey. 


“Our communities thrive because of these dedicated professionals. This year’s finalists have achieved remarkable feats, from working collaboratively with families to create a positive learning environment for every child to encouraging children’s understanding and respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”


An independent judging panel comprising sector representatives reviewed many outstanding nominations to select finalists across the categories of advancing pedagogy and practice, outstanding service, and individual leadership.  


A total of $30,000 in prize money has been provided by long-time awards sponsor ME, which will be split equally between the three winners to be used for professional or team development or to improve workplace services or processes. 


“On behalf of ME, and as a mum myself, thank you for your dedication, passion and hard work as caretakers and educators of our future generations,” said ME CEO Martine Jager.


Advancing pedagogy and practice


Finalist: Rebecca Martin, Sesame Lane Care and Kindergarten, Moreton Bay QLD


Ms Martin was nominated for her work as one of the sector’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Cultural Liaison Educators. In this role she encourages children’s understanding and respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, while building relationships across community. 


She also supports educators to become more culturally responsive within their practices to ensure Sesame Lane Care and Kindergarten Services are culturally safe. 


Finalist: Goodstart Early Learning Smithfield (team), Smithfield SA 


The team were nominated for using their EChO (Enhancing Children’s Outcomes) training to provide families and children experiencing disadvantage and trauma with the holistic care they need. 

The centre also provides a breakfast program for children to receive nutritious meals to eat onsite and implemented the Health to Go program, for children to receive free health and development assessments. 


Finalist: Balnarring Pre-School (team), Balnarring VIC 


Balnaring Pre-School was nominated for implementing a nature program, which involves learning in and with the natural environment. They worked with esteemed Elders N’Arwee’t Dr Carolyn Briggs and Fay Stewart-Muir to embed knowledge and cultures into the learnings, and ensure First Nations Peoples teachings are now part of everyday practice.


Outstanding service


Finalist: Nazareth Early Childhood Centre (team), Findon SA 


Nazareth Early Childhood Centre is being recognised for its focus on inclusion and breaking down barriers. In response to a review of their Australian Early Development Census community profile and critical reflection on the impacts of COVID-19, the centre implemented various initiatives to eliminate barriers and enhance children’s development. 


This included gifting birthday books, developing a literacy project, and supporting children to access speech pathology and occupational therapy services in partnership with Flinders University. 


Finalist: KU Craigieburn Children’s Centre (team), Craigieburn VIC 


KU Craigieburn is being recognised for its dedication to embracing cultural diversity, helping foster a sense of belonging for children, bilingualism, and cultural understanding. 

Upon recognising a lack of participation in community health checks, leading to undisclosed learning support needs, the service collaborated with maternal and child health services to implement free comprehensive health assessments for children. 


Finalist: Goodstart Early Learning Calala (team), Calala NSW 


Goodstart Early Learning Calala is being recognised for working collaboratively with families to create a positive learning environment for every child. 


The centre prioritises inclusivity by addressing barriers within the centre and fostering understanding of disabilities among families, helping children feel settled, happy, and content. 


Individual leadership


Finalist: Rachael Phillips, Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service, West Tamworth NSW 


Ms Phillips, a proud Gomeroi woman, has been recognised for her leadership in advancing education for First Nations children and advocating for more culturally appropriate early childhood settings. 


During the pandemic her work was key to the Service’s ability to continue to operate and maintain 100 per cent enrolments. 


Finalist: Heidi Patrick, Elanora Heights Community Preschool, Elanora Heights NSW 


Ms Patrick has been recognised for her role in developing several quality improvement programs to help bridge any gaps between home and the early childhood learning environment. 


Her work has helped equip early childhood educators with knowledge and practical ideas on how to embed healthy eating and physical activity within daily programs, along with supporting children’s social and emotional wellbeing in their first 2,000 days of life. 


Finalist: Rebecca Harrison, KU Children’s Services, Sydney NSW


Ms Harrison has been recognised for her work trialing and implementing a Guided Practice Model to support early childhood educators in facilitating the equitable inclusion of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 


She leads a team of autism support facilitators and has supported 335 children with ASD across 76 services. 


Learn more about the HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards here


Congratulations to all the finalists, and to those who were nominated. 

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