VEYA Finalist Series
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > VEYA Finalist Series: celebrating community partnerships and health and wellbeing

VEYA Finalist Series: celebrating community partnerships and health and wellbeing

by Freya Lucas

September 15, 2023

The Victorian Early Years Awards (VEYA) are an opportunity for the best and brightest of the Victorian early childhood sector, and those in allied professions, to be recognised for the exceptional contributions they make to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.


Finalists were announced on Early Childhood Educators Day, 6 September, with the winners to be announced at the 2023 VEYA ceremony on 9 November 2023. 


Now in their 18th year, the awards are an opportunity to showcase the exceptional work being done in the Victorian ECEC sector, with finalists exemplifying the vital work happening in the ECEC sector. 


To ensure the finalists are all equally represented The Sector has elected to run a series of stories showcasing each finalist. 


The piece below highlights the finalists for both the Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships and Promoting Children’s Health and Wellbeing categories. 


Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships


Finalist: Darebin Best Start Aboriginal Reference Group – Darebin City Council


To ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children have the best possible start at school, Darebin Best Start Aboriginal Reference Group developed a series of videos to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children accessing Early Start Kindergarten.


Darebin’s Early Start Kindergarten enrolment data highlighted that key information and supports were not effectively being provided to ATSI families in the community. A working group was set up which included members from Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and agencies.


After identifying the barriers, the working group developed the “Nugal Murrup Buladu – belong, spirit, grow” video series, for mob by mob. 


The videos explore Early Start Kindergarten, the transition to school and supports available for children with diverse learning needs. They include powerful stories and the perspectives of parents, respected community members and Aboriginal early childhood professionals.


The project was a success, leading to a 34 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in Early Start Kindergarten in Darebin in 2022.


Darebin City Council worked in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association, Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, NWVR NEMA Darebin/Yarra Koorie Engagement Support Officers, Yappera Children’s Service, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Whittlesea City Council Best Start.


Finalist: Preschool screening service: Tomorrow Today Foundation Ltd 


Delivered in partnership with the North East Regional Preschool Association, Smart Play, Gumnuts Preschool, Ride Ave Preschool, Munro Ave Preschool, Bernard Briggs Preschool and ProKidz Preschool, the Education Benalla Program (EBP) is a whole-of-community intervention to improve Benalla’s socio-economic status through improved educational outcomes.


Through the EBP, an early intervention pilot program called Preschool Immersion was developed to provide pre-schools with evidence-based tools to screen for pre-literacy, pre-numeracy and oral narrative skills. It also delivered structured and incidental activities implemented in class to expand school readiness skills.


Following the success of the pilot, Preschool Immersion has been rolled out across 11 preschool settings. End of year screening shows growth in pre-literacy and numeracy as well as age-appropriate phonological awareness. The program has also supported parents to learn how to expand their children’s skills in the home environment.


Finalist: The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre (in partnership with Uniting AgeWell)


The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre is Australia’s first shared-roof intergenerational learning environment where a long day care centre resides under the same roof as a residential aged care home.


This innovative, intergenerational “grandfriends” program was developed in consultation with national and global experts. The team collaborated with Griffith University, aged care home staff, residents and children to develop their unique, evidence-based approach to intergenerational learning.


A genuine intergenerational community has been established at the centre, where children and their grandfriends benefit from regular, spontaneous opportunities to interact through collaborative, place-based projects that foster rich engagement between the generations.


The program offers significant benefits for the children and the residents, with staff noticing improvements in children’s social-emotional development and civic mindedness, while elderly residents have benefited from decreased feelings of loneliness.


Promoting Children’s Health and Wellbeing


Finalist: By Five Pediatric Project – By Five


Delivered in partnership with Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, the By Five Paediatric Project has established partnerships between Royal Children’s Hospital paediatricians, local professionals and families to improve the health and wellbeing of children in the Wimmera Southern Mallee.


Due to disadvantage and poor access to local affordable health services, children in this area often experience poorer health and development outcomes in comparison to their urban counterparts. 


The project builds local capacity by having professionals work in a supportive community of practice. 


Co-consultations see local professionals, families, and a By Five paediatrician collaborate to respond to child health and developmental concerns for community groups that might not otherwise participate in traditional educative approaches, such as Indigenous Australians, migrants, refugees, and at-risk families.


These co-consultations give parents timely access to paediatric care at no cost. The early interventions are significantly improving children’s health and development, and families report feeling reassured, and emerging with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to manage their children’s health.


Finalist: Our Veggie Heroes Project – City of Kingston’s Family and Children’s Centres


Our Veggie Heroes is an innovation of City of Kingston’s Family and Children’s Centres (FCC), and is part of a commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of children. The program not only provides healthy food, but promotes understanding of nutritious choices through fun activities such as vegetable bingo.


Vegetables became the heroes of Kingston FCC catering when the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020-2021 National Health Survey revealed that only 8.5 per cent of children ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. This inspired FCC’s Kitchen Coordinator to design and facilitate a health-based initiative to educate children, families and educators regarding the importance of healthy eating.


The project is now deeply embedded in the centre’s operations and kitchen teams work with the learning spaces to deliver food-based educational games, stories and experiences. This includes music, cooking, stories, and the sharing of family recipes. The program supports children to explore the different food groups, express ideas and enhance their nutritional outcomes.


Finalist: Passport to Play Project – Maribyrnong City Council


Working in partnership with Footscray Primary School, the Passport to Play Project was developed to build community connections post-pandemic. The aim was to deliver opportunities that allowed children to share their views on what they liked to do in their local neighbourhoods. 


A children’s leadership group from Footscray Primary School co-designed the project elements, and the Passport to Play resource.


More than 400 children aged 2-11 years were asked three core questions – where do you like to play, what do you like to play and with whom do you like to play? The data was used to develop the Passport to Play resource, an interactive passport-sized booklet to support children’s development and encourage play. It identifies play ideas that children and families can enjoy together and maps their favourite play venues.


Play is a fundamental part of children’s development. Passport to Play showcases the numerous ways children can actively explore through play, including being in nature and involvement with animals.


$15,000 in prize money for professional development funding


Award finalists were selected by a panel of judges following a thorough application and shortlisting process.


Winners receive grants of $15,000 towards professional development or to further develop their program or initiative.


A separate Minister’s Award winner will be selected by the Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep Ingrid Stitt from finalists across all categories as a special commendation.


For more information on the awards, refer to the Victorian Early Years Awards website.

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