HESTA announces 2023 award winners
The Sector > Jobs News > HESTA announces 2023 Early Childhood Education and Care Award winners

HESTA announces 2023 Early Childhood Education and Care Award winners

by Freya Lucas

October 10, 2023

HESTA announced the winners of the 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards during a gala dinner in Adelaide, South Australia, over the weekend. 


The three winners each received $10,000, courtesy of sponsor ME Bank, for professional development or to improve services or processes in the workplace.


Balnarring Pre-School


Balnarring Pre-School, located in Victoria, won the ‘Advancing Pedagogy and Practice’ award for its leadership in implementing a nature program involving learning in and with the natural environment.


Balnarring’s Educational Leader and Teacher Karen Anderson, who has been at the centre for 40 years, said the team were thrilled to win a HESTA Award.


“Being a HESTA award winner is an acknowledgment that the hard work and dedication of the teaching team, committee of management, children and families is valued beyond our preschool,” she said. 


“It’s also an opportunity to share the work that we so strongly believe in with our community, families, and the early childhood profession.” 


The team will allocate the prize money to different areas in the preschool, including providing cultural awareness training for the committee of management and teaching team as part of the school’s commitment to reconciliation and creating a culturally safe environment.


Nazareth Early Childhood Centre 


Nazareth Early Childhood Centre from Findon, South Australia won the ‘Outstanding Service’ award for its focus on inclusion and breaking down barriers, helping enhance children’s development.


Nazareth’s Early Years Director Natasha Walc said she was proud of the team for the relentless effort and passion they bring to their work each day.


“Given the complexities our sector and community have faced in recent years, it’s humbling to be recognised as a HESTA award winner and have our programs and practices celebrated amongst a broad network,” she said. 


“This achievement provides us with confidence in our capabilities and will act as a catalyst as we continue to strive for excellence.” 


The team plans to use the prize money to support staff in an international study tour to explore exemplary early childhood systems and practices that align with the centre’s philosophy.


Rachael Phillips


Rachael Phillips, Director of Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service in West Tamworth, New South Wales won the ‘Individual Leadership’ award. Ms Phillips was recognised for her leadership in advancing education for First Nations children and advocating for more culturally appropriate early childhood settings.


Ms Phillips, a proud Gomeroi woman, was recognised for her leadership in advancing education for First Nations children and advocating for more culturally appropriate early childhood settings. For the entirety of her career, Rachael has worked with and for the local Gomeroi community and attended Birrelee as a child.


Being selected as a HESTA winner was a proud moment and presented an opportunity to continue to grow as a leader and teacher.


“Being a HESTA award winner is such a great achievement, especially in an industry (sic.) where there are so many amazing leaders, including those I look up to and have admired my whole career.” 


“Although this award highlights my individual leadership, there are many people who have helped shape who I am as a person and as an early childhood education professional. From my family, colleagues, community, and ancestors, I am thankful for every experience and opportunity I have received.” 


Ms Phillips plans to use the prize money to visit and collaborate with remote communities and First Nations schools where cultural practices thrive.


“I have experienced and witnessed the importance of culturally strong and safe practices in the education setting and truly believe that cultural practices and values should be the core of early childhood education,” she said.


HESTA and ME extend congratulations


HESTA CEO Debby Blakey extended her congratulations to all winners and finalists for “their incredible contributions to early childhood education” saying the superannuation provider is “so grateful for the impact early childhood professionals make on our communities”.


“In a world filled with challenges and uncertainties, the role of an early childhood educator is one of profound significance,” she continued. “I’m proud that the HESTA Awards can help recognise the important work of these incredible professionals.” 


ME CEO Martine Jager also praised the winners and their ongoing dedication.


“Their consistent display of leadership in early education and care goes well above the call of duty, and their dedication to giving children the best chance of reaching their full potential is an inspiration,” she said.

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