Winners of the 2023 KindiCare Excellence Awards announced
The Sector > Provider > General News > Winners of the 2023 KindiCare Excellence Awards announced

Winners of the 2023 KindiCare Excellence Awards announced

by Freya Lucas

October 26, 2023

Guardian Childcare & Education Blackburn West has been named as the National Winner of the 2023 KindiCare Excellence Awards, an awards program which commenced in 2021 to recognise and celebrate the outstanding early childhood education and care services delivered around Australia that support the early learning, growth and development of children.


The KindiCare Excellence Awards recognise just over 2,500 early learning services nationally that have achieved a KindiCare Rating of 9.0 or above, from a total of over 17,300 services. 


Approximately 12 per cent of services around Australia have been recognised with an Excellent Award, with the top 3 per cent of the nation’s best performing early learning services receiving the newly introduced Outstanding Award for achieving a KindiCare Rating of 9.5 or above. 


The KindiCare Rating provides a unique score for every early learning service that is based on their current and historical assessment and ratings under the National Quality Framework, parent and community feedback and reviews, the stability and length of operation of the service, as well as other characteristics known about a service.


At the winning centres, passionate early childhood educators and centre directors are motivated to create diverse and engaging play and learning environments, with a deep understanding of what enables children to learn and grow in their formative first five years. 


Diversity, connection and culture


As well as being the National Winner, Guardian Childcare & Education Blackburn West secured the State Winner title for Victoria, scoring just over 9.9, the highest KindiCare Rating in the nation, to take top honours.


The centre’s diverse early learning program is underpinned by the idea that children are competent and capable learners, with rights, who can play an active role in the community and the wider world. 


For Centre Manager Julie Smith, this looks like regular excursions to the local park, supermarket, train station and community café, and having parents actively involved in the centre. 


“We have a parent who likes to come in and play guitar, because music, singing and dancing is a big focus in our centre,” she explained. 


“We also have parents who will come in and share their recipes for dumplings, muffins, sticky rice balls and other family favourites. Some grandparents come in to do craft activities with the children. We’ve had a parent who is a police officer arrange for a police car to be parked out the front – which was a huge hit.” 


Julie speaks Ukrainian, and although some children speak a second language at home, all of the Kinder children are learning Mandarin at the Centre, courtesy of the ELLA program. Cultural events from around the world are also celebrated, such as Diwali and Chinese New Year.While the children are developing a greater understanding of the world, they’re also caring for the planet, bringing in milk containers from home to plant seedlings in; visiting the local resource recycling centre to find materials that can be upcycled for craft; tending to the worm farm; and growing a multitude of herbs and vegetables on site, which are then cooked up in the centre’s kitchen.


“Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, and Guardian Blackburn West’s approach to early education is important in celebrating Australia’s cultural and ethnic diversity and teaching tolerance, understanding and acceptance of our rich diversity from an early age,” said KindiCare Founder and CEO Benjamin Balk. 


Home away from home


Everton Park Child Care and Development Centre, the State Winner for Queensland with a KindiCare Rating of 9.9, provides a home-away-from-home for children aged 15 months to five years, with a ‘big and beautiful’ focus on the natural environment. 


The centre has an oversized outdoor classroom that’s used everyday – rain, wind or shine – a leafy, toy-free learning space where children are free to imagine, explore and discover at their own pace. 


“We understand that young children’s brain development really needs large blocks of uninterrupted play time in natural environments. So, our outdoor classroom is a free-flow zone, where children can play with all ages and move inside and outside whenever they like,” said Centre Director Jon Webb.


Sensory exploration, engaging programs


Green Leaves Early Learning Launceston has been named the State Winner in Tasmania, with a KindiCare Rating of 9.6, noted for adding “an amazing flavour” to each child’s learning and development with yoga, music, active sports programs, bush kinder, gardening and weekly culinary lessons, led by their popular Chef, Carmen. 


“All ages participate in these, and the classes are developmentally appropriate for each room. So, the youngest children might have sensory-based cooking experiences, while the Kindergarten children look at mathematical concepts associated with cooking and talk about what a balanced diet means,” explained Senior Operations Manager Kylie-Anne Kirkup.


Longevity and passing on learning 


Goodstart Early Learning Woy Woy, the New South Wales State Winner with a KindiCare Rating of 9.9, credits its long standing staff team with its success. Centre Director Tracey Davies started her early learning career at Goodstart Woy Woy 17 years ago, and several of her colleagues have been happily employed for a similar length of time. 


“My Senior Educator in the Toddler room has been at our centre for 17.5 years, my Cook has been here 15 years, a couple of my other educators have been here for 10 years, and even my new educators feel like they’ve been here forever, because the team is so welcoming,” she said. 


“There are also plenty of enrolled families with a long-term connection to Goodstart Woy Woy.” 


“The level of verbal communication at our centre is really high. We’re always focused on meeting the needs of the children, and we love what we do. We really enjoy the positive difference we can make. And although our service – and our people – go way back, we’re always looking forward to helping children achieve their greatest potential.” 


Individualised attention


South Australia’s State Winner was Goodstart Early Learning Ingle Farm – Roopena Street, with a KindiCare Rating of 9.4.


The service was commended for ensuring that each child who attends the centre has their unique needs and abilities recognised and nurtured. 


“Our dedicated staff are the backbone of our centre’s success. They bring passion, expertise and genuine care to their roles, creating a nurturing and supportive environment for our children,” expalined Centre Director Kelly Brennan. 


The team work in unison to do their very best to make Goodstart Ingle Farm a happy, healthy, communicative and secure place to be, while also recognising the importance of acknowledging and respecting the rich cultural heritage of Australia’s First Nations peoples. 


First Nations culture is reflected in the books, instruments, special guests and the art hanging on the walls, and Ms Breannan said that through meaningful engagement and education, the team are actively working towards fostering an inclusive and culturally sensitive environment where all children can learn and grow together, embracing the principles of reconciliation and unity.


Respecting natural rhythms


Dripstone Children’s Centre, the Northern Territory Winner with a KindiCare Rating of 9.7, was noted for its nature-based and alternative approach to ECEC, and for respecting the natural rhythms of both children and Country. 


Whether groups are feeding chickens, painting with sticks or going on beach adventures, this ECEC community is totally in tune with its environment. 


“We are always looking at the Gulumoerrgin seasonal calendar in our curriculum, that shows us the seasonal changes for the Larrakia land we inhabit. We look at which animals are most active at a certain time, which plants are in bloom, and what the weather is telling us,” said Centre Director Georgia Cleanthous.


“We then pick up on those cues and bring them into the curriculum using natural elements. So, instead of using plastic play dough utensils, we’ll use gumnuts and twigs.” Dripstone Children’s Centre’s natural rhythm approach means that educators are very perceptive when it comes to the children in their care. 


Dual success in WA


In Western Australia, Pachamama Activity Centre and Goodstart Early Learning Canning Vale – Batman Road were Joint State Winners. 


Pachamama Activity Centre, with a KindiCare Rating of 9.9, was also a Joint State Winner in 2022, and is described as being “an incredible service run by passionate people,” who “put a huge amount of thought, effort and love into everything they do,” including the way they design and use their spaces.


Every one of the rooms is comfortably and creatively decorated, and Pachamama’s outdoor area is a wonderland of wood and art. 


“We believe Pachamama is a remarkable success due to our unwavering commitment to crafting these outstanding environments,” Director Kristen McPhail said.


“This commitment to our carefully created environment seamlessly intertwines with every facet of our early education and childcare centre and our activity centre for school-aged children.” 


“Our captivating spaces not only serve as a foundation for quality education, but they are magnets for skilled staff who recognise the value of such nurturing surroundings for the children, as well as for themselves.” 


Goodstart Batman Road was rated highly by families and the regulatory authority, and a lot of the centre’s success is said to come down to the enthusiasm and dedication of Centre Director Kenneth Leong, and Assistant Director/Educational Leader Sandra D’Rozario, who has been at the centre for 15 influential years. 


Together, Kenneth and Sandra are a “dynamic duo” who’ve worked incredibly hard over the years to bring their vision of providing the highest quality of education and care to children every day. 


“Consistent staffing arrangements across the centre, with fixed shifts, has helped to build consistency, predictability and familiarity during drop-off and pick-up for children and families.” Mr Leong explained, praising the passionate educators in the team for the way in which they work collaboratively with children, families and the community to deliver a child-centred program that caters to children’s evolving knowledge, strengths, ideas, cultures, abilities and interests. 


“Families know who will be welcoming their child in the morning and saying goodbye at the end of the day, and they’re very grateful for this,” he said. 


Goodstart Batman Road also offers staggered starts for all new families, something which is highly valued. 


“For the first four weeks of commencement, children spend no more than four hours in the centre,” Mr Leong explained.  


“This enables them to build a bond with their educators, feel safe in the knowledge that their family will be back to pick them up in a short while, and this strategy has worked wonders in minimising the anxiety and stress that children and families feel when first enrolled at an early learning centre.” 


In recognition of achieving an Excellent KindiCare Rating in the 2023 KindiCare Excellence Awards, all centres and services that have achieved an Outstanding KindiCare Rating or Excellent KindiCare Rating have been sent a certificate to mark their contribution to early learning, and a badge to display at their centre. 


To learn more about the awards, please visit the KindiCare website

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