2016 Finalist Profiles

Improving access and participation in early learning

East Sunshine Kindergarten Early Childhood Access and Participation Project (ECAP)

East Sunshine Kindergarten in partnership with the Victorian Foundation for the Survivors of Torture

City of Stonnington

The East Sunshine Kindergarten works with the newly arrived Chin refugee community from Burma to help increase their engagement and participation in kindergarten.

Partnering with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, the kindergarten facilitated conversations between educators and Chin parent advisers, to identify and address cultural and practical barriers to inclusion.

This has created a welcoming, supportive environment where Chin families are now highly involved in all activities from working bees and transition days to being parent helpers. The kindergarten employs bicultural staff, provides practical support and has strong connections to many community agencies, the Chin church and feeder primary schools.

Central West Shopping Centre Playgroup

Mackillop Family Services in partnership with Central West Shopping Centre and Maribynong City Council

Connections UnitingCareThe Central West Supported Playgroup introduces newly arrived refugee families to play-based learning, early years services and social networks.

Using an outreach model, parents and carers enhance their relationship with children, link with support services and practice English. The playgroup is coordinated by MacKillop’s Western Regional Parenting Service, in partnership with Maribyrnong City Council and Central West Shopping Centre, and is located within the Central West Shopping Centre.

A Deakin University independent review commended the service for the positive outcomes it achieves for at-risk and hard-to-reach families.

Aurora School Community Kindergarten: An Early Years Program in a Bilingual Setting

Aurora School Community Kindergarten in partnership with Aurora School

EACH Social and Community HealthAurora School Community Kindergarten was built and opened in 2014 by Aurora School, on their site in Blackburn South. It is a nurturing kindergarten for both hearing and deaf children.

Their inclusive approach involves sharing knowledge and skills with families, providing support and promoting an understanding of the impact of hearing loss.

This innovative program helps hearing and deaf three- and four-year-old children to feel connected to their world and become confident communicators in a bilingual (Auslan and English) child-centred environment.

Supporting parents to build their capacity and confidence

Family Early Learning Partnership (FELP)

Hume City Council in partnership with Kildonan Uniting Care, Hume Moreland Child First & Integrated Family Services, Anglicare Victoria, Merri Community Health, Sunbury Community Health Centre, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency

cohealthAiming to build stronger families through enhancing children’s learning and play, the Family Early Learning Partnership (FELP) takes a strengths-based approach to building parents’ and carers’ capacity.

The partnership, between Hume Moreland integrated family services, child protection, maternal and child health nurses and early years educators, combines expertise in child development with specialist family support.

The Family Early Learning Partnership provides advice and referrals to families to enhance children’s learning. It has helped parents to develop strategies to engage in more positive parent to child interactions, strengthening protective factors for families experiencing challenges.

Moments for Learning the Abecedarian Approach for Families

Melton City Council in partnership with Djerriwarrh Health Services, City of Melton Early Years Partnership Commitee, City of Melton Community Learning Board

cohealth Moments for Learning is a practical program incorporating the Abecedarian Approach into children’s play and routines. With an emphasis on learning games, conversational reading, language and care giving.

The approach provides parents with more opportunities to have a positive impact on their child’s learning. Following a trial through new parents groups and enhanced maternal and child health home visits, pilot sessions for parents and children were developed and implemented by a multidisciplinary team of professionals.

The sessions helped improve child development and parents’ knowledge about children’s learning.

Parents Early Education Partnership (PEEP)

Tomorrow Today Education Foundation in partnership with Benalla Health, Benalla Rural City - Maternal & Child Health Service, Family Liaison & Family Services, Benalla P-12 College, Benalla Preschools, Department of Eduction and Training, Department of Health & Human Services

Parents Early Education Partnership (PEEP) values parents as their child’s first and most important educator. The program is open to all, but specifically targets families experiencing financial or social disadvantage.

PEEP helps parents and carers to develop their parenting skills, connect with childhood services and engage with other families. With the long-term aim that all Benalla children start school ready to learn, PEEP works with more than 40 partners, referrers and volunteers.

The program is measured by external evaluation by University of Melbourne and Australian Early Developmental Census.

Creating collaborative community partnerships

A Collaborative Response to Family Violence in the East

Eastern Community Legal centre in partnership with Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service, Eastern Domestic Violence Service, Maroondah City Council, Yarra Ranges Council

Warrnambool City CouncilEastern Community Legal Centre have collaborated with Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service, Eastern Domestic Violence Service, Maroondah City Council and Yarra Ranges Council, on a project that prevents and responds to family violence.

The project aims to support the improved safety and wellbeing of women and children through providing an integrated response to family violence onsite at multiple maternal and child health clinics.

From little things big things grow, especially in rural communities

Moorabool Shire Council in partnership with Ballan Primary School

Goodstart West MeltonBallan Primary School and Moorabool Shire Council’s Early Years Service have collaborated to create a central community hub and meeting place in one of Victoria’s growing rural areas.

The partnership helps local families access early years services in the one location. With families able to attend several groups and activities, the hub has become a thriving part of the community and a healthy and collaborative environment has also emerged for professionals delivering the programs.

LEAP Ahead in Braybrook - multi-agency collaboration to improve outcomes for local children and families experiencing vulnerability

Cohealth in partnership with Maribyrnong City Council, Melbourne City Mission, Victoria University and Dinjerra Primary School

Goodstart West MeltonThe LEAP Ahead in Braybrook project is an innovative partnership of early years programs with a focus on early intervention for families with children aged 0- 8 years experiencing challenges.

The project demonstrates an integrated, multi-agency approach and is inclusive of kindergarten, community health, maternal and child health, community-centre, family support, playgroups, library programs and parent volunteers.

The project is run in partnership with Maribyrnong Council, Cohealth, Melbourne City Mission, Dinjerra Primary School and Victoria University and is co-located in the Braybrook Community Hub.

Promoting children's health and wellbeing

A holistic approach to improving community health outcomes at Jindi Kindergarten

Goodstart Early Learning in partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Plenty Valley Community Health, City of Whittlesea - Early Years team, Healthy Together Whittlesea/Cancer Council Vic, Knox Audiology & Community organisations: Healthy Aussie Kids, Yoga Fun, Serena Everill

Goodstart West MeltonJindi Family and Community Centre provides critical support services to families and children through its Mernda Kindergarten and Extended Care Program.

The centre is a partnership between the City of Whittlesea, Good Start Early Learning and the Brotherhood of St Laurence and its holistic approach to support focuses on early intervention and strong community engagement.

The kindergarten program sees university-qualified early childhood teachers and highly-experienced Good Start educators deliver play-based learning that supports children learning skills for school and beyond.

Coaching Koorie Kids: Early Years Health Promotion

Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Healthy Lifestyle and Tackling Tobacco Team in partnership with Bubup Wilam for Early Learning & Yappera Childcare Goodstart West Melton

The Coach Program is a holistic health and wellbeing program for Aboriginal children in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. ‘Coaches’ from the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service partner with Yappera Children’s Services and Bubup Wilam for Early Learning to increase kinder children’s wellbeing and health education.

The Coaches deliver fun weekly 30-minute lessons that promote the importance of physical activity, healthy eating, drinking water and staying smoke free. Coaches instil these positive and healthy habits as the building blocks for their adult lives, and enabling the kids to become strong health ambassadors in their homes, community and beyond.

Baby teeth count too!

Dental Health Services Victoria in partnership with VICSEG, Sunbury Community Health, Playgroup Victoria & Wyndham City Council

Goodstart West MeltonDeveloped by Dental Health Services Victoria, with funding from Victorian Government Department of Health, the Baby Teeth Count Too! initiative is an educational package designed to train supported playgroup facilitators in promoting oral health to families.

In particular, Baby Teeth Count Too! focuses on children who are at a higher risk of developing oral disease and teaches parents and caregivers how to prevent tooth decay.

The initiative gives facilitators a critical opportunity to introduce the importance of oral health as early as possible, promoting positive oral health behaviours to the wider community.

Early Childhood Teacher of the Year

Meagan Hull

Bentons Square Kindergarten

Emma ForsythMeagan Hull is committed to providing a high-quality early childhood experience for all children and plays a key leadership role at the Bentons Square Kindergarten. She is also a Pedagogical Leader for Community Kinders Plus and provides teaching advice across the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula region. Previously Meagan was Chairperson for the Peninsula and Chelsea Kindergarten Teachers Association and is still an active member on the Committee.
At Bentons Square Kindergarten Meagan leads a team of 15 teachers and educators. Educators in two of the four year old groups work in partnership with Biala Peninsula, a local early intervention agency, to provide an inclusive program for children with a range of additional needs. The program has operated successfully for more than four years. Meagan provides support to the families of children with additional needs by attending meetings as an advocate, liaising with and coordinating early intervention staff working in the kindergarten setting, along with providing mentoring support for the teaching staff at the centre.

Megan Hancock

Southern Rise Children's Centre

Emma ForsythMegan Hancock started at Southern Rise Children’s Centre as a mature-age graduate teacher. Passionate about the importance of the early years, Megan is now the Educational Leader of eight staff at the centre. Southern Rise Children’s Centre has been operating since 2011, following the amalgamation of two kindergarten services.
Megan has worked tirelessly to develop a kindergarten program that helps children to build strong and trusting relationships with staff, gives them the time and space to explore and play, and ensures their families do not feel that their child might ‘get lost’ in such a large kindergarten. It has been a challenging yet rewarding journey for Megan.

She has guided her team to foster a culture of innovative practice and a belief that anything is possible. The culture and practices of the staff have ensured that all children feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Jedda Charles

Bubup Wilam for Early Learning Aboriginal Child and Family Centre

Emma ForsythJedda Charles, a proud Mutthi Mutthi/Yorta Yorta woman, is an exemplary early childhood teacher and is passionate about preparing Aboriginal children for life. In collaboration with the Bubup Wilam community, Jedda has developed and implemented the Bubup Wilam Enhanced Learning Program, including a strong transition to school.

The Aboriginal children at Bubup Wilam have complex needs and many have experienced trauma. Jedda’s innovative teaching approach supports children’s self-regulation and she has made a significant difference to children’s ability to focus and engage in learning. Using the Bubup Wilam Curriculum Framework and the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, Jedda has created an innovative and encouraging environment in the classroom through an Aboriginal perspective.

Underpinning Jedda’s philosophy of teaching is the notion of self-determination and supporting children’s strong and proud Aboriginal identities as their foundation for lifelong learning, health and wellbeing. This provides the basis for learning the Western skills and knowledge the children need for their future success.