Winners of the 2018 Victorian Early Years Awards

Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Victorian Early Years Awards.



Category 1: Improving Access and Participation in Early Learning Award

Awarded for an initiative or program that promotes access and ongoing participation and engagement in early learning, particularly for vulnerable and disadvantaged families.

Debney Meadows Primary School
Finding your voice (The Debney Meadows Oral Language Headstart)

Debney Meadows Primary School caters for a community with high rates of English as an Additional Language, trauma, refugee experience and parental illiteracy.

To address these issues, the school created an oral language program and activity centres. The aim is to improve oral language and social skills for early learners.

The program was designed to support development and used simple text to start conversations and learn new words. Results from the program showed that 100 per cent of students improved, and of these 42.4 per cent had made a huge improvement.

Partners: Speech Pathologist – Samantha Radajic, SMC Speech Pathology Pty. Ltd.

Category 2: Supporting Parents to Build Their Capacity and Confidence Award

Awarded for a service or initiative that supports parents and carers to feel confident and capable in their parenting role and actions, and to recognise their role as first teachers in supporting their child’s learning and development.

Dandenong Primary School
Dandy Pals Playgroup – Step Into Kinder program

The Dandy Pals Playgroup engages with parents and children prior to school enrolment. The program is free and helps families with transition to four-year-old kindergarten.

It aims to strengthen the role of parents and enhance home learning. It supports parents in their role as their child’s first teacher.

The playgroup has improved access to high quality early learning services. It has also helped identify children needing early interventions.

Partners: Community Hubs Australia, R E Ross Trust, The Smith Family, The Water Well Project, City of Greater Dandenong.

Category 3: Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships Award

Awarded for a service or initiative that promotes collaborative practice to support and demonstrate positive outcomes for children and families.

Traralgon East Community Centre
Community Connect

Traralgon East Community Centre inspires children to take part in community life through its Community Connect program. The centre identified a need to help children make better decisions after a series of break-ins at a local preschool. The culprits were aged under 10.

It now runs more than 20 programs designed to attract children and improve their access to services. For example, a new easy-to-navigate public transport map was created and a free book exchange opened. As a result, there has been a reduction in anti-social behaviour.

Partners: Department of Health and Human Services, Latrobe Valley Bus Lines, Kindred Spirits Enterprises, Relationships Australia Victoria, Lifeline Gippsland, Latrobe City Council: Maternal and Child Health, Latrobe City Council: Cameron Street Pre-School, AFL Gippsland, Save the Children, Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS).

Category 4: Promoting Children’s Health and Wellbeing Award

Awarded to an initiative, program or project that has demonstrated outstanding achievement promoting children's health and wellbeing.

City of Darebin
Kingsbury Play Map Project

The Kingsbury Play Map raises awareness of diverse play opportunities that strengthen community links. The initiative allows families and children across Darebin to try out free play places and spaces in their neighbourhood.

The Play Map partnership is between Darebin Council and Play Specialist, Cat Sewell. Children, aged between 0-8 from the local kindergarten, supported playgroup and two primary schools also helped to design the map of their local play areas.

The map identifies play areas in Kingsbury, one of Darebin’s most vulnerable areas, and uses action words such as, jump, create, climb, search and run. Families can build on their knowledge about how to play and interact with their local environment.

The project links to Darebin’s 2017-2021 Health and Wellbeing Plan, where physical activity is one of the strategies for strengthening community connectedness.

Partners: Cat Sewell: Play Specialist, Christine Hodge: Maryborough Avenue Kindergarten, Christine Campbell: Principal of Kingsbury Primary School, Kevin Bourke: Our Lady of the Way Primary School.

Category 5: Early Childhood Teacher of the Year Award

Awarded to an early childhood teacher who demonstrates innovation and exemplary practice in early childhood education, and who makes a significant contribution to the development and delivery of high quality early childhood education programs that improve outcomes for children.

Nicole Bechaz
Banyan Fields Kindergarten

Providing opportunities for children beyond a traditional kindergarten program, Nicole leads a team at Banyan Fields Kindergarten for 156 children, many with additional needs. Nicole worked with agencies and schools to ensure additional learning opportunities for all children, and that services such as speech programs were offered at the kindergarten.

Her participation in the Let's Chat Oral Language program increased parents’ skills and knowledge around the importance of early reading. By developing relationships with Banyan Fields Primary, Nicole has helped to strengthen the link between early childhood and primary school services. This has led to smooth and successful transitions for children and families.

Category 6: The Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler Excellence in Educational Leadership Award

A new award for 2018, this was presented to an early childhood service that has supported its educators and teachers to use intentional teaching practices that achieve improved outcomes for children and their families.

Community Kinders Plus

By identifying their strengths and needs in kindergarten, Community Kinders Plus (CKP) improves children’s social, emotional development, their cognition and language and early literacy skills. CKP manages 20 kindergartens in Frankston and across the Mornington Peninsula, focusing on improving outcomes for disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

The organisation has studied Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler’s research and has devised an assessment time line, tools and templates to observe, track and record children's progress and development. This research then ensured each child who attended a CKP kindergarten had an individual plan that reflected their developmental needs and interests.

Minister's Award

Selected by the Minister, this is a special commendation about a program that reflects this year’s theme of 'supporting positive relationships with children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds'.

The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Inc.
Foundation House Hume Refugee Early Years Cluster 2017-18

The Hume Early Years Refugee Support Cluster is a collaboration between Foundation House, Hume City Council and 10 Early Years centres and agencies. It aims to improve inclusion for families and children of refugee backgrounds in early years’ services.

Over 18 months, each partner reviewed their services to see how they could be more inclusive. They made changes to the way they work with families and agencies to better support refugee children. For example, they developed visual and translated resources, asked parents to teach staff key language phrases and encouraged parents to volunteer at the centre.

Partners: Family, Youth and Children’s Services: Hume City Council, Newbury Children and Community Centre, Craigieburn Child and Family Centre, Malcolm Creek Pre School, Pelican Childcare Fairways, Hilton Street Pre School, KU Craigieburn Children’s Centre, Good Samaritan Catholic Primary School, Mount Ridley College, Victorian Inclusion Agency, Bright Beginnings - Family Day Care.