Finalists Victorian Early Years Awards

​There are 18 finalists across Victoria who have been shortlisted for the 2018 Victorian Early Years Awards. 

There are five organisational awards and one individual celebrating an Early Childhood Teacher.  

Category 1: Improving Access and Participation in Early Learning

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

Barwon Child, Youth and Family

Children and Parent Support program

In 2017, the team at Barwon Child, Youth and Family’s Early Years started the Sunshine Circles program. The new program supported prep-aged children in the Colac-Otway area who needed more help in physical, social and emotional development. The program built and enhanced attachment, self-esteem, trust, and joyful engagement, based on playful, healthy interaction between parent and child.

More than 100 children took part. The results were impressive. There was a 61.2 per cent decrease in challenging behaviour. Also, 71 per cent of children responded more comfortably to nurture and touch.


United Way Australia, Department of Social Services: Australian Government, Wydina Kindergarten and Early Learning Centre, Apex Kindergarten, The Cubby House Early Learning and Kinder, Winifred Nance Kindergarten, Colac East Kindergarten.

Debney Meadows Primary School

Finding Your Voice

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. Of these, 42.4 per cent had made a huge improvement.


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

Good Samaritan Catholic Primary School

Lives Fully Lived

Good Samaritan Catholic Primary School in Roxburgh Park reaches out to local refugee families with its ‘Lives Fully Lived’ initiative. It offers quality early learning to preschool children through playgroups, home visits and the Step into Prep program. It also helps families with kindergarten enrolment and access to Maternal and Child Health Services.

As a result of the school’s advocacy, every student who started Prep in 2018, or will start in 2019, will have attended kindergarten in the previous year.


Hume City Council, DPV Health, Community Hubs Australia, Foundation House.

Category 2: Supporting Parents to Build their Capacity and Confidence

This award is 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

The Dandy Pals Playgroup helps to engage 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.


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

Cardinia Shire Council

Smalltalk Supported Playgroup

The Smalltalk Supported Playgroup program helps address the limited services and supports for families in Cardinia Shire. It delivers parenting strategies to enhance the home learning environment for children up to four years of age. The program helps parents build nurturing relationships in their families. It gives them the skills to be effective first educators for their child. It also helps strengthen learning in the early years’ education system by lifting outcomes for children who need extra support.


Cardinia Maternal and Child Health Service, Cardinia Shire Kindergarten Central Enrolment, Cardinia Shire Community Strengthening.

Mallee Family Care

Let’s Read Mildura

Mildura’s Let’s Read program has improved literacy and language skills for children aged from four months to five years. The program supplied books and information packs to families at key Maternal and Child Health visits. It has promoted and increased literacy and language development in children by engaging families and introducing reading concepts from birth.

The program has inspired more projects such as Little Libraries and pop-up reading spaces.


Mildura Rural City Council: Library Services, Maternal and Child Health Services, The Knowledge Centre, Mildura District Aboriginal Service: Maternal and Child Health Services, Mildura Senior College & Deakin Trade Centre, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, The Smith Family.

Category 3: Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships

This award is 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. A free book exchange opened. As a result, there has been a reduction in anti-social behaviour.


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).

Community Kinders Plus

Let’s Chat Oral Language program

The Let’s Chat Oral Language program is free to all schools in the Northern Peninsula Network. It offers families the opportunity to learn oral language strategies that they can use with their children at home. The aim is to increase young children’s talking skills. This will improve their long term educational prospects. While Let’s Chat is not core business for schools, every principal involved has seen the educational value for local children.


Department of Education and Training – Northern Peninsula Network, Noah’s Ark, Frankston City Council, Good Start, Rotary Club of Frankston.

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. They asked parents to teach staff key language phrases and encouraged parents to volunteer at the centre.


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.

Category 4: Promoting Children’s Health and Wellbeing Award

City of Darebin

Kingsbury Play Map project

The Kingsbury Play Map raises awareness of diverse play opportunities that strengthen community links. It’s a great initiative that 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.


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.

WRISC Family Violence Support

Van Go - art, music and play on the move

A mobile therapy service for children in the Moorabool Shire has resulted from the partnership between Moorabool Shire Council and WRISC. Painted with a Van Gogh masterpiece, the van is a therapy space that travels to schools to help children recover from family violence. Music, play or art therapy helps repair parent-child relationships. Data suggests Van Go helped 75 per cent of children feel calmer and enhanced their capacity to grow, learn and love. Other outcome measures show improved relationships, community belonging and family strength.


Moorabool Shire Council, Child and Family Services Bacchus Marsh, Darley Primary School, Centacare Bacchus Marsh, CASA Ballarat, Victoria Police.

Specialist advocate for children affected by family violence

Eastern Domestic Violence Service

Amplifying the voice of children affected by family violence is at the core of this project. The Children’s Support Advocate is a role created by the Eastern Domestic Violence Service. It works closely with the family to make sure children are included in services and decisions that directly affect them. The need for a CSA was also identified by mothers who found it difficult to fully and openly engage with a worker while their children were present, and who needed childcare options.

The role recognises a child’s individual family violence experience. It provides a service where the mother and child are in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment by providing play resources, material aid and referrals. It operates out of other relevant locations including a police station and court.

Category 5: Early Childhood Teacher of The Year

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

Naomi Falconer

Knox City Council Haering Road preschool

Naomi is a skilled educator who is passionate about how early childhood educators can impact the lives of young children. She is committed to respectful and responsive relationships with children, families and their teams in preschool. She feels optimistic that these achieve high quality outcomes for children, especially for families. 

Naomi was selected by Monash University to implement and adapt the Pyramid Model to all preschool services in Knox City Council. This model makes sure all children learn to accept difference as they interact, as well as new social skills, as they explore diverse play and learning opportunities. This resonates with her philosophy of equity, inclusion and respect. She sees this as the foundation of learning outcomes to achieve transformation for many children and families.

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.

Trish Mannix

Hume City Council, Craigieburn Child and Family Centre

Trish has a passion to improve and embed practices in early years’ services that support our most vulnerable. She demonstrates a commitment to reflective and evolving teaching methods by always being involved in innovative programs.

She has helped develop an ongoing partnership with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture. This aims to improve access to early years’ services across Hume. Her recent project aims to improve outcomes for refugee families. This is through a reflective practice method within the Hume Early Years Refugee Cluster, which was formed to strengthen partnerships with families. 

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

This award is presented to an early childhood service that has supported its educators and teachers to use intentional teaching practices to achieve improved outcomes for children and their families.

The Geelong College Early Learning Centre

The Geelong College Early Learning Centre advocates a culture of ongoing learning for teaching staff, consistency of practice, and leadership.  

With the kindergarten program holding an Exceeding National Quality Standard rating, the centre has explored works from Harvard University to strengthen its centre-wide teaching approach. Topics such as Cultures of Thinking and Intellectual Character have highlighted the need to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being.

The Centre then went on to develop the ‘Connection to Country’ project, joined ‘Narragunnawali’ and developed its own Reconciliation Action Plan. There have been great benefits for children, parents, staff and the wider community in understanding and embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into its programs. The centre has also shared its learning with the school community and other early childhood professionals in the region. 

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 hasdevised 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.  

Gowrie Victoria

Excellence in Educational Leadership: Advancing Learning

Connecting with families to share in the decision making about their children and kindergarten programs underpins Gowrie Victoria’s delivery of professional development and nationally recognised early childhood education and care qualifications. Gowrie Victoria manages three kindergarten programs in addition to delivering professional learning for the sector.

The organisation participated in the Victorian Advancing Early Learning Study together with the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, and has embedded ongoing and relevant learning to the team and its Broadmeadows Valley Children’s Program. The program’s team adapted teaching and learning approaches to meet the unique strengths and needs of the community. In a culture of curiosity, the study focused on how a professional learning program can affect the quality of educator-child interactions in its service.

By openly sharing knowledge, educators feel empowered to engage in discussions around their role and the impact they have on children's learning and development.


Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Broadmeadows Valley Primary School.