Celebrating excellence at the Victorian Early Years Awards

The 2019 Victorian Early Years Awards provided another fitting celebration of the life-changing support early childhood services offer to Victorian children and families.

The beautiful National Gallery of Victoria was again buzzing with excitement for this year's ceremony. Seven organisations and one early childhood teacher received awards, from a strong field of 20 finalists.

Now in its 14th year, the annual Awards continue to shine a light on the inspiring work early childhood professionals perform in communities across the state.

Promoting Children's Health and Wellbeing Award

A community literacy campaign engaging West Heidelberg communities, We Love Stories is a great example of the outstanding range of initiatives, programs and projects recognised in 2019. The campaign won the award for Promoting Children's Health and Wellbeing.

Through the campaign, Banyule Community Health works with local organisations to improve children and families' literacy. This is achieved through social media and by helping children and families create their own ideas, images and words and even publish their own books. We Love Stories aims to create change at a system-level.

We Love Stories Project Manager Nina says she was 'thrilled, honoured, overwhelmed, shocked!' when she accepted the award with her colleagues. 

Nina says her work has produced many highlights, pointing to the group's work to publish the Djilak-Djirri ABC book, an alphabet book in the area's local Aboriginal language, as an example.

Three childrena nd a care/teacher at a table reading worksheets
We Love Stories improves literacy in children and families

'I loved the way everyone brought their ideas and creativity to it', Nina says.

Nina says that the process of making books through We Love Stories has seen 'children and their main caregivers share magical moments – language-rich, back and forth chats'.

On accepting the award, she added, 'I really felt I was holding it on behalf of all the families and organisations that have been part of We Love Stories'.

Eager to keep the ball rolling, the group are now also working on a bilingual book with a Himilo Somali playgroup.

Early Childhood Teacher of the Year Award

Pope Road Kindergarten teacher, Leanne Mits, won the prestigious Early Childhood Teacher of the Year Award.

Leanne Mits at Pope Road Kindergarten
Early Childhood Teacher of the Year winner Leanne Mits

'It is an honour to be an early childhood teacher and to have belonged to this sector of education for 34 years', Leanne says. 'I was elated to be acknowledged for my work and commitment to early childhood education'.

Leanne is passionate about early learning and says she loves that relationships are the core business of her work.

'When my feet hit the ground each morning, I am keen to get to work to be with my colleagues and to make a positive difference to the learning and lives of children and their families', Leanne says.

Leanne led the development of the kindergarten's Reconciliation Action Plan. To further enrich her teaching practice, Leanne often attends professional learning on Reconciliation so that she can bring that knowledge into her work with children.

'I believe children have the right to know the stories of the Traditional Custodians of Australia', Leanne says.

'We learn what it means to be respectful and to engage in trusting relationships. We also explore how we connect to land and to the Aboriginal ways of knowing and being'.

Continuity of Early Learning Award

This year's event also saw the launch of a new award, which recognises how continuity of early learning is achieved through focussing on successful transitions between kindergarten and school.

The Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership won the inaugural Continuity of Early Learning Award for their work in the BY FIVE Project.

The BY FIVE: Wimmera Southern Mallee Early Years Project is a place-based community collaboration, improving continuity of learning outcomes for children. BY FIVE brings together five geographic clusters, working together in 15 regional towns to improve outcomes for children by streamlining enrolments, creating better links between services, and upskilling local community members.

Congratulations to all finalists and award recipients on their success. See a list of the winners below and the finalists at VEYA Finalists

2019 VEYA Award Winners

Improving Access and Participation in Early Learning

Moreland City Libraries – Word Play

Supporting Parents through Evidence-based Practise

Rosanna Golf Links Primary School

Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships

Balnarring Preschool

Promoting Children's Health and Wellbeing

Banyule Community Health – We Love Stories

Continuity of Early Learning

Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership – BYFIVE: Wimmera Southern Mallee Early Years Project

Early Childhood Teacher of the Year

Leanne Mits – Pope Road Kindergarten, Blackburn

The Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler Excellence in Educational Leadership Award

The Geelong College

Minister's Award

Keysborough Primary School.