2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education & Care Award winners announced

Three distinguished educators from across the nation were celebrated as the 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education & Care Award winners, recognizing their extraordinary contributions to early childhood education.

Advancing Pedagogy and PracticeBalnarring Pre-School, Balnarring, VIC

Balnarring Pre-School in Victoria was honored with the ‘Advancing Pedagogy and Practice’ award for their outstanding leadership in implementing a nature program that promotes learning in the natural environment. They collaborated with respected Elders N’Arwee’t Dr. Carolyn Briggs and Fay Stewart-Muir to integrate indigenous knowledge and cultures into their curriculum, ensuring First Nations Peoples’ teachings are an integral part of daily learning.

Karen Anderson, the Educational Leader and Teacher with 40 years at Balnarring Pre-School, expressed delight at winning a HESTA Award. She noted, “Being a HESTA award winner acknowledges the hard work and dedication of the teaching team, committee of management, children, and families, showing that it is valued beyond our pre-school. It also provides an opportunity to share the work we strongly believe in with our community, families, and the Early Childhood profession.”

Outstanding ServiceNazareth Early Childhood Centre, Findon, SA

The ‘Outstanding Service’ award went to Nazareth Early Childhood Centre in South Australia for their exceptional focus on inclusion and breaking down barriers. Natasha Walc, the Early Years Director at Nazareth, expressed pride in the team’s unwavering effort and passion.

“Given the complexities our sector and community have faced in recent years, it’s humbling to be recognized as a HESTA award winner and have our programs and practices celebrated among a broad network. This achievement provides us with confidence in our capabilities and will act as a catalyst as we strive for excellence.”

Individual LeadershipRachael Phillips, Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service, West Tamworth, NSW Rachael Phillips, the Director of Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service, received the ‘Individual Leadership’ award. Rachael, a proud Gomeroi woman, was recognized for her leadership in advancing education for First Nations children and advocating for culturally appropriate early childhood settings. She expressed her pride in being selected as a HESTA winner, stating, “Being a HESTA award winner is such a great achievement, especially in an industry with so many amazing leaders. Although this award highlights my individual leadership, many people have helped shape who I am as a person and as an Early Childhood Education professional.”

Rachael plans to use the prize money to collaborate with remote communities and First Nations schools where cultural practices thrive. She believes that cultural practices and values should be the core of Early Childhood Education.

Main Image: HESTA Awards Left to Right: Jay Laga’aia, ME Bank Head of Proprietary Distribution Jim Giannakopulos, HESTA Award winners Karen Anderson, Rachael Phillips, Natasha