The Australian Family Child Care Awards - And the winner is…
By Gill Canning
When Angela Hardy stood up to accept the Rising Star Award at the 2011 Australian Family Child Care Awards on April 29 in Sydney, she was so overcome with emotion that words failed her.
It took the 23-year-old centre director of Headland Park World of Learning in Buderim, Queensland some moments before she could compose herself enough to make an acceptance speech in front of the roomful of guests.
‘To win this award feels like a dream,’ Angela told the crowd. ‘It’s just a tremendous ride.’
Angela was joined in the winners’ circle this year by three other national winners, including 2011 Director of the Year Steven Cameron from Barbara Kiker Memorial Kindergarten, Kidman Park, SA.
A chuffed Steven admitted to the crowd that as a youngster, he’d planned to be a policeman and only elected to take Child Studies at school to fill up his timetable.
Upon leaving school, however, he found a job as an unqualified worker in a childcare centre where, to his surprise, he found he loved working with children. He then embarked on a program of study that led him to his current position of director.
‘The best thing for me about winning this award is that all the after-hours work that I do has been recognised,’ Steven told Australian Family magazine. ‘Going the extra mile is something I’m proud of.’
The 2011 winner of Educator of the Year, Janet Gillespie of Beaumaris Kindergarten in Ocean Reef, WA, was so sure she wouldn’t win that she didn’t bother writing an acceptance speech. When her name was announced as national winner, she was – quite literally – speechless.
Janet – a first time nominee – managed to recover herself and thank her team and her mum, who’d sacrificed much so that she could go to uni and become a kindergarten teacher.
‘I grew up in Bunbury and back in the 1980s, country children didn’t go to uni as much as they do now,’ she said. ‘I’m still the only one in my extended family to do so. My mum went through a lot to send me and I’m so grateful.’
The Margaret Ives Community Children’s Centre in Norwood, SA was the 2011 winner of Service of the Year. Director, Alison Wells said the team was ‘very excited and proud’.
‘It’s great to be publicly acknowledged and to win is very bonding for us as a team. Since we won, we’ve had millions of emails and texts from our parents saying, ‘We knew you were the best centre in Australia!’’
Comedian, author and mother of two Jean Kittson was MC of the Awards at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney. She had the audience in stitches with her tales of inexperienced motherhood and how quality childcare allowed her to find a work-life balance.
‘It’s lovely to be invited back a second time to host the Awards, I feel like I’m part of the family!’ she said. ‘I love having the opportunity to congratulate everyone who has taken part in the Australian Family Child Care Awards. They are such a wonderful celebration of people who do such an important job in our community.
‘It’s so crucial for the early childhood educators to know there are people who appreciate their work and that best practice is rewarded; that there are people who care about the standard and the professionalism.
‘These Awards are moving for me because I’m reminded of how important those early childhood teachers are for our children. Often, preschool or daycare is their first foray outside the family into the big wide world.
‘It’s also very important for the parents as it’s the first time they put their children into strangers’ hands. There is no-one more important in a working mother or father’s lives than those who look after our children and teach them.’
Special guest speaker Michael Grose – a former teacher himself and now one of Australia’s foremost parenting educators – expounded to the audience on the qualities of a good teacher.
‘Educators should be approachable and friendly and able to build a sense of community around their centre so that parents identify with it.
‘I’ve learned that it’s not about what you do for kids that is important - it’s what you do with kids. These days, many of us are fond of what I call the ‘Velcro effect’ – fixing things ourselves rather than teaching our kids how to do it.’
Mr Grose praised the Awards for being the only ones in the country to recognise the efforts and contributions of Australia’s early childhood industry.
2011 Judging Chairman and Australian Family Managing Director Paul Clancy offered his warm congratulations to the four national winners and 12 state finalists on their achievements.
‘Australian Family hopes that the acknowledgement our winners and finalists receive during these Awards will act as a motivation to not only continue the outstanding work they are already doing, but perhaps become lighthouses of the sector and guide the way for the children and those in their immediate community to achieve great things.’
ABOUT THE CHILD CARE AWARDS
The Australian Family Childcare Awards began in 2005 to acknowledge and celebrate the excellence that exists in early childhood education in Australia.
Since then, the Awards have gone from strength to strength, with a record 1300 entries received this year.
They are awarded after an exhaustive evaluation process by the judging panel, made up of representatives from several peak children’s service associations.
Each of the four 2011 national winners received a crystal trophy; a One World for Children training grant worth $4000; an Educational Experience gift voucher valued at $1000; travel vouchers worth $1000; a financial plan courtesy of Catholic Super valued at $1000 and plus an outdoor banner courtesy of National Childcare Accreditation Council valued at $500.
A COMMENT FROM THE WINNERS
We asked our winners: ‘What is the best thing about your job?’
ANGELA: ‘Being able to meet such diverse children and building relationships with them.’
STEVEN: ‘In my class, I have four year olds who go off to school at the end of the year - seeing them go off with so much knowledge that I have helped to impart and the skills I have helped to build is the best.’
JANET: ‘I love getting to know the whole child as a part of their family. I get to know the mums, dads and siblings. I have a very close emotional bond and connection to our children.’
ALISON: ‘In this position, I have the opportunity to make a difference.’
For more on the Awards, visit www.childcareawards.com.au