Winners of the 2023 Victorian Early Years Awards

Winners of the 2023 Victorian Early Years Awards have been announced.

The winners of the 2023 Victorian Early Years Awards were announced on Thursday 9 November 2023 by the Minister for Children at an in-person awards ceremony hosted by Myf Warhurst.

Seven organisations, an early childhood teacher and an educator have been recognised for their achievements and contributions to leadership, outstanding achievement and innovation in improving outcomes for Victorian children and their families.

Winners of each category will receive a grant of $15,000 for professional development or to support their initiative.

Category 1: Improving Access and Participation in Early Learning

Awarded for an initiative that promotes access, ongoing participation and engagement in early learning, particularly for families experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage.

Winner: Fast-tracking 15 hours of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten for children at risk – Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc.

As part of their commitment to improving access and participation, the Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. is already delivering 15-hours of free kindergarten for 3-year-olds across each of its 15 kindergarten services. Most of the services are in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, in areas predominantly populated by vulnerable families with language backgrounds other than English.

To make this possible, they addressed 3 key areas: infrastructure, workforce and program development. Through strategic forward-planning, innovation, and determination, they undertook comprehensive facility upgrades, recruited 51 additional educators and support staff, and upskilled their existing workforce to deliver mixed-age programming.

This initiative has led to more children in Broadmeadows and the surrounding suburbs accessing 3-year-old kindergarten. Educators report that the additional hours are having a positive impact on children commencing 4-year-old kindergarten by improving their social skills and better preparing them to continue their learning.


Rangeview Primary School, Foundation Team – Rangeview Primary School

In 2022, the Foundation Team at Rangeview Primary School in Mitcham began a journey to devise a learning model that develops children’s reasoning, problem-solving skills, flexibility, creativity and resilience.

Informed by evidence-based approaches in early years structured inquiry, this new model provides a bespoke experiential learning environment where students investigate concepts in science, technology, literacy, mathematics, geography and art. The teachers worked collaboratively with the school’s leadership team to source professional learning, materials and resources to develop the model, and establish new learning spaces in which it could be utilised.

After 4 months, teachers noted improvements in learning and engagement. Data showed a 132% increase in letter recognition by the cohort of approximately 90 students. The less directive and more experiential learning environment had increased the level of engagement of students from vulnerable/disadvantaged backgrounds.

Category 2: Supporting Parents to Build their Capacity and Confidence

Awarded for an initiative that supports families, parents and carers to feel confident and capable in their parenting role, and recognises their role as the first and most important teachers in supporting their child’s learning and development.

Winner: The HoPES team strengthening the Early Years – Tweddle Child & Family Health Service

The Home Parenting Education and Support Program (HoPES), developed by Tweddle Child & Family Health Service in 2017, revolutionised in-home programs for parents by providing shorter, more intense home visiting interventions to support families with multiple vulnerabilities.

Through HoPES, staff offer support, coaching, play/interactive therapy, and modelling with a primary focus on the relationship between the infant and their primary care giver. The innovative and adaptable nature of this program reduces the risk of families disengaging from the service.

Continual evaluation and quality improvement initiatives have resulted in a unique and effective program that centres on supports and interventions around the wellbeing of each infant. While being culturally responsive and catering for parental learning and literacy styles, the HoPES program focuses on improving parenting skills, eliminating abusive behaviours, and addressing risk factors for child maltreatment.


Imagination Magic – Melton City Council

Imagination Magic is a monthly performing arts and literacy program for babies, toddlers and pre-school children, along with their parents and caregivers. Melton City Council developed this program to support vulnerable members of the community, predominantly consisting of culturally and linguistically diverse residents, with many experiencing high levels of disadvantage.

Since the first performance was held in 2008, nearly 17,000 children and families have been supported by Imagination Magic. This free program supports the language development of children through a creative, stimulating experience filled with music and movement, including multicultural and indigenous performances. Participation in the program also builds the confidence and capability of parents to communicate effectively and thrive in their role as their children’s first educators and advocates.

The program also provides professionals with an opportunity to refer vulnerable families to appropriate services. Through these partnerships, the initiative builds the capacity of organisations to support positive outcomes for children.

Parents Learning Together at the Multicultural Hub – Living Learning Pakenham

In partnership with Best Start Cardinia, Chisholm Skills & Jobs Centre and Mission Australia Family Services.

Parents Learning Together is a supported playgroup delivered by the adult learning centre and multicultural hub at Living Learning Pakenham. The program works in partnership with each family, who are predominately from refugee backgrounds, and focuses on the role of the parents to support the growth and development of their children.

By taking a holistic approach, the playgroup supports parents to build confidence, skills and capacity to enhance the home learning environment for their children. This innovative playgroup model also provides a culturally safe and rich play environment where the children thrive on activities that support their cognitive, social and emotional development.

The response to the program has been extremely positive with high weekly participation rates leading to all participants registering their children for Early Start Kindergarten and completing maternal and child health service visits. Additionally, 80% of the parents also participate in co-located programs and services, such as English language classes.

Category 3: Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships

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

Winner: Darebin Best Start Aboriginal Reference Group – Darebin City Council

In partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association, Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, NWVR NEMA Darebin/Yarra Koorie Engagement Support Officers, Yappera Children's Service, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Whittlesea City Council Best Start.

To ensure they have the best possible start at school, Darebin Best Start Aboriginal Reference Group developed a series of videos to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children accessing Early Start Kindergarten.

Darebin’s Early Start Kindergarten enrolment data highlighted that key information and supports were not effectively being provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in the community. A working group was set up which included members from Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and agencies.

After identifying the barriers, the working group developed the 'Nugal Murrup Buladu – belong, spirit, grow' video series, for mob by mob. The videos explore Early Start Kindergarten, the transition to school and supports available for children with diverse learning needs. They include powerful stories and the perspectives of parents, respected community members and Aboriginal early childhood professionals.

The project was a success, leading to a 34% increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in Early Start Kindergarten in Darebin in 2022.


Special Commendation

Preschool screening program – Tomorrow Today Education Foundation Ltd

In partnership with North East Regional Preschool Association, Smart Play, Gumnuts Preschool, Ride Ave Preschool, Munro Ave Preschool, Bernard Briggs Preschool and ProKidz Preschool.

Tomorrow Today’s Education Benalla Program (EBP) is a whole-of-community intervention to improve Benalla’s socio-economic status through improved educational outcomes.

Through the EBP, an early intervention pilot program called Preschool Immersion was developed to provide pre-schools with evidence-based tools to screen for pre-literacy, pre-numeracy and oral narrative skills. It also delivered structured and incidental activities implemented in class to expand school readiness skills.

Following the success of the pilot, Preschool Immersion has been rolled out across 6 preschool settings. End of year screening shows growth in pre-literacy and numeracy as well as age-appropriate phonological awareness. The program has also supported parents to learn how to expand their children’s skills in the home environment.

The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre

In partnership with Uniting AgeWell.

The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre, located in Mornington, is Australia's first shared-roof intergenerational learning environment where a long day care centre resides under the same roof as a residential aged care home.

This innovative, intergenerational 'grandfriends' program was developed in consultation with national and global experts. The team collaborated with Griffith University, aged care home staff, residents and children to develop their unique, evidence-based approach to intergenerational learning.

A genuine intergenerational community has been established at the centre, where children and their grandfriends benefit from regular, spontaneous opportunities to interact through collaborative, place-based projects that foster rich engagement between the generations.

The program offers significant benefits for the children and the residents, with staff noticing improvements in children’s social-emotional development and civic mindedness, while elderly residents have benefited from decreased feelings of loneliness.

Category 4: Promoting Children’s Health and Wellbeing

Awarded to an initiative that is improving health and wellbeing outcomes for young children.

Winner: By Five Paediatric Project – By Five

In partnership with Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

The By Five Paediatric Project has established partnerships between Royal Children’s Hospital paediatricians, local professionals and families to improve the health and wellbeing of children in the Wimmera Southern Mallee.

Due to disadvantage and poor access to local affordable health services, children in this area often experience poorer health and development outcomes in comparison to their urban counterparts. The project builds local capacity by having professionals work in a supportive community of practice. Co-consultations see local professionals, families, and a By Five paediatrician collaborate to respond to child health and developmental concerns for community groups that might not otherwise participate in traditional educative approaches, such as Indigenous Australians, migrants, refugees, and at-risk families.

These co-consultations give parents timely access to paediatric care at no cost. The early interventions are significantly improving children’s health and development, and families report feeling reassured, and emerging with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to manage their children’s health.


Our Veggie Heroes project – City of Kingston – Family and Children’s Centres

Our Veggie Heroes is an innovation of City of Kingston’s Family and Children’s Centres (FCC), in their commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of children. The program not only provides healthy food, but promotes understanding of nutritious choices through fun activities such as vegetable bingo.

Vegetables became the heroes of Kingston FCC catering when the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020-2021 National Health Survey revealed that only 8.5% of children ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. This inspired FCC’s Kitchen Coordinator to design and facilitate a health-based initiative to educate children, families and educators regarding the importance of healthy eating.

The project is now deeply embedded in the centre’s operations and kitchen teams work with the learning spaces to deliver food-based educational games, stories and experiences. This includes music, cooking, stories, and the sharing of family recipes. The program supports children to explore the different food groups, express ideas and enhance their nutritional outcomes.

Passport to Play Project – Maribyrnong City Council

In partnership with Footscray Primary School.

The Passport to Play Project was developed to build community connections post-pandemic. The aim was to deliver opportunities that allowed children to share their views on what they liked to do in their local neighbourhoods. A children’s leadership group from Footscray Primary School co-designed the project elements, and the Passport to Play resource.

More than 400 children aged 211 years were asked three core questions – where do you like to play, what do you like to play and with whom do you like to play? The data was used to develop the Passport to Play resource, an interactive passport-sized booklet to support children’s development and encourage play. It identifies play ideas that children and families can enjoy together and maps their favourite play venues.

Play is a fundamental part of children’s development. Passport to Play showcases the numerous ways children can actively explore through play, including being in nature and involvement with animals.

Category 5: Continuity of Early Learning

Awarded to two or more early childhood services, schools and/or other organisations that support continuity of early learning through successful transitions.

Winner: Greater Dandenong Early Learning Alliance – Keysborough Primary School

In partnership with Fair Education, Schools Plus, Keysborough Primary School Kindergarten, Yarraman Oaks Primary School, Yarraman Oaks Primary School Kindergarten, Dandenong Primary School, Dandenong Primary School Kindergarten, Dandenong South Primary School, Dandenong South Primary School Kindergarten and Dandenong South Preschool.

The Greater Dandenong Early Learning Alliance (ELA) is a group of 4 schools and 5 kindergartens that employ a multi-disciplinary approach to improving language and literacy skills in 3–8-year-old children.

Australian Early Development Census data indicated that a large proportion of children in Greater Dandenong were developmentally at risk or vulnerable in relation to language, cognitive skills and communication when starting school. Almost 48% were assessed as at least 6 months behind in their literacy development compared to peers. The ELA project targets these critical areas.

A cornerstone of the approach is continuity of learning in language and literacy development between the kindergarten and the school. ELA strengthened collaborative partnerships, relationships and engagement between educators and educational settings, families and communities through co-design.

Teachers from participating kindergartens and schools collaborate to implement curriculum, monitor children’s developmental progress, reflect on their practices and critically examine the results. These early interventions have supported significant language growth for all the children in the program.

The Northern Schools Early Years K-6 model – Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc.

The Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation formed by primary school principals in Broadmeadows. It provides early years management for 15 kindergarten services, 13 of which are located on school sites. The organisation works predominantly with vibrant multicultural communities that experience some of the highest levels of vulnerability and disadvantage.

By operating as a kindergarten to Year 6 (K-6) model, Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. supports collaboration between early childhood services and primary schools at every level, with the aim of providing continuity of learning for children and families as they transition from kindergarten to school.

Children participating in the model develop a sense of belonging and connectedness to the school environment, teachers, resources, programs and facilities, which embeds in them the confidence to move into a foundation classroom. The program also benefits from the co-location of kindergartens and early childhood services, which further supports the continuity of learning and the transition to school.

Carlton’s Learning Precinct – Gowrie Victoria

In partnership with Carlton Primary School, Our Place and City of Melbourne.

The Carlton Learning Precinct partnership is a place-based approach to supporting the education, health and development of children and families from disadvantaged communities in Carlton.

The Carlton Learning Precinct site is located within a pocket of significant disadvantage with most school families being migrants who experience a range of barriers to education. The program focuses on well-being, learning, and childhood development. Community activities and programs, such as ‘Leap into Learning’, guide children and families to transition from kindergarten to school.

The program has had great success with a shared strategic priority on the continuity of learning as well as practice-focused groups developing and implementing goals to support the ongoing engagement of children and families.

In addition to building partnerships across the precinct and relationships with the local community, Gowrie Victoria’s sessional kindergarten programs are fully enrolled, and there’s an annual increase in children transitioning from Gowrie Victoria to Carlton Primary School.

Category 6: Early Childhood Teacher of the Year

Awarded to an early childhood teacher who demonstrates evidence-based 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 learning and development outcomes for children.

Winner: Rachael Gemmill – Glen Education Glover Street Kindergarten

Rachael Gemmill led her team at Glen Education Glover Street Kindergarten to exceed in all 7 areas of the National Quality Standard for education and care. With a Masters of Inclusion, her commitment to cultivating a workplace culture that truly embraces inclusion and equality matches her determination to ensure that all children are provided with a quality education regardless of their support needs. This has enabled more children with complex needs to access support, resulting in improved outcomes.

Central to Rachael’s work is building strong social/emotional skills so she introduced the daily practice of gratitude, empathy, and mindfulness to support children’s ability to self-regulate across 16 of Glen Education’s services.

Rachael led the project across the organisation, gathering data from services, families, and local community members, providing professional development opportunities for the staff involved in delivering the practice, and engaging more than 1,200 children to teach them evidence-based strategies to build a toolbox to support their wellbeing.


Jacinta Anderson – Moe Heights Preschool

Throughout her career, Jacinta Anderson has demonstrated an unwavering passion and commitment to the education and welfare of young children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds. In her role at Moe Heights Preschool, she sees it as her vocation to help vulnerable children reach their fullest potential.

In dealing with the adverse circumstances that many children in Moe experience, including trauma, family violence and poverty, Jacinta advocated for higher staff-to-child ratios to ensure children are being supported to develop language and social/emotional skills. By using all available supports, she creates an environment where children’s learning is maintained and those with additional needs are supported to participate fully.

Jacinta constantly seeks new ways to engage her students and make learning a fun and fulfilling experience. With a deep understanding of the developmental stages of young children, she provides a nurturing environment that promotes growth and development, whilst developing strategies to improve family engagement and participation.

Michelle Ives – Glenroy Central Kindergarten

Michelle Ives works at Glenroy Central Kindergarten, a multicultural community in an area where many face disadvantage. One of her fundamental goals is for every child to develop the skills and dispositions for lifelong learning. She strives to ensure they have the right support to take full advantage of their kindergarten education and to successfully transition to school.

Michelle works hard to create strong connections with families and to demonstrate commitment to their welfare and ability to access supports as required. In adapting to families from a variety of cultures, languages and customs, Michelle uses visual displays and incorporating relevant cultural elements into the programming and documentation of children’s learning.

Renowned in the community for her welcoming program, Michelle is celebrated for the strong support and advocacy she provides to families, and her success in making the kindergarten years an opportunity for children to develop critical life skills.

Category 7: The Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler Excellence in Educational Leadership Award

Awarded to an early childhood service or approved service provider that has led their educators and teachers to significantly improve the quality of their learning and teaching practices, with a focus on intentional teaching practices to achieve improved outcomes for Victorian children and their families.

Winner: Early Childhood Education Team – Early Childhood Management Services Inc

In partnership with The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, Early Childhood Intervention Services – Melbourne City Mission and Children’s Programs – Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Early Childhood Management Services Inc (ECMS) developed a specialist in-house coaching service for the early childhood workforce. Since the inception of the initiative in 2019, they have modelled a way of being and doing through intentional deep listening, reflection and review.

ECMS, which operates over 60 early learning services, educates 6,239 children and employs 880 educators, have been on a 3-year journey of learning about what makes the most impact on the space between leadership, pedagogy and practice. Their program has been refined throughout the journey to meet educators and leaders ‘where they are,’ and to foster curiosity and wonder while highlighting the importance of self-care and compassion.

Practice Coaches, who review and measure the impact of this intentional coaching approach, have noticed increased engagement, participation in reflective practice and shared learning across the ECMS workforce. By creating greater goal clarity and supporting the workforce to develop through this program, ECMS are supporting better learning outcomes for children.


Centre for Early Education, Ballarat Grammar

With a strong commitment to fostering leadership and creating better outcomes for children, the Centre for Early Education (CEEd) at Ballarat Grammar engaged in a deep review of their existing professional learning architecture.

They identified the need to consolidate existing structures, optimise meaningful learning, and streamline practice and service operations. Recurring themes in their findings included the need to build educator capacity and develop a deeper understanding of inclusion for all children including children's rights, self-regulation, First Nations culture, gender, and cultural identity.

As a result, CEEd invested further in fostering educational leaders who consider every element of children's learning, ensuring that it is purposeful, engaging, and tailored to meet their unique ideas, needs and interests. Educator teams were given the opportunity to collaborate to develop research questions and undertake the educational design process of Progettazione, which is an act of throwing forward; a game of ping pong between educators and children to design programs with greater rigour and understanding.

Springvale Service for Children Inc.

Springvale Service for Children (SSC) Inc. is an integrated family and children’s hub offering a suite of services from kindergartens, playgroups and childcare to information programs for parents, counselling services, and access to medical professionals. Their broad educational strokes reflect a strong commitment to collaborative and distributive leadership.

Distributive leadership was adopted at SSC to give staff autonomy to innovate, work towards common goals and bring their cultural backgrounds, experience and knowledge to their practices. It is exemplified in a photo project they organised titled ‘Moments’, which showcased untold, diverse narratives and shared community experiences. Photos from the project became a permanent part of their program, to encourage dialogue and foster a culture of inclusivity.

SSC prioritises reflective practice and ongoing professional learning and team champions utilise their strengths and interests to guide others. SSC has become a community resource that breaks down barriers and improves access to innovative, integrated programs for children and their families.

Category 8: The Aunty Rose Bamblett Koorie Early Years Legacy Award

Awarded to one or more early childhood service/s that are demonstrating holistic service provision that engages Aboriginal children and families, building Aboriginal perspectives and amplifying the voices and experiences of Koorie families and local community members through partnerships that enable self-determination.

Winner: Yirram Burron and Perridak Burron Early Learning – Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative

Yirram Burron and Perridak Burron Early Learning services are Aboriginal community-owned and controlled early years services. They cater specifically to Aboriginal children that have experienced trauma and ensure all Koorie children within their services have the best possible start to their education journey in a culturally safe environment.

The organisation caters for each family and child holistically, ensuring they meet the individual needs of enrolment, attendance and ongoing engagement whilst delivering educational programs based solely on Aboriginal perspectives involving environments, resources, experiences, activities, recruitment, professional development, community programs and celebrations.

Yirram Burron and Perridak Burronshare their successes and strategies with other early childhood services working collaboratively in cultural competence and service provision for Aboriginal families and the wider community. The Early Years team are passionate about providing an educationally rich and nurturing environment in which all children will grow and develop into the next generation of culturally competent citizens, with a love for the land and their community.


Rosedale Uniting Kindergarten

Children who attend Rosedale Uniting Kindergarten benefit from the rich, Aboriginal cultural aspects embedded in their learning program. Early childhood teacher, Pauline Dent, a proud Monero Ngarigo woman from Gippsland, developed a culturally inclusive program that includes a daily Acknowledgement of Country, Aboriginal artwork displays and the exploration of Aboriginal language through song.

Rosedale Uniting Kindergarten takes a holistic approach to developing individual learning goals in collaboration with families. Photos, notes and drawings are displayed in accessible folders to highlight children's and parents’ voices. Pauline and her team engage in working partnerships with Koorie education support officers, elders and community members who regularly contribute cultural knowledge to support the programs.

Community feedback highlights the positive impact of the kindergarten’s inclusiveness on Koorie families.

Town & Country Children’s Centre

Town & Country Children’s Centre in Greater Geelong has embedded meaningful engagement of Aboriginal Culture into their curriculum and core philosophy, whereby Koorie children, families and community feel welcomed and culturally safe.

After recognising a gap in knowledge within the generations of educators and families, Town & Country Children’s Centre sought to build indigenous knowledge and authentic practices. In partnership with traditional owners and families, they designed and implemented a range of cultural elements into daily practices, recognising and celebrating Indigenous leaders, artists and storytellers and bringing Wadawurrung language, stories and songs into daily use as well as movement, dance, and art to foster the children’s connection to land and history.

The centre’s cultural safety statement and policy for employing educators aligns all staff and ensures they share the same goals and passion as they strive to make early education, social skills and inclusion a positive goal for children and families.

Category 9: Educator of the Year

Awarded to an early childhood educator who demonstrates evidence-based 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 learning and development outcomes for children.

Winner: Sue Bullock – Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre

As the Director of Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre, Sue Bullock has implemented pedagogical and organisational reforms to completely transform the service. She has used community data, evidence-based practice, and empathetic leadership to improve outcomes for children, her team, and the overall quality rating of this regional service.

As a believer in child-led learning, and the importance of connecting with nature and building strong relationships, Sue effectively managed a strategic critical reflection program and implemented the Phoenix Cups Framework, which highlights healthy relationships as a key driver of children’s wellbeing and learning outcomes. Sue also initiated the centre’s award-winning bush kinder and steered the organisational culture to emphasise trust, respect and empathy.

Australian Early Development Centre data now shows that children attending the centre rate above state and national averages for school readiness, with an overall decrease in vulnerability from 24% in 2015 to 7.8% in 2021, a testament to the hard work of the team and Sue as their leader.


Brittany Hood – Edithvale Family and Children’s Centre

Brittany Hood is a senior educator and room-based education and care leader at Edithvale Family and Children’s Centre. As an integral member of the service’s leadership team, Brittany is deeply involved in collaborative problem solving and creating what she calls ‘brave spaces’, where she fosters an environment for fellow educators to take risks and be open to challenges.

Brittany designs learning environments that encourage families to engage in dialogue with educators. After conducting an assessment, it was determined that moving children’s lockers into the rooms increased parental confidence regarding the space, which increased their willingness to talk to educators about their child’s learning journey.

Brittany is enthusiastic about building staff capacity to create robust, safe, and engaging learning environments. An exemplary educator, she models and champions collaborative conversations with families and strives to achieve positive outcomes for the children in her care.

Wida Tausif – Glen Education Chelsea Kindergarten

Inspirational educator and children’s author, Wida Tausif, encourages the 3–5 year olds in her care to use their imaginations and explore their ideas through discussions and dramatic play.

Wida incorporates an understanding of cultural diversity in her sessions, using real life examples, including from her Persian culture, to illustrate the ways in which people are unique. Her innovative approach to working with children involves multi modal learning, incorporating interactive games, videos, and animations. These tools and strategies allow children to engage with content in different ways, while improving their literacy, numeracy and cultural awareness.

Wida strives to implement new and empowering methods that adapt to the evolving world of early childhood education. With a focus on social-emotional development, she ensures all children in her care feel a sense of self-worth and pride. Her adventurous approach brings her educational visions to life, which has a remarkable impact on the whole community.

The Minister’s Award

The Minister’s Award is a special commendation that has been selected from the pool of finalists across all nine categories and selected by the Minister of Early Childhood.

Winner: The Northern Schools Early Years K-6 model – Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc.

The Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation formed by primary school principals in Broadmeadows. It provides early years management for 15 kindergarten services, 13 of which are located on school sites. The organisation works predominantly with vibrant multicultural communities that experience some of the highest levels of vulnerability and disadvantage.

By operating as a kindergarten to Year 6 (K-6) model, Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. supports collaboration between early childhood services and primary schools at every level, with the aim of providing continuity of learning for children and families as they transition from kindergarten to school.

Children participating in the model develop a sense of belonging and connectedness to the school environment, teachers, resources, programs and facilities, which embeds in them the confidence to move into a foundation classroom. The program also benefits from the co-location of kindergartens and early childhood services, which further supports the continuity of learning and the transition to school.