media release


26 September 2019


National award winners in early childhood education and care announced


A NSW team who developed a program to better support vulnerable children, a VIC graduate who helped deaf and deafblind children learn Auslan and spoken language, and a NSW team whose research-based curriculum increased children’s ability to manage risks received top honours at the HESTA Early Childhood Education & Care Awards in Hobart last night.  

The national awards acknowledge the tremendous work of individuals and organisations who demonstrate a deep commitment to improving learning outcomes for children.

HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said the award winners showed exceptional commitment and leadership in supporting young children learn, develop and grow.

“Each winner has shown a commitment to developing curriculums that improve early childhood education, creating learning environments that foster a child’s development and promote inclusion and acceptance,” Ms Blakey said.   

“Through these awards we are proud to help shine a spotlight on the outstanding work of early childhood educators and carers around Australia and the positive life-long impact they have on children and their families.”

With a prize pool of $30,000 proudly provided by Awards sponsor, ME – the bank for you; the winners of the three award categories each received $10,000 for further education or team development.

ME CEO Jamie McPhee said that they were proud to continue their 12-year partnership with the Awards Program and celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of early childhood educators.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, who have displayed exceptional leadership and paved the way for further innovations in early childhood education and care,” Mr McPhee said.

The 2019 Award winners are:

Advancing Pedagogy & Practice

Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool (ACELP)- Practitioner Research Team
Adamstown, NSW

Awarded for their research-based curriculum which increased children’s ability to perceive, assess and manage risks during play.

The research explored the hypothesis that intentionally supporting children to take risks when playing had the potential to improve their physical capabilities and enhance their ability to make judgements about risks when playing.

Practitioner Research Team Leader, Kate Higginbottom, said the team partnered with the University of Newcastle to learn the academic skills necessary to engage their own practitioner research, in which they selected to focus on developing children’s risk competence.

“Working with the University of Newcastle we identified specific teaching strategies most successful in promoting risky play which had the potential to increase children's ability to better perceive, assess and manage risky situations,” said Kate.  

The curriculum included experiences like encouraging children to climb trees, fire work and using hand tools. Following the research program, children demonstrated greater capability to problem solve and manage risks independently.

“By learning the necessary academic skills to conduct our own research as educators, we were able to determine that the outcomes from the project validated the importance of exposing children to risk-taking in play,” said Kate.

Kate said the team was ecstatic to win the award and plans to use the prize money to work with academics to learn more in the area of infant and toddler risky-play.

Building Inclusion

Goodstart Blue Haven
Blue Haven, NSW

Awarded for developing a range of programs to foster an inclusive learning environment for vulnerable children attending the child care centre.

“We recognised that some of the children at the centre had displayed challenging behaviours and so we developed range of programs to teach them fundamental life skills, while also promoting inclusion,” said Goodstart Blue Haven, Centre Director, Michelle Acreman.

A variety of small group activities were introduced including music, art, gardening, a bush-buddies program, cooking and working with an occupational therapist. These helped educators develop an understanding of each child’s sensory profile and calming strategies to support positive behaviours.

“We developed a fully inclusive program to assist children develop their self-regulation, control their behaviours and emotions and also learn social skills,” said Michelle.

“We wanted to promote inclusion so that all children had the best opportunities possible to learn regardless of their individual circumstances.”

Michelle said the prize money will be put towards designing further programs and initiatives to support positive behaviours and promote inclusion amongst the children.

“The prize money will be spent developing programs to make the transition to school more inclusive for all of our children and for more risky play for our preschool.”

Outstanding Graduate 

Stacey Cumming
Aurora School for Young Deaf and Deafblind Children
Blackburn South, Victoria

Awarded for teaching young deaf and deafblind children learn and develop skills in Auslan and spoken language helping them become effective communicators within in their early developmental years.

Stacey said the best thing about her work was seeing how the children benefited from learning new language and communication skills to interact with their peers and their community.

“The most rewarding part of our role in early childhood education is providing an opportunity for the children who attend Aurora to develop their language skills and leave as confident, caring, enthusiastic learners,” said Stacey.

“They are able to communicate with their peers, within the community, and are engaged and want to be here. I think that’s one of the most rewarding parts of the job, seeing our children succeed in an area that may not be available in a mainstream setting,” Stacey said.

With the prize money Stacey said she plans to visit Gallaudet University in America who are the leaders in research and practice in teaching deaf children in early childhood.

“I want to expand my horizons and become a leader in this field to support the communication and learning of the children we teach every day,” said Stacey.

For further information and photos from the event please visit:



Media contact:

Sam Riley

Media Relations Manager

(03) 8660 1684


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