media release 


6 July 2021 


Top early childhood educators and services recognised in national HESTA awards


Ten extraordinary early childhood educators and services were today announced as finalists in the 2021 HESTA Early Childhood Education & Care Awards.


Nominees from New South Wales dominated across all categories, with finalist achievements including an innovative sustainability education program, outstanding learning support for children in a rural community with disabilities and the creation of a culturally safe learning space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.


HESTA CEO Debby Blakey paid tribute to all finalists for their outstanding leadership and commitment to creating inclusive learning environments for children during difficult times.


“I think the global pandemic has resulted in Australians recognising the critical work our early childhood educators and carers do every day. They’re essential to keeping our economy strong, and for ensuring Australia continues to have a bright future,” Ms Blakey said.


“Congratulations to all nominees and finalists for their continued dedication to supporting the next generation of young Australians. HESTA is privileged to help share their stories and recognise their important work.”


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


ME CEO Adam Crane said the bank was proud to recognise the achievements of these critical educators and services as a longstanding supporter of the Awards.


“All of these finalists are guiding Australia’s future. They are giving our children the best chance of fulfilling their potential. ME is so proud to recognise their exceptional achievements today,” Mr Crane said.


Winners will be revealed on 7 September 2021 in Brisbane as part of the Early Childhood Australia National Conference.


For more information, visit


The 2021 finalists are:




Lilyfield Early Learning Centre

Lilyfield NSW

Lilyfield Early Learning Centre is recognised for their community focused learning approach that empowers children to have a voice and choice, particularly through an innovative junior Parliament that sees children discuss social issues and be involved in decision making.


KU West Pymble Preschool

KU Children’s Services

West Pymble NSW

KU West Pymble Preschool is recognised for their efforts to incorporate sustainability into their pedagogy and practice, supporting learning outcomes and contributing to their vision for a better, healthier world. The project has inspired children to initiate actions regarding recycling, waste and water management.


KU Isobel Pulsford Memorial Preschool Team

KU Children’s Services

Epping NSW

The KU Isobel Pulsford Memorial Preschool Team is recognised for embracing a culture of inquiry and creating a space for the community to thrive. As a result, many families are embracing a more inquisitive early learning approach, with the child celebrated as co-researcher, co-constructor and a key companion in the learning and teaching experience.




Karen Roberts

City of Canterbury Bankstown

Canterbury-Bankstown NSW

Karen Roberts is recognised for her outstanding contribution to early childhood education, continually going above and beyond to be a champion of children and a leading voice in the sector. She designed an initiative enabling parents from asylum seeker backgrounds to realise their work or study dreams by having their children placed in reduced or no-cost childcare centres.


Michelle Gujer

Gowrie Victoria

Broadmeadows VIC

Michelle is recognised for her work over the past 30 years to develop early childhood educators through supportive leadership, mentoring, and shared decision-making to lead change and enrich team development. Under her leadership, Gowrie Broadmeadows was awarded an ‘excellent’ rating from the Australian Early Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority – one of only five such services in Victoria.


Jackie Staudinger

KU Children’s Services

Macquarie Fields NSW

Jackie is recognised for the astute and dedicated leadership of her team at KU Macquarie Fields Preschool, supporting educators to create a thriving learning community. Under her leadership, the preschool has launched healthy eating initiatives and supported families to manage children’s challenging behaviours.


Natalie Cordukes

Paddington Children’s Centre (Uniting)

Paddington NSW

Natalie is recognised for her strong leadership on reconciliation at Paddington Children’s Centre, which resulted in strong partnerships with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and the creation of a new culturally safe learning space for Aboriginal children and families.




Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre

Casino NSW

Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre is recognised for their incredible dedication to supporting children with disability and special learning needs in their local community in rural New South Wales. The centre builds a transdisciplinary team around the child, supporting families with much-needed services to help their child thrive.


Forbes Preschool

Forbes NSW

Forbes Preschool is recognised for their commitment to ensuring all three to five-year-olds in the community can access quality, affordable early childhood education, particularly through increasing participation rates of children from Aboriginal families and families experiencing disadvantage.

Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre

Gunnedah NSW

Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre is recognised for their dedication to meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and families experiencing disadvantage across the Gunnedah region, providing a range of programs including out-of-home care, a Gamilaraay language program, and the Learning for Life speech program.




Media contact:

Sam Riley

General Manager - Media Relations 

(03) 8660 1684


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