media release 


6 September 2023   


Shining Stars: Nation's top Early Childhood Educators and Carers named finalists in HESTA's Early Childhood Education and Care Awards


A group of nine outstanding Early Childhood professionals and organisations from around Australia have been named finalists in the 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards. 


The national awards - which originated in 2010 - highlight the frontline educators and carers at the centre of Australia’s early childhood education system, celebrating those who have demonstrated excellence in improving learning outcomes for children. 


The announcement coincides with National Early Childhood Educators Day, which recognises and celebrates the work of Australia’s early childhood educators and the vital role they play in the education and care of children. 


HESTA CEO Debby Blakey acknowledged the achievements and significance of the finalists’ work.   


"Congratulations to our amazing finalists, whose commitment and passion as early childhood educators shine daily, giving our children and future generations the best chance to fulfill their potential,” she said.


“Our communities thrive because of these dedicated professionals.


“This year's finalists have achieved remarkable feats, from working collaboratively with families to create a positive learning environment for every child to encouraging children’s understanding and respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.


“I’m proud these awards recognise the vital work of our early childhood educators."


An independent judging panel comprising sector representatives reviewed many outstanding nominations to select finalists across the Advancing Pedagogy and Practice, Outstanding Service, and Individual Leadership categories. 


A total of $30,000 in prize money has been provided by long-time awards sponsor ME, which will be split equally between the three winners to be used for professional or team development or to improve workplace services or processes. 


ME CEO Martine Jager congratulated and thanked this year’s finalists.


“Congratulations to this year’s finalists. On behalf of ME, and as a mum myself, thank you for your dedication, passion and hard work as caretakers and educators of our future generations,” she said.


The winners will be announced at a dinner in Adelaide on Friday, October 6, 2023. 




Introducing the 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards finalists:



Rebecca Martin

Sesame Lane Care & Kindergarten

Moreton Bay, QLD

Rebecca is nominated for her work as one of the sector’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Cultural Liaison Educators. Rebecca encourages children’s understanding and respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, while building relationships across community. She also supports educators to become more culturally responsive within their practices to ensure Sesame Lane Care and Kindergarten Services are culturally safe.


Goodstart Early Learning Smithfield

Smithfield, SA

The team at Goodstart Smithfield are recognised for using their EChO (Enhancing Children’s Outcomes) training to provide families and children experiencing disadvantage and trauma with the holistic care they need. The centre also provides a breakfast program for children to receive nutritious meals to eat onsite and implemented the Health to Go program, for children to receive free health and development assessments.  


Balnarring Pre-School

Balnarring, VIC

The team at Balnarring Pre-School have been leaders in implementing a nature program, which involves learning in and with the natural environment. They worked with esteemed Elders N’Arwee’t Dr Carolyn Briggs and Fay Stewart-Muir to embed knowledge and cultures into the learnings and ensure First Nations Peoples teachings is now part of everyday practice.



Nazareth Early Childhood Centre

Findon, SA

Nazareth Early Childhood Centre is recognised for its focus on inclusion and breaking down barriers. In response to a review of their Australian Early Development Census community profile and critical reflection on the impacts of COVID-19, the centre implemented various initiatives to eliminate barriers and enhance children’s development. This included gifting birthday books, developing a literacy project, and supporting children to access Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy services in partnership with Flinders University.


KU Craigieburn Children's Centre

Craigieburn, VIC

KU Craigieburn is recognised for its dedication to embracing cultural diversity, helping foster a sense of belonging for children, bilingualism, and cultural understanding. Upon recognising a lack of participation in community health checks, leading to undisclosed learning support needs, the service collaborated with maternal and child health services to implement free comprehensive health assessments for children.


Goodstart Early Learning Calala

Calala, NSW  

Goodstart Early Learning Calala is recognised for working collaboratively with families to create a positive learning environment for every child. The centre prioritises inclusivity by addressing barriers within the centre and fostering understanding of disabilities among families, helping children feel settled, happy, and content.



Rachael Phillips

Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service

West Tamworth, NSW

Rachael is a proud Gomeroi woman, recognised for her leadership in advancing education for First Nations children and advocating for more culturally appropriate early childhood settings. During the pandemic, Rachael’s work was key to the Service’s ability to continue to operate and maintain 100 per cent enrolments. 


Heidi Patrick

Elanora Heights Community Preschool  

Elanora Heights, NSW

Heidi is recognised for her role in developing several quality improvement programs to help bridge any gaps between home and the early childhood learning environment. Her work has helped equip early childhood educators with knowledge and practical ideas on how to embed healthy eating and physical activity within daily programs, along with supporting children’s social and emotional wellbeing in their first 2000 days of life.


Rebecca Harrison 

KU Children’s Services

Sydney, NSW

Rebecca is recognised for her work trialing and implementing a Guided Practice Model to support early childhood educators in facilitating the equitable inclusion of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Rebecca leads a team of Autism Support Facilitators and has supported 335 children with ASD across 76 services.  






Media contact:

Sam Riley

General Manager Media Relations

(03) 8660 1684


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