Posted September 2023

Over the weekend KU Children's Services held their Annual Conference, with staff travelling from across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland to attend.

It was a fantastic day and provided an opportunity to recognise in person staff who have made outstanding contributions to KU, children, families and communities over the past year.

Congratulations to all the winners of the winners of the 2023 Making ‘the KU Difference’ Awards.

Making the KU Difference for Children

  • Nuriye Bekkaya, Early Childhood Teacher at KU Craigieburn Children's Centre

Nuriye displays commitment to all children, looking at each child for their unique abilities and strengths, scaffolding them alongside the family to expose them to learning opportunities that will assist them in reaching their full potential.

Nuriye values the playspaces approach, enabling smooth transitions for children and their agency in making choices for themselves. This is also evident in the visual arts project where children explore their rights through choice. She creates a perfect balance of intentional teaching and child-led learning as is evident through different learning opportunities provided to all children. She ensures that her teaching practices stay current and always invests her time during programming to explore new thinking, while critically analysing them before embedding them into learning with children.

Making the KU Difference for Families

  • Pardeep Samra, Director at KU Craigieburn Children's Centre

Pardeep leads the philosophy of creating inclusive and respectful environments where children and families feel welcomed and safe. A distinctive feature of KU Craigieburn is its dedication to embracing cultural diversity. Recognising the importance of cultural identity, the service incorporates home languages into its program, fostering a sense of belonging for children while promoting bilingualism and cultural understanding.

Educators play a crucial role in developing children's cultural identity, maintaining connections with the local Aboriginal community, and the service actively engages with local Aboriginal Elder Aunty Jo.

Aunty Jo highly recommends the service to local Aboriginal families due to its culturally responsive and inclusive practices. Pardeep works closely with Aunty Jo to develop programs that further promote cultural learning and community connection for both educators and families.

KU Craigieburn stands out as an exceptional service that prioritises cultural diversity, community engagement and high-quality education and care.

Making the KU Difference for Communities

  • Tash Mackle, Advanced Child Care Educator at KU Kintaiba Children's Centre

Newcastle has a Winter Warmers appeal where donations are made to businesses in support of vulnerable families in the community. Tash, with the children, were discussing how some people do not have a home to go to and from that, a project about helping others was developed.

Tash involved the children, families and staff in collecting cans of food including soups, stews, baked beans and spaghetti to donate to the Soul Café for their Tuesday Pantry Day, which gives free supplies to families and to use in their cooking of hot meals.

The goal was to collect 50 cans of food and Tash ended up collecting 142 cans.

Making the KU Difference for Staff

  • Linda Meyer, Permanent Relief Teacher

Linda is a Permanent Relief Teacher who relocated from the Central Coast to KU Braddon in Canberra for a lengthy period to support the team as Acting Director.

Linda has proven herself to be a committed, flexible, professional, and resilient Director who has supported the team to feel passion and commitment in their work with children.

Linda made herself available to educators and families with a happy and friendly disposition, ensuring they felt supported and challenged in the provision of a high-quality program.

With shortfalls in staffing availability, Linda worked on the floor beside the team covering shifts, and in her own time completed the Food Handling course to ensure the kitchen would be covered in the cook’s absence.

While doing this, Linda reviewed the systems and processes at the service, offering improvements for efficiencies and opportunities for collaboration. Linda is a shining light in the PR team and for KU Braddon.

Making the KU Difference to Quality

  • Katrina Hendry, Director at KU West Pymble Preschool

Katrina has relationships at the heart of her work, and she works tirelessly to support and guide families to take an active and meaningful role in the service.

Her work with the PAG and wider parent body has ensured that they are involved in all aspects of decision making around the program, and that the decisions are guided by the service philosophy and contemporary theory. This is particularly evident in the areas of sustainability where the program not only focuses on the here and now of service-based sustainability initiatives, but also on developing children’s understanding of the need to take care of the wider environment.

Guided by her leadership, the service recently won the Better Business Partnership Award in the Childcare and Early Learning category for their work in embedding sustainability initiatives within the preschool and wider community.

A particular hallmark of her leadership has been in the areas of inclusion and diversity. The service is known within the community for their capacity to support children’s rights, and particularly those of children with additional needs.

Making the KU Difference through Sustainability

  • KU Faulconbridge Children's Centre Team

At KU Faulconbridge, the staff believe in encouraging the children to learn about environmental and conservation issues which led them to sign up for the Sustainable Celebrations Project. The aim of the project was to support children and families to adopt the NSW Government ban on single use plastics.

Staff and children completed an audit of the service to find any single use plastics that were tucked away and hidden. The items found were packed up and sent off to the Great Plastic Rescue for recycling. Together they created a truly sustainable end of year event because of the work.

The KU Faulconbridge story has been documented by the NSW EPA.

Making the KU Difference through Innovation

  • Natalie Lawton, Acting Manager Business Operations, Lauren Mulheron and Sunaina Madhok, PR Administration Assistants, and Tyler O’Connell, IT Team Leader and Cybersecurity Analyst

Utilisation of our services is an ongoing focus, and efficiency of tracking and coordinating information is key for services and Central Office teams to ensure we are working together to maintain and improve the viability of our services.

To this end, a platform has been developed to seamlessly facilitate interaction between Central Office and services, fostering smooth and productive collaborations. The platform is a combination of effort by Natalie, Lauren, Sunaina and Tyler.

Bringing together their expertise, they created the ‘Teams Utilisation Document’. By having an open mindset, an unwavering eagerness to create efficient systems and processes, and with the ability to work across teams, they empowered the proficient establishment and deployment of a secure and highly efficient communication and collaborative tool.

Making the KU Difference by Representing KU

  • NSW Sector Capacity Building Program Team under the leadership of Emma Pierce

The Sector Capacity Building Team has rapidly expanded in the last 15 months to provide support to 376 preschools across NSW, from the Central Coast in the north, through to Albury in the south, and the Murrumbidgee/Riverina areas in the south-west.

The team are conscious of ensuring that services receive a high standard of support and instigated a survey to gain feedback. The responses were overwhelmingly positive about the professional support and high standard of professional development opportunities provided by the team.

Emma Pierce, Sector Capacity Building Program Manager, leads the team and is greatly respected by her team for the support she gives them in delivering this valuable program to community preschools.

The amazing feedback from their annual survey has proven that, under the leadership of Emma, the Sector Capacity Building Program has made the KU Difference in the NSW preschool sector.

Making the KU Difference in Commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

  • Jessie Beale, Child Care Educator at KU Grevillea Preschool

A Kamilaroi woman, living and working on the lands of the Darug Peoples, Jessie is a humble and quiet achiever, yet she has an ability to challenge the thinking and learnings of educators and children through her teachings.

Jessie generously shares an abundance of resources she acquires through her connections with the local Darug community and those of her home Country, and shows her commitment to both the community and KU by offering her honest views on the visions and aspirations of the service and the wider community.

Jessie was an active member of the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group meeting in 2015 and participated in the working groups. She continues to participate in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employee Network Group today.

Jessie is recognised for her years of experience as an Early Childhood Educator and is valued as a person who always acts with integrity and sensitivity.

Making the KU Difference for Inclusion

  • KU Liverpool Preschool Team

KU Liverpool Preschool has experienced a significant increase in children who are vulnerable and with high support needs.

Marianna Georgiadis leads the KU Liverpool team who provide a high-quality inclusive program for all children.

The team’s passion and willingness to go above and beyond to implement accommodations for individual children to be included is commended.

The team is solutions focused, are reflective, and apply a collaborative problem-solving approach. Despite challenges, there have been positive moments that have brought satisfaction and a job well done for the team. This has resulted in flexibility of their practice and quality outcomes for children.

The team’s dedication and enthusiasm that they bring to the preschool each day has been a driving force of their achievements to successfully support and include all children to actively participate in the program.

KU Marcia Burgess Award

  • KU Autism Support Team

The Autism Support Team began in 2019 in its infancy as a Guided Practice model, with one person, Rebecca Harrison, and was trialed over the next 2 years.

Due to its success in supporting educators in their work with children with autism, the Autism Support Team was formed and included Rebecca, Linda Johnson and Anita Cvijic all who have certifications in the Early Start Denver Model, known affectionately as ESDM.

The team present One of The Kids Training, implement the Guided Practice model, and meet with the child’s educators.

They spend time in the play environment observing and interacting with the children, model facilitated play and specific teaching strategies, and provide guidance and support directly to educators to implement inclusive programs and individualised strategies to support positive outcomes for the child.

Since 2022, 331 educators have completed the One of the Kids training and 332 children have received support visits.