Posted November 2021

The Victorian Early Years Awards has recognised the outstanding work of the Victorian Inclusion Agency Inclusion Professionals (IP’s) from Brimbank Region 5, Brenda Ward and Michelle Wood from KU Children’s Services, who worked in partnership with Foundation House and Melton City Council on the Communities of Practice initiative to support building the capacity of early years services to include families of a refugee background within early years services.

The winners of the 2021 VEYA were announced on Wednesday 10 November 2021 by the Minister for Early Childhood, Ingrid Stitt, at an online awards ceremony hosted by Jimmy Rees.

The IP’s have been recognised for their achievements and contributions to leadership and outstanding achievement and innovation in improving outcomes for Victorian children and their families under Category 3: Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships, awarded for an initiative that promotes collaborative practice to support and demonstrate positive outcomes for children and families.

Melton refugee background Communities of Practice: 'This is how we do it', Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House)

Informed by research supporting place-based 'whole of organisation' collaborations, and incorporating meaningful community engagement and continuous improvement outcomes, a Community of Practice (CoP) was formed. The CoP has dramatically improved the attendance and enrolment of children with families of refugee background in their early years.

Prior to the initiative, early childhood services reported low confidence in their capacity to successfully include children from refugee backgrounds, despite Melton's high population of refugee families. Processes that were effective in supporting vulnerable families were not successful at supporting children and families with refugee backgrounds.

By working through a successful multi-faceted response to address the educational and settlement needs of communities experiencing vulnerability, the systematic approach has improved outcomes for refugee families.

The IP’s participated in the project which spanned across 18 months and resulted in the IP’s further establishing a Melton Area Managers CoP group which was aimed to support and address barriers to inclusion of families form a refugee background when accessing Early Years Services across the Melton LGA.

The IP’s aimed to provide an opportunity for Area Manager’s to collaborate and network and to directly support a wide number of their services to gain a deeper understanding of the unique needs experienced by families and children from a refugee background.

The IP’s were strategically focused on the CoP being an opportunity to also refer services to appropriate local stakeholders and resources including Innovative Solutions funding, whilst supporting educators lack of confidence and knowledge of best practice to include children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and refugee/humanitarian backgrounds. The IP’s provided advice and support to services on inclusive practices in relation to this cohort and using community profiles and demographic information to highlight key CALD groups in service’s regions and discussed strategies and actions to support inclusion. For the full list of winners, visit