Navigating Change and Embracing Growth: A Year in Review

Blog Image for article Navigating Change and Embracing Growth: A Year in Review

The year 2023 has been a year of transition, growth, and adaptation for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. The sector has faced unique challenges, celebrated milestones, and demonstrated unwavering resilience in the aftermath of global challenges. Early childhood educators and providers have displayed incredible dedication to the well-being and development of our youngest learners.

The ACCC and Productivity Commission are currently implementing an inquiry into the ECEC sector, providing recommendations for the Australian Government. The Productivity Commission’s interim report includes key recommendations that will help drive accessibility and affordability of high quality care for all families, whilst building a strong workforce of highly skilled early childhood educators and teachers, who are remunerated appropriately. 

We spoke with a variety of members from the ECEC sector as well as parents about their reflections on 2023 and what they’re looking forward to in 2024.

Brent Stokes, Approved Provider Beach Kids Early Learning & Preschool and Natural Elements Early Learning Centre Eagleby

What have you learned from the year?

While I consider myself fortunate for my mental stability and resistance, I have found it extremely difficult to comprehend the craziness and downright atrocities that have occurred around the world this year. 

I have learnt to have a greater focus on gratitude, gratefulness, and balance in my life, especially in my inner circle of family and friends. Balance with my family and friends as my priority, while maintaining my professional purpose. 

Professionally I have experienced a greater number of priorities this year from my amazing team of early childhood educators/teachers within our campuses to supporting primarily smaller to medium-sized early learning services to understand, contextualise, and implement the new Queensland Government Kindy for All and Free Kindy in 2024. This year is my 15th year volunteering for Australian Childcare Alliance Qld, to support the early education and care sector.

What was the highlight of your year?

During this tumultuous year, two moments stood out. Firstly, my daughter celebrated her seventh birthday and completed grade one of primary school. Although it completely scares me, witnessing her find her voice fills me with great pride. She is a confident and capable learner who I believe will continue to positively contribute to the world around her. 

Professionally I am extremely grateful that because of the amazing work my teams at Beach Kids Early Learning & Preschool do, we were able to expand, taking over Natural Elements Early Learning Centre in Eagleby. This campus is a legacy, servicing the Eagleby community for over a decade and we are very proud and privileged to continue this amazing work. We embarked on a comprehensive upgrade of the facilities making this the newest service with the most quality, experienced and consistent team in the region.

What are you hopeful of for next year?

Looking forward, 2024 holds promise on personal and professional fronts. My family anticipates purchasing our forever home after years of renting, a significant step for us. 

Professionally, I am eager for continuous improvements across our campuses, however, I am excited for the ECEC sector. Although the recent regulatory reviews including ACCC and Productivity Commission come with risks they also present great opportunities for improvement. An initial review indicates great support for many of the initiatives we have been advocating for.

My greatest aspiration is that we can achieve a significant, federal government funded wage increase for our early childhood educators and teachers that will recognise, reward and address the significant workforce shortages. As we know without quality early learning we are not able to provide our children with the best start in life and we cannot resolve workforce shortages in other industries resulting in a healthy economy.

Aimee Iannone, National Talent Marketing Lead Goodstart Early Learning

What have you learned from the year?

This year has been a valuable learning experience in understanding the persistent challenges in recruiting and retaining early childhood educators and teachers. The shortage of qualified staff in our sector has highlighted the urgent need for strategic initiatives to attract and support individuals dedicated to early childhood education. Our marketing and employer brand efforts have shown that competitive compensation, professional development opportunities, and a supportive work environment are crucial factors in addressing this challenge. 

What was the highlight of your year?

A significant highlight of the year was our announcement of a 7% wage increase for our educators in July. This not only recognised the hard work and dedication of our existing team but also played a pivotal role in making the profession more appealing to potential candidates. It was a positive step toward acknowledging the importance of early childhood education and valuing the contributions of those who play a vital role in the development of young minds.

What are you hopeful for next year?

Looking forward, I’m hopeful for broader systemic changes to address the challenges in recruiting early childhood educators. We are optimistic that the Federal Government will recognise the significance of this issue and take concrete steps to increase the pay and professional recognition for early childhood educators nationwide. A commitment to fair and competitive wages will not only attract more talented individuals to the sector, but also ensure the continued delivery of high-quality early learning experiences for children across the country. Goodstart’s aspiration is to work collaboratively with policymakers to create a sustainable and thriving early childhood education workforce.

Melinda Ackerman, Company Manager Niño Early Learning Adventures

What have you learned from the year?

This year has shined the light on the importance of resilience, adaptability and a collaborative spirit as key factors in the face of workforce shortages within the Education and Care sector.

It’s important to recognise that my teams’ resilience is a potent tool, prominently highlighted in overcoming challenges and ensuring an unwavering commitment to providing quality early learning care and education for the children in all our Niño Early Learning centres.

What was the highlight of your year?

Despite the workforce shortages, and exhaustion for many of our committed leaders, the highlight of my year has been witnessing such strength and determination of my colleagues. Their dedication and passion for early childhood education has been a beacon of positivity, reinforcing that even in challenging times, we can make a meaningful impact. Each success story, no matter how small, has illuminated the positive impact we make in shaping young minds.

What are you hopeful for next year?

Looking ahead, I am hopeful that the Education & Care sector in Australia will experience positive changes, addressing work shortages through strategic initiatives and increased support. I aspire to see a strengthened workforce and enhanced resources, ensuring a bright and sustainable future for early childhood education and care. Early Childhood education should be celebrated for the strong life influences that support our most important people, our children, our future……………… for all that we do in the early learning and care industry.

Smrit Narang, Marketing Manager SDN Children’s Services

What have you learned from the year?

My approach for marketing at SDN is “collaborative marketing.” This means that we don’t make decisions without awareness, consultation and understanding of the needs of our services. This allows us to share messages and stories that are authentic and connect back to the experience we want our families to have when they visit and enrol at our services.

At SDN, we don’t just say that we are a village, but we create that environment together. We don’t work in silos but rather connect with individuals and teams to venture on a journey together and build solutions that are based on varied perspectives, knowledge and experiences. This way, it becomes a collaborative effort towards delivering success.

I have learned that this approach helps me build trust, credibility and connection with my colleagues. Working in partnership with each other supports me to learn and challenge my own assumptions, with the added benefit that I rarely hear the cringe-worthy phrase “it’s just a marketing thing.” 

What was the highlight of your year?

The highlight of my year has been simply chatting to fellow staff and seeing the passion in their eyes for our unified purpose of supporting children’s wellbeing, learning and development in inclusive environments.

It has been a challenging year for our sector especially around a workforce shortage. Despite this, being witness to the energy and joy our frontline staff bring to their job every day is inspiring.

We are fortunate to have many staff who have been at SDN for over 10 years, as well as a vibrant group of students, trainees and newer staff who have brought their rich experiences with them. Uncovering their stories to write and share on our social media channels is one way that helps me connect back to purpose.

What are you hopeful of for next year?

I’m hopeful for so many things next year and beyond. I hope that there are improved regulations for children’s safety. I hope that more services and options are made available around the country for children with additional needs. I hope that more children and families can access early education and care.

Our new 5-year strategic plan outlines our vision towards creating lasting positive impact for children and young people. I am eager to be a part of this growth and positive change and lead meaningful projects that contribute to this vision.

Jenny Lam, Centre Manager Bluebird Roseville

What have you learned from the year?

This year has taught me a lot. The most essential thing I've learned is that we must all continue to learn. We are constantly growing, no matter how long we have been in this industry. 

I am continuously learning how to become a better leader, regularly upskilling and researching how I can best support my team, families and children.

I also ensure I am always spending time with the children, hands-on with the daily curriculum allowing me to remain a high-quality Educator. Being present is critical to becoming a great leader.

What was the highlight of your year?

The highlight of my year has been witnessing the growth of our Bluebird Roseville’s Community, and the magic within our walls. 

From children accomplishing milestones to Educators expanding their knowledge of practises and of course, our families networking and getting to know one another in our special event days. 

Watching new and old relationships blossom has been a highlight of my year.

One of the primary reasons I chose to be a Centre Manager is to ensure that we offer a home away from home for our community, and I truly believe we have that here at Bluebird Roseville!

What are you hopeful of for next year?

I would love to expand on our community relationships, to begin venturing out on more excursions to further expand our children's knowledge and understanding of our local community.

I would also like to grow our Team; we have such an incredible group of Educators, but we would gladly welcome some new faces to join us, to support us in our mission to be the best Education Service Roseville has to offer.


Sasha F, Parent

What have you learned about early education this year? 

I wasn’t aware of how vastly different the childcare experience would be for different children. I have learnt that presumptions cannot be made regarding a child’s transition period, and their capacity to engage with the space and the educators. Additionally, strategies that are effective for one child may not be useful for another. Every child needs to be recognised as their own self on their childcare journey and the approach of parents and educators needs to be individualised accordingly, as no path will be the same for two children.  

What has been the highlight for you and your family over this journey? 

Our highlight has been witnessing our child gradually develop greater self-esteem. This has manifested in a determination to be seen by his peers and educators. This growth reflects maturation, but more than that I suspect it reflects a development of confidence from the learning that occurred throughout the year.  

What are your hopes for next year? 

As my children move into new environments, I hope that their transitions are as seamless as possible, but not without curiosity and adventure. As they immerse themselves in the new space, I hope they feel comforted by their relationships with some of the children who move alongside them and that they will develop new positive relationships with their educators early in the year. I look forward to witnessing immense growth and development as well as shifts in how the world is seen through their eyes.  

Cara F, Parent

What has been the highlight for you and your family over this year’s early education journey? 

A highlight for me has been watching Monte's confidence grow. Seeing your 2 year old hold his own in interactions with people of all ages - from fellow toddlers to seasoned educators - brings me a huge amount of joy. I love that he's nurtured and cared for at daycare, but also given the space to discover, play and grow.

What are your hopes for next year? 

Friendships are the centre of Monte's world right now, so I can't wait to watch his daycare relationships flourish.

Zoe K, Parent

What have you learned about early childhood education this year?

That it is so incredibly impactful, not only for the child - but also their family, friends and the wider community. 

What has been the highlight for you, your child or your family with respect to your child’s early childhood education journey? 

Without a doubt, it has been observing my children's development throughout the year. The curriculum carefully designed for our children is remarkable and I am so appreciative of all of the educators who treat our children like their own, and allow me to work.

What are your hopes for next year when it comes to your child’s early education journey?

Ensuring that our children are equipped with skills, and have an awareness of themselves and the world, that they can take with them throughout their school journey and beyond. 

Dana R, Parent

What have you learned about early childhood education this year?

How enriching it can be for a child’s development, sense of fun and play, confidence and independence.

What has been the highlight for you, your child or your family with respect to your child’s early childhood education journey?

Seeing my child learn, her confidence grow and the relationships she has formed with friends and educators. It’s so special!

James M, Parent

What have you learned about early childhood education this year?

I've really come to appreciate the educational component of childcare. This year I have followed the curriculum closely and have seen the ways in which my son is building his numeracy skills and his understanding of the world around him through the daily activities in his toddler class. Reading the daily updates about these activities has helped me connect with the learning and continue it at home.

What has been the highlight for you, your child or your family with respect to your child’s early childhood education journey? 

The highlight this year has been watching my daughter grow and mature so much as she approaches the end of her kindergarten years. The last 6 months have felt like warp speed growth and development, and the preparation for school has been so considered and comprehensive. It feels like she has really transformed into a confident, social and curious little girl, ready to take on prep next year and the big school journey ahead of her.

What are your hopes for next year when it comes to your child’s early education journey?

Both of my children are starting new educational chapters, one commencing pre kinder at a new childcare and one starting primary school. I hope that both will continue to feel happy, settled and supported in their new environments and the transition will go as smoothly as possible.

Mat L, Parent

What have you learned about early childhood education this year?

How much my kids have grown, not just physically but - emotionally, socially and academically! It's amazing what Early Educators can do.

What has been the highlight for you, your child or your family with respect to your child's early childhood education journey?

Having our kids enrolled in a Long Daycare Service has allowed our family true work-life balance. With outside help we can comfortably juggle the demands of work and parenthood. My kids have established new friendships and the beginnings of an identity outside of the family home.

What are your hopes for next year when it comes to your child's early education and care journey?

I've found since their enrolment, our kids have become much more confident around others. I am hoping they become even more ready to take on the next step and challenges - of primary school!

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