Educator in the Spotlight: Ali Barry

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  Published on Tuesday, 07 July 2020

Educator in the Spotlight: Ali Barry

Library Home  >  Profiles & InterviewsFamily Day Care
  Published on Tuesday, 07 July 2020

An important and popular feature of our weekly newsletter for early childhood education and care providers is our series of profiles on dynamic and inspirational educators working in the sector.

If you know someone who deserves to be profiled in an upcoming issue of the newsletter then email

This week meet Ali Barry owner/manager of Nature Play DECD Family Day Care in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. 

What is your professional background and career experience?

I have been working with children for more than 20 years in a variety of settings. As a nanny in Australia and overseas and as a child care professional, assistant director and as a preschool teacher.

I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to upgrade my qualifications from Diploma of children's services to Bachelor of Education. I was a mature age student and jumped at the chance to immerse myself in learning the most current best practice for teaching and learning.

When I was teaching in preschools, I was responsible for 90 children across the week. I felt it wasn't possible to go deep into the attachment relationships that I wanted to have with all my students, so I took the plunge and opened my own Family Day Care practice.

What makes your service unique?

I am passionate about teaching children to safely navigate risk. Research supports the notion that children learn to become competent and capable when they have practice. We develop skills overtime and we know the more we practice we put in, the greater the improvement.

Children are naturally curious and have the innate drive for challenge, to go higher and faster. With scaffolded support, parents and educators can help a child reach the next level of growth, a level that they may not have been able to reach on their own. This style of teaching and learning supports the child's confidence to soar and demonstrates that with challenge comes growth.

Australia's 'traditional' education doesn’t resonate with me as being best practice as it is dominated by four walls, teacher led learning and the lack of movement for students. In my practice we engage in a daily wellbeing adventures, no matter the weather. We put on weatherproof suits and go exploring in nature. We often vote on where we are going to go adventuring while we are sharing morning tea. You will often see us exploring Morilata Waterfalls, Anstey Hill, Adelaide Zoo, and our local wetlands and parks.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the early education sector?

The greatest challenge for our sector at the moment is the implementation of the Care Relief Package (CCRP). The CCRP is perhaps a functional model for FDC providers or child care centres who have lost many enrolments due to COVID-19. However, for services such as mine who are still running at full capacity during COVID-19, the CCRP has reduced my income by more than 50 per cent. FDC services often provide meals, nappies, memberships, petrol and other costly experiences plus additional cleaning supplies and are still expected to provide the same service for a 50 per cent wage cut.

Outside of pandemics, the challenges I see facing educators is the increasing paperwork that is required to meet National Quality Standards. For example, it is a national requirement that there needs to be a risk assessment created for each excursion you go on.

This takes time to prepare and can often only be done after hours. I see why some educators don't engage with nature outside of their front gate as it may be seen as just too hard. A solution to this is to risk assess alongside your students. Our risk assessments often include the child's voice.

I teach children to notice aspects of our environment including the dangers of a particular site. We may consider factors such as an area that is unfenced or close to deep water and discuss how we can still be safe around danger. We regularly engage in fire 'play' at home.

We have established boundaries such as a safety circle around the fire pit. The children know they can move freely around the perimeter of the safety circle but need to request access to the circle and go with an adult to roast a marshmellow for example.

What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early childhood education and care?

My words of wisdom would include encouraging people to take a transitional approach to care. For many families an early childhood educator may be the first person they have ever left their child with. This is a new territory for both the family and child, and I prefer to transition new families into care over a few weeks.

I like families to come and spend time with us in both the home setting and on some of our adventures. This gives all parties an opportunity to observe how their child interacts with peers and others and gives a good sense of what they can expect from you as a caregiver when they are not around.

Families notice the energy of the group and how we work together and can consider if my style of care may be right for their child and family. Likewise, I enjoy observing the dynamic of relationships between the child and their family and this helps me determine if I think a new family unit will complement the existing group.

I encourage families to play an active role in supporting their children to develop into independent, confident and capable young people. We want our young people to make good decisions whether we are there or not. Supporting them to listen to their bodies and trust their instincts is an important part of developing this. Practice creates competence.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020