Early childhood educators, parents, carers and community leaders will gather at services around the country from 17–21 October 2022 to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of early learning and the difference the profession makes.
Early Learning Matters Week is a chance to showcase how high-quality, play-based education and care supports young children to learn and thrive.
Baringa Early Learning Centre was one of the 2021 Early Learning Matters Week champion services, and they highlighted the need for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector to be taken seriously. Early Childhood Australia spoke to Social Impact Coordinator Zamela Gina and Team Leader and Early Childhood Teacher Carmen Ulrick from Baringa Early Learning Centre about their involvement and the impact the campaign has had on the Baringa community.
Zamela says a visit from ACT Early Childhood Minister Yvette Berry sparked change within the service. ‘I really think it’s a cultural shift of just becoming more aware of the importance of advocacy in the broader community.’
Carmen agreed, adding:
I think it definitely was kind of like a switch almost flipped where a lot of people realised, with ministers coming in, this really is a professional sector. It’s not childcare. That was a big defining moment for us. Having come through Early Learning Matters Week was one of those moments where we kind of went oh, this is actually something more.
Carmen wants to see all education from birth be universally government-funded and accessible to all, along with proper recognition for early childhood educators as teachers:
One big benefit to having empowered and knowledgeable early childhood teachers and educators is their passion for inclusion and supporting families with early interventions. This can make such an incredible difference for a child and their family.
Zamela highlighted the importance of development opportunities for educators, suggesting it could help the sector through staffing difficulties:
Not all educators want to go in a certain direction. If we expand the sector, we might attract people through long-term career development, with opportunities to excel in really different ways. Not everyone is the same, and that’s what we teach children: to be empowered in their individuality and their creativity.
Zamela says access to coaching made her feel supported and valued. ‘I was super nervous, but there was always someone I knew I could go to, which was amazing.’ At Baringa, a high value is placed on the importance of professional learning and mentoring as they believe this supports educators to feel empowered and connected. Zamela says the mentorship she received at Baringa starting as a casual educator, and five years later in her current role, made all the difference to her career.
Baringa supports educators in furthering their professional learning through the Early Learning Connection program—an innovative career pathway for women in the early learning profession, in partnership with Early Childhood Australia, early learning services and training and tertiary providers throughout the Canberra community.
The program provides women who are beginning their careers or returning to work after a break with flexible support and accessible career pathways. They can access free units towards a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care or Bachelor of Early Childhood and Primary Education, and are provided with support while working.
Zamela describes the difference the program made to one educator:
One of our participants had previously found studying difficult, but through the program, she said this time around was so different. She felt so supported. She had friends in the class, so she felt really empowered.
The groundbreaking program is just one way Baringa is making a difference in the local community. ‘There’s so much innovation occurring and there’s so much advocacy in our sector’, Zamela says.
Both educators say anyone thinking about participating in Early Learning Matters Week shouldn’t hesitate to bring the community into their service. Zamela says:
Nothing bad can come from inviting an MP. The minister’s visit was a great feeling, like people were taking more pride in their professionalism. It’s a huge shift.
Carmen says that involving the community is a vital part of early childhood education and care:
Invite them to come and see the incredible things we do each day . . . empower yourself and your community to play a part in affecting change. It is time for a fresh start, a new world, don’t miss out on the exciting future we are creating with the children and their families.
Early Learning Matters Week is on again from 17–21 October 2022. Visit the Early Learning Matters website for resources to help plan your event and to register how you will be celebrating in your service.