Leading an early childhood movement

Alice Ishbel Hay Creswick was a leader, advocate and early pioneer of early childhood education and care in Australia. Alice was born in Scotland in 1889 and educated in England, Switzerland and Germany. She came to Australia with her Australian husband, pastoralist Henry Creswick, where they raised four children, living in the

Source: The Creswick Foundation

Riverina District of New South Wales, in Britain during World War I and returning to live in rural New South Wales and then Melbourne from 1928.

Alice was a champion of Australia’s early kindergarten movement in Australia, using her financial acumen to create security and future opportunities wherever she applied her skills. Alice was President (1928–38) of the Lady Northcote Free Kindergarten and later part of the executive of the Free Kindergarten Union, becoming its president in 1939.

Described as skilled in ‘choosing and inspiring’[1] the women she led, Alice was also Principal Commandant of the Australian Red Cross Society during World War II (WWII) and undertook considerable travel nationally and internationally in various roles with the Red Cross.

After WWII Alice resumed presidency of the Free Kindergarten Union, using this position to lobby the state government on preschool training and to establish a solid foundation for the union’s finances. She was instrumental in gaining government help to extend facilities at the Kindergarten Training College, Kew, and visited preschools in England, France and Sweden in 1949 to learn more about the early childhood movement internationally.

Alice was also the founding Vice President of the Australian Association for Pre-School Child Development (later Australian Pre-School Association), Vice Chair of its Victorian branch and a life Vice President. She established a scholarship fund to support professional leadership in the preschool movement in 1953, matching £4000 in donor funds (about $AUD176 730 in today’s money) with her own contribution of £4000.

In retirement, Alice continued her energetic and practical support for early childhood education and care, holding fundraising events and making generous philanthropic bequests to support the work of, among other groups, the Free Kindergarten Union.

Alice died in 1973, but her influence continues. The Creswick Foundation awards fellowships for practitioners to undertake travel and study into emotional, social and psychological conditions affecting children and young people, and to give guidance to those involved in treating or preventing those conditions. In recent years the Creswick Foundation supported Early Childhood Australia (ECA) in bringing International keynote, Dr Chip Donohue, to Australia for the 2016 ECA National Conference in Darwin and for collaborations in Melbourne and Sydney with early childhood sector representatives and the ECA Digital Policy Group. You can learn more about the Creswick Foundation’s work at www.creswick.org.au.

Further reading

The Creswick Foundation: www.creswick.org.au/about-the-foundation

Measuring Worth: www.measuringworth.com/calculators/exchange/result_exchange.php


[1] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/creswick-alice-ishbel-hay-9864

Early Childhood Australia

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has been a voice for young children since 1938. We are the peak early childhood advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field. ECA advocates to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children aged birth to eight years.

One thought on “Leading an early childhood movement”

    SFera says:

    Thanks Wesley, let me know if you do!

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