Skip to content
Finance Investment, Women

Star Early Childhood Educators and Carers announced as HESTA Award winners

HESTA 4 mins read
HESTA Awards Left to Right: Jay Laga'aia, ME Bank Head of Proprietary Distribution Jim Giannakopulos, HESTA Award winners Karen Anderson, Rachael Phillips, Natasha Walc, HESTA CEO Debby Blakey, ECA National President Trevor Brown

9 October 2023


Three of the nation’s best Early Childhood Educators and Carers were revealed as winners of the 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education & Care Awards during a special celebration in Adelaide.


Balnarring Pre-School, located in Victoria, won the ‘Advancing Pedagogy and Practice’ award for its leadership in implementing a nature program involving learning in and with the natural environment.


Nazareth Early Childhood Centre from Findon, South Australia won the ‘Outstanding Service’ award for its focus on inclusion and breaking down barriers, helping enhance children’s development.


Rachael Phillips, Director of Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service in West Tamworth, New South Wales, won the ‘Individual Leadership’ award. Rachael was recognised for her leadership in advancing education for First Nations children and advocating for more culturally appropriate early childhood settings.


HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said the award winners and finalists were committed to creating inclusive and supportive learning outcomes for children.


“Congratulations to all our winners and finalists for their incredible contributions to early childhood education. We are so grateful for the impact early childhood professionals make on our communities,” said Ms Blakey.  


“In a world filled with challenges and uncertainties, the role of an early childhood educator is one of profound significance. I’m proud that the HESTA Awards can help recognise the important work of these incredible professionals,” she said.  


ME CEO Martine Jager also praised the winners and their ongoing dedication.


“ME is proud to congratulate the deserving winners of these awards. Their consistent display of leadership in early education and care goes well above the call of duty, and their dedication to giving children the best chance of reaching their full potential is an inspiration,” said Ms Jager.


Since 2010, the national awards have recognised the front-line educators and carers at the very heart of Australia’s early childhood education system. The three winners each received $10,000, courtesy of ME Bank, for professional development or to improve services or processes in the workplace.


For more information, visit


Introducing the 2023 HESTA Early Childhood Education & Care Award Winners:


Balnarring Pre-School

Balnarring, VIC


Balnarring Pre-School was recognised for implementing a nature program involving learning in and with the natural environment. They also worked with esteemed Elders N’Arwee’t Dr Carolyn Briggs and Fay Stewart-Muir to embed knowledge and cultures into the learnings and ensure First Nations Peoples’ teachings are a continued part of everyday practice.


Balnarring’s Educational Leader and Teacher, Karen Anderson, a teacher at the centre for 40 years, said the team were thrilled to win a HESTA Award.


“Being a HESTA award winner is an acknowledgment that the hard work and dedication of the teaching team, committee of management, children and families is valued beyond our pre-school. It’s also an opportunity to share the work that we so strongly believe in with our community, families, and the Early Childhood profession,” Ms Anderson said.


The team will allocate the prize money to different areas in the pre-school, including providing cultural awareness training for the committee of management and teaching team as part of the school’s commitment to reconciliation and creating a culturally safe environment.




Nazareth Early Childhood Centre

Findon, SA


Nazareth Early Childhood Centre was recognised for its focus on inclusion and breaking down barriers.


Nazareth’s Early Years Director, Natasha Walc, said she was proud of the team for the relentless effort and passion they bring to their work each day.


“Given the complexities our sector and community have faced in recent years, it’s humbling to be recognised as a HESTA award winner and have our programs and practices celebrated amongst a broad network. This achievement provides us with confidence in our capabilities and will act as a catalyst as we continue to strive for excellence,” Ms Walc said.

The team plans to use the prize money to support staff in an international study tour to explore exemplary early childhood systems and practices that align with the centre’s philosophy.



Rachael Phillips, Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service

West Tamworth, NSW



Rachael, a proud Gomeroi woman, was recognised for her leadership in advancing education for First Nations children and advocating for more culturally appropriate early childhood settings. For the entirety of her career, Rachael has worked with and for the local Gomeroi community and attended Birrelee as a child.

For Rachael, being selected as a HESTA winner was a proud moment and presented an opportunity to continue to grow as a leader and teacher.

“Being a HESTA award winner is such a great achievement, especially in an industry where there are so many amazing leaders, including those I look up to and have admired my whole career. Although this award highlights my individual leadership, there are many people who have helped shape who I am as a person and as an Early Childhood Education professional. From my family, colleagues, community, and ancestors, I am thankful for every experience and opportunity I have received,” said Ms Phillips.

Rachael plans to use the prize money to visit and collaborate with remote communities and First Nations schools where cultural practices thrive.

“I have experienced and witnessed the importance of culturally strong and safe practices in the education setting and truly believe that cultural practices and values should be the core of Early Childhood Education,” she said.




HESTA is one of the largest superannuation funds dedicated to Australia’s health and community services sector. An industry fund that’s run only to benefit members, HESTA now has more than one million members (around 80% of whom are women) and currently manages approximately $76 billion* in assets invested around the world.


*Information is current as at the date of issue. 


More from this category

  • Finance Investment
  • 21/06/2024
  • 19:52
BTCC Exchange

BTCC Exchange Celebrates 13 Years with Major Milestones and Exciting New Features

VILNIUS, Lithuania, June 21, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- BTCC Exchange, a leading global cryptocurrency platform, proudly celebrates its 13th anniversary this June, marking over a decade of innovation and commitment to the community. The exchange has achieved major milestones in registered users and trading volume and has new features in store for its users.A Media Snippet accompanying this announcement is available by clicking on this linkIn its 13th year, BTCC reached significant milestones, witnessing its 4th Bitcoin halving with futures trading volume hitting 16.2 billion USDT on April 20, 2024, from a total registered user base of 2.8 million. To…

  • Finance Investment
  • 20/06/2024
  • 23:52

Intech Launches U.S. Small-Mid Cap Enhanced Plus Strategy with Over a Half Billion in Initial Funding

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., June 20, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Intech, a global quantitative equity manager, proudly announces the launch of its U.S. Small-Mid Cap (SMID) Enhanced Plus strategy, backed by a substantial initial investment exceeding half a billion dollars. This new mandate underscores Intech’s sustained growth and strategic innovation, setting Intech U.S. Small-Mid Cap Enhanced Plus strategy apart from competitors with its unique approach and competitive fee structure.1Key Differentiators in a Competitive MarketDistinctive Alpha Source: Aims to use stock price volatility and correlations to deliver an uncorrelated alpha source for portfolios.Enhanced Indexing: Moderate, systematic deviations from the index seek…

  • Finance Investment, RetailOnline Retail
  • 20/06/2024
  • 14:49

Pharmacy B2B marketplace Directo accelerates expansion with capital raise after doubling revenue and onboarding majority of Australian pharmacies

Directo, Australia’s leading independent online B2B marketplace servicing the pharmacy sector, has launched a $3 million capital raise to accelerate its next phase of…

  • Contains:

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.