Ashfield, Sydney, 1874: a servant girl, impregnated by the master of the house, covertly gives birth. Stricken with anxiety about the consequences in a society that scorns unwed mothers, she leaves the baby outside. It probably would have died of exposure, but the newly founded Infants’ Home, with its policy of inclusion no matter the circumstances, rescues the child from a lethal fate.
The Infants’ Home is still operating. And it has now received a rare accolade. It was granted the ‘Excellence in Building Inclusion Award’ by superannuation fund HESTA, as part of the fund’s national Early Childhood Education and Care Awards.
Infants’ Home integrated services manager Lynn Farrell said the honour was a “morale booster”. “Often our work is unrecognised or undervalued,” she confessed. “Public knowledge of it is rewarding.”
The integrated childcare service, set on 4-and-a-half acres, reserves 30 per cent of its capacity for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those born to drug-addicted, teenaged or refugee parents.
Together with an onsite allied health team, the home’s early-learning professionals seek to give these children a better chance at life.
Other award-winners included the Bundjil Nest Project Team at Balnarring Preschool in Victoria, which won for Advancing Pedagogy and Practice, and Rachael Sydir, who claimed the Outstanding Young Graduate Award.
Sydir was part of a team that was responsible for creating a Reconciliation Action Plan for the 24 franchised Explore & Develop childcare centres, and then adapted it for her two local, Penrith-based centres.
She said the team aimed to bust negative Aboriginal stereotypes from developing minds. “You have to start somewhere,” she acknowledged. While Sydir was “overwhelmed” at her win, there’s no sign she’s done being a change-maker. She plans to use her prize money to visit remote communities and deepen her knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
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