Murrindindi Shire Council sets the bar high for family day care

Published on 04 September 2017

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Murrindindi Shire Council is proud to announce Family Day Care educator Jane Thomas has been named the Regional Winner of the Educator of the Year Award in the ‘Excellence in Family Day Care Awards’.

This is more good news for Murrindindi Shire Council’s Family Day Care Team, which has also been named as one of the finalists from Victoria and Tasmania competing for the Educator and Service of the Year Award against 149 other providers nationally.

The 2017 Family Day Care Australia Awards are being presented in October and because Jane is the regional winner (for the Yarra Valley and High Country), this award now puts her in the running for the State award.

The Healesville-based educator has been working with Murrindindi Shire Council’s Family Day Care Team since 2013 and also worked as an educator in the Shire more than 25 years ago when she lived between Narbethong and Buxton.

Jane is not new to winning awards – she won the same regional award in 2013.  But she said she was thrilled with the news.  

“I am still passionate about my job.  The award gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling and you never really expect it,” she said. “As a carer, I constantly ask myself if I’m doing a good enough job – sure, I meet all the basic criteria, but am I doing it really well?

“I guess in this case it’s lovely to receive public recognition confirming that I am doing a good job. It’s also a great thing for the Murrindindi Shire Council Team and it’s great for Family Day Care as well.”

Like all of the Shire’s Family Day Care Educators, Jane meets National Education and Care Regulations by maintaining her qualifications in Level two first aid, Anaphylaxis, Asthma and CPR training. She also holds her Certificate III in Children’s Services.

Jane said the general public’s perception of Family Day Care is that children are being “babysat” in someone else’s house, when in fact it was so much more than that.

“Hopefully the ‘baby-sitting’ perception is changing to show what we provide as Educators,” she said. “To me it’s a full-on program, but I love what I do – to me it doesn’t feel like I’m working. I enjoy opening up the world to the children I look after.”

Jane lived “off-grid” for 17 years before to moving to Healesville and one thing that still sets her care apart is her focus on sustainability and “growing”.  She has a large fruit and vegetable garden on her one-acre property which provides seasonal produce and is integral to the children’s care.

“We usually grow about 80 per cent of what we eat,” Jane said. “We propagate, plant and watch the crop grow.  Then we harvest and we eat it. It’s about getting back to basics for children.

“The beauty of involving the children in this type of program is they learn where their food comes from – they know the blossoms will turn into fruit rather than just finding their fruit and veggies in the supermarket.”

Jane said the children she looks after enjoy spending time outdoors and in the garden as well as going on walks through the paddocks to the bush.

“The days usually run on the theme ‘What shall we discover today?’,” she said. “A normal day starts with free play in the morning until everyone’s arrived, followed by morning tea – usually some fresh and dried fruit.

“If the weather’s okay we’ll go outside, but if it’s really awful, we might do some art instead. When we go outside, the children usually choose the direction we head in - they might decide to climb trees or play in the sandpit and the day flows according to what they’re doing. We might then go for a walk into the bush or across the paddocks and they’ll collect all sorts of things including flowers, rocks, seeds before returning home just before lunch.

“Usually they’ll have a bit of bicycle time along my porch while I prepare lunch and they’ll then change their clothes, wash their hands and eat. After lunch is sleep time and when they wake, they all tend to enjoy a bit of quiet one-on-one play at the table with toys. In the summer the program also includes water play and mud painting outside.”

“Now we’re more and more into the food growing, the bush, the flora and fauna, we can incorporate this into our calendars all the time.

“Children notice the small details in life. It’s a good lesson for us as adults - often there’s so much happening we tend to miss the simple things.”

Murrindindi Shire Council’s Community Services Portfolio Councillor, Sandice McAulay said Family Day Care Australia is the industry’s peak body and oversees 850 services around the country.

Cr McAulay said she was tickled pink with the Award going to one of our educators and Council’s Family Day Care Team’s nomination as a finalist ahead of the gala event.

“I know how hard our Family Day Care Services team has worked over the past five years to build a strong reputation as a high quality care provider,” she said. “Their nomination as finalists attests to this and Jane’s win also reflects everyone’s dedication to their work.”

“It’s wonderful to see our passionate educators’ hard work being recognised and Jane is the perfect example of the role they can play in our children’s lives”, added Cr McAulay.”