People and Culture Team

Congratulations to seven of our wonderful Early Childhood Educators who were recently awarded the 2022-23 Aboriginal Early Childhood Education Scholarship and the Early Childhood Education Scholarship Program by the NSW Department of Education. The scholarship of up to $20,000 is offered to those commencing or completing a bachelor-level early childhood teaching degree.

Big Fat Smile’s Aboriginal Early Childhood Education Scholarship recipients for 2022-23 are:

  • Abbey McKenna, Reynolds Street Community Preschool 0-5
  • Emilie Blouin, Kiama Downs Community Preschool
  • Hayley Penrose, Wollongong City Community Preschool
  • Josephine Brooks, Warrawong Community Preschool 0-5
  • Katherine Seers, Bundanoon District Community Preschool
  • Marnie Van Loon, Cobblers Hill Community Preschool 0-5
  • Patrice Lay, Warrawong Community Preschool 0-5

To help celebrate the great achievement of obtaining the scholarship, Marnie van Loon was surprised with flowers and a beautiful card from her colleagues at Cobblers Hill Community Preschool 0-5.  Amazed by all the fuss, Marnie said:

‘Thank you all so much for all your help! I am very excited and getting into study with a burst of energy.’

Marnie Van Loon (second from left) celebrated her scholarship with Pedagogical Thinker in Residence, Dr. Michele Peden, Operations Manager, Kylie Gal, and Centre Director, Dilek Atak, at Cobblers Hill Community Preschool 0-5.

Josephine Brooks of Warrawong Community Preschool says the scholarship will be a great financial help by reducing her HECS debt upon completion of her studies. She continues:

‘[The scholarship] will benefit my career by allowing me to expand my existing knowledge of early learning and care, I am very passionate about my job, so this is a very exciting opportunity!’


Josephine Brooks (right) together with Operations Manager, Kylie Gal, at Warrawong Community Preschool 0-5.

Her colleague at Warrawong Community Preschool and fellow scholarship recipient, Patrice Lay, agrees:

‘The scholarship will take a lot off a lot of pressure financially. I am thrilled to be able to complete my studies and start applying new ideas in my role’.

Patrice also encourages others to challenge themselves to take on study:

‘I say go for it! Even if you don’t feel academically inclined, there is so much flexibility and support available. Universities may also recognise prior learning which takes significant time off your course.’

Katherine Seers of Bundanoon District Community Preschool, who celebrated 10 years’ service with Big Fat Smile earlier this year, adds to Patrice’s encouragements:

‘As a working parent, my degree has taken me longer than I would like to finish, but it has been so beneficial. After 10 years experience, I am finding I am still learning so much from my studies that I can apply to my practice in the service. I love what I do and I love the challenge of learning more all the time.’

Big Fat Smile CEO, Jenni Hutchins sends her congratulations to all scholarship recipients:

‘[This is] a fabulous outcome for our people, our organisation, the individual staff member but mostly, our children. We strive to build on our strategy for professional learning to foster a culture of life-long learning. These scholarships assist with increasing the number of Early Childhood Teachers in the sector and providing opportunities for our people’

You can read more about the 2022-23 Aboriginal Early Childhood Education Scholarship and the Early Childhood Education Scholarship Program here.


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