Standing up for children

Springvale Service for Children director Vanessa Field is City of Greater Dandenong's Corporate Citizen of the Year. Picture: HILTON STONE

By Sahar Foladi

In the recent Greater Dandenong Australia Day Awards, Vanessa Field was awarded the Corporate Citizen of the Year for her important role as a director at Springvale Service for Children.

With more than 40 years in the early childhood profession, she has worked in local government, day care, project management for new supported hubs and much more.

“I have to say I was terribly humbled,“ Ms Field said.

“I don’t look for recognition when you just do your work, but I was very proud to see the organisation that I lead be recognised.

“It validated our work and inspired me to continue what I do.”

Her crucial role has helped avert the potential closure of several early years’ services in Greater Dandenong.

“Our mission is very clear, we recognise the importance of early years and therefore want to ensure children have access to kinder, quality programs and reflect the need for community.”

Out of her 40 years of experience, she’s spent 10 years in Springvale.

As she maintains kindergarten and other crucial programs for families and children, she also works hard to change societal perspectives within the department.

“One thing I noticed here was children with individual needs can be looked at in a different way culturally and we want to change that.

“We want everyone to appreciate that early childhood is critical and I’m proud to break down barriers.”

The diverse needs of the community in Greater Dandenong means there’s no one size fits all, meaning the team must ensure the system is inclusive to help all.

“Some families may need simple things such as a wheelchair to support their integration into the program.

“They may not be eligible, so how do we navigate the system so their children can have that?

“It’s the simple things that are important.”

Through this advocacy for the diverse community, Ms Field is working on a project that may foster a better understanding of early childhood in culturally diverse communities.

“Centrelink, kindergarten enrolment, council filling-in paperwork … it is one of the most complex systems you’ll ever encounter.

“I’m investigating ways of hearing voices of families and how they started kinder here.

“Listening to stories of why and how they navigate themselves I think is a very important story to share and I’m committed to achieve that as my next goal.”

Works have begun to have the stories printed in each participant’s first language as well as English which will be distributed to all families who will make Greater Dandenong home.

“We have 19 different countries represented, so for us listening to their personal stories is a narrative that needs to be shared and documented.”

She has collaborated with Monash University and Chisholm Institute to help mentor and facilitate members of the community into the workforce through their traineeship program.