CEO Report: Craig Mathieson

Firstly, I would like to thank the Board of Directors for their ongoing support and trust in me to lead the organisation, my executive and leadership teams for their engagement and hard work towards our vision and goals over the past 12 months, and to all of our wonderful team members – thank you for your dedication and commitment, put simply, we cannot do what we do without you.

This year we worked to implement our new strategic plan – Towards Vision 2030. As we did this, the world pivoted with new external factors impacting on our journey, yet as we always do – we remained agile and adjusted to accommodate an impending kindergarten reform – Best Start, Best Life; with the introduction of free kindergarten put into place for 2023, an initiative that we were proud to endorse and adopt immediately knowing the positive impact that this would have on families in our communities.

Our Strategic Plan would drive us towards 4 key ribbon areas, with our efforts towards ‘Meaningful Work’ needed more than ever as the Early Years sector would see the crippling impact of workforce shortages throughout the year and I thank all of our staff teams who have stepped in to work extra shifts, travel to a different service location or work that little longer to ensure that our families and communities continue to be able to access our programs during this period.

We continue to welcome new services to our portfolio and I was delighted to welcome two new build services in Drouin and Newhaven to our cluster of services in the East of the state, these new facilities will provide access to quality kindergarten education for families in their regions. We also welcomed existing and established services who transitioned to Y Kinders management in 2023; Bendigo and Eltham North Kindergartens. With over 4,000 children attending a Y Kinder in 2023, we continue to witness the positive impact of Early Years education facilitated by the Y and look forward to a bright future ahead.

After 2 years of planning, we launched a unique model of early years education and swimming lessons to support the next generation of young people in the local Ballarat community. Y Learn and Swim offers Kindergarten, Long Day Care and Swimming Lesson programs under the same roofline, a unique offering in Ballarat and across Victoria. This centre will equip children with learning skills for life whether this be in kindergarten, prior to starting at school or to be able to swim and be safe around water, we see this as our opportunity to empower young people and support busy families.

Our Youth teams continue their excellent work within the community with the reputation of the Y, and the programs and services offered continuing to gain positive momentum with the likes of Jump Start and ReCranked in Schools having a positive impact on education engagement. We remain committed to being big, brave and accountable as an organisation and continue to listen to the needs of young people through our Youth Advisory Group, Youth Parliament team and our Pride in Schools participants to ensure we are standing alongside young people, empowering and elevating their voices for positive change.

As we reflect on the achievements of the past year, I wish to acknowledge of all our dedicated staff teams for their drive, passion and commitment to the mission that has made all of these achievements possible. Whilst we continue to face new and emerging challenges in our sectors, I know that with the support of our people and our communities, we can look forward to the next steps of our successful future.