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CEO Report

Mat Rowel CEO

Mat Rowell

Chief Executive Officer 

“I thank each and every one of our people for their contribution and commitment to ensuring ‘Children First’ remains the firm focus of our work.” 

It is with the greatest pleasure that I present the Lady Gowrie Tasmania (LGT) Annual Report for the financial year 2021 to 2022. This reporting period also coincides with my first year as Chief Executive Officer of this wonderful community-based organisation.  

As I reflect upon the past year, I am in awe of the work undertaken in our programs and services and the contributions LGT has made to the lives of so many within our community. None of this vital work that we do would be possible without the professionalism and dedication of our people. I thank each and every one of our people for their passion, commitment and contributions to ensuring ‘Children First’ remains the firm focus of our work.

Thank you to those families, clients and learners who have placed their trust in our organisation to provide either education and care for their children, or to provide support for their family or to provide professional support for their individual learning journey. I also extend a warm welcome to all new families who joined the LGT community during this reporting period. 

It would be impossible to not mention that the last year has been one full of disruption and vigilance related to the opening of our borders and the emergency of COVID-19 in Tasmania.  We have had to deal with significant disruption to all of our programs and services and the constantly changing public health advice about how to manage those risks.  

Despite this though, we have achieved an awful lot.  As you will read in this Annual Report we have not only managed to operate our business as usual for our children, in particular, but have also learned to adapt and live with what is our new normal. It demonstrates the strength, resilience and teamwork of our people that we are now in this more optimistic era.

I want say thank you to our talented and skilled Board of Directors who voluntarily give of their time, guidance, knowledge and skills so generously and wisely to support the strategic direction and success of LGT. Special thanks to Anne Beach for her support and sound advice in my work towards achieving LGT’s strategic goals. On behalf of our people, I also thank the Board of Directors for their generosity with the implementation and extension of paid pandemic leave during the peak of the pandemic in Tasmania. 

To the Senior Leadership Team consisting of Kathy Cripps (General Manager Education and Care), Annette Barwick (General Manager Learning, Development and Inclusion) and Sam Wesson (Chief Financial Officer), thank you for leading your people, programs and services with such professionalism and for providing invaluable support and advice to guide my work.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kathy Cripps for her incredible 26 years of service to LGT when she retires in December 2022. Kathy’s passion for the education and care sector, her commitment to ‘getting the job done’ regardless of her working hours or personal commitments and dedication to ensuring the best outcomes for children, families and educators in her work is second to none. 

Thank you to Gary Fox for providing professional support to the Board of Directors, CEO and Senior Leadership Team. Gary commenced in May 2022 and brings to LGT a wealth of knowledge in governance and management and I appreciate both his professional and personal support in my role as CEO. 

As I mentioned above, LGT was again faced with the challenge of negotiating workplace, sector and policy changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank our families, clients, learners and our people for their cooperation and flexibility as we worked towards minimising the impact of these changes. During this reporting period LGT distributed over 35,000 rapid antigen tests to families and our people, and implemented a range of new policies, systems and processes to keep our staff and our children, families, and learners safe. 

I am so proud of everything that LGT and our people have achieved in this reporting period. I hope you enjoy this new, online version of the 2021/22 Annual Report, which includes a summary from me of our achievements under each pillar of our Strategic Plan 2021-2024 and reports from our people leading LGT’s various services and programs. 

LGT has a long and proud history and it is such a privilege to be leading our people to ensure we remain a strong, adaptable organisation that puts ‘Children First’ well into the future.

Strategic Goal 1: Excellence in all our work

The achievements and outcomes of LGT’s services and programs during the 2021-22 reporting period are outlined throughout this report but I would like to highlight other achievements that also contributed to ‘excellence in all our work’. 

Striving for excellence in service and program delivery must be underpinned by truly listening to our children, families, clients, learners and our people. The new Education and Care Philosophy, launched in September 2021, was the result of collaborating with and listening to all LGT stakeholders resulting in a shared vision to guide our pedagogy and practice. Most importantly, the children’s voices and visions were encapsulated through their quotes and artwork which feature prominently throughout the document. You can view the Lady Gowrie Tasmania Education and Care Philosophy here.

To capture the voices of our families a satisfaction survey was distributed which resulted in a fantastic overall customer experience and satisfaction rating of 92% and a list of priorities for the organisation to work towards improving. To capture the voices of our people LGT conducted 2 surveys that drove the priorities of the People and Culture team. Clients and learners of Gowrie Training & Consultancy are provided with regular opportunities for feedback and evaluation, as are the clients of our Child and Family Wellbeing Program.   


Striving for excellence also means continuous improvement in our service offering and looking for new opportunities. Gowrie Training & Consultancy celebrated the re-registration of the Registered Training Organisation for another 7 years and has taken on various innovative projects including the Lady Gowrie Tasmania Pathway to a Traineeship (LGTPT) Program funded by the Australian Government Local Jobs Program. Work has also commenced on LGT’s new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which will again underpin and guide our work in deepening the organisation’s cultural awareness and competence, and respect for First Nations Australians through advocating against racism and discrimination.

New opportunities and innovations within our Education and Care Services included celebrating the first year of the online Community of Practice (CoP), the development of various support documents to guide and challenge the practice of educators, collaborating with Gowrie Training & Consultancy to support professional learning for Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) educators and the development of a Community Action Plan (CAP) to safely build supports for our people in order to prevent and reduce suicide. 

LGT’s latest news, achievements, innovations and examples of excellence have been shared and communicated regularly with our community through CEO Connections, Storypark, Education and Care Newsletters, Gowrie Training & Consultancy Newsletters, Inclusion Agency Tasmania Newsletters, local newspapers and social media platforms. LGT continued to engage our community by celebrating relevant national celebrations including NAIDOC Week, Children’s Week and Harmony Day. LGT continued to provide families with current research and resources to support and enhance their parenting journey. 


Strategic Goal 2: Valued, respected, professional team

Our people are LGT’s greatest asset, and the organisation continues to develop our people through various professional development and learning opportunities, including utilising the professional learning services provided by Gowrie Training & Consultancy. Whilst there was no face-to-face attendance at the Early Childhood Australia Conference in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, our people were encouraged and supported to attend the conference virtually. Attendance at this conference ensures our people stay in touch with the latest research, pedagogy, practices, and innovations in our sector. 

LGT again provided our people with the opportunity to apply for the Helen Stephen Memorial Scholarship which is awarded annually to an educator who has committed to undertake study towards gaining an early childhood degree qualification. Congratulations to Paula Innes-Browne who was the 2021 scholarship recipient of the award and fund to help support her professional learning journey. LGT also paid the out-of-pocket expenses to educators seeking to upgrade their qualifications through Gowrie Training & Consultancy. This included 49 trainees upgrading to a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care and 53 educators upgrading to a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care.  

More information about developing and supporting our people in the 2021/22 reporting period can be found in the People and Culture Overview here. 

Strategic Goal 3: Leadership for children in our community

Our people continued to actively represent LGT through their continued advocacy for the best outcomes for children and their families, communities, our workforce and our sector. Advocating our deep experience and expertise with children to state and federal government processes is an important part of what we do, how we maintain a positive reputation in the sector and with government and how we participate in seeking change that positively impacts children and their families, educators, communities, and our sector. 

Our advocacy and representation included:

  • Participation on Peak Bodies – Gowrie Australia, Early Childhood Australia, Tasmania Branch executive members and Early Childhood Australia Inc., Board Member Early Childhood Australia Inc. Reconciliation Advisory Group – National
  • Ministers Reference Group on Early Childhood Education and Care (Australian Government)
  • Advisory Council Member for Community Services Industry Plan
  • Children’s Education and Care Industry Reference Committee
  • Department of Education, Children and Young People, Stakeholders Reference Group
  • Department of Education, Children and Young People – Community Services and Health Industry Advisory Group
  • Department of Education – B4 Leaders Coalition
  • Department of Education – Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Reference Group
  • Department of Health – Move Well Eat Well Program
  • Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) Reference Committee – Department of Education, Children and Young People (Including AEDC Targeted Support for Families Subcommittee).
  • Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) Interagency Committee
  • Hobart Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Group
  • Reconciliation Tasmania – Circle Group members
  • Tasmanian Community Services Industry Plan – Workforce Coalition Member

In my advocacy role as CEO, I also developed stronger connections with key stakeholders, government ministers and the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Leanne McLean, through representation on advisory boards and face-to-face meetings. My representation on many advisory boards ensured that the issues facing LGT, and our sector remained the firm focus of discussions and kept these issues on the agenda for future policy decisions affecting our sector. We have also continued our strong advocacy by having a regular presence in the media, through opinion pieces in The Mercury to television and radio interviews in which we have continued to advocate for the best interests of our children, families, workforce and the education and care sector. 

LGT also continued its partnership with the Department of Education initiative – Working Together (WT) with the Alanvale Education and Care Service facilitating 8 places at the service for 3-year-old children who had not accessed any form of early learning. Evidence-based research highlights the importance of positive early childhood experiences as these set the trajectory for adult life. This makes the WT program, and indeed all early learning programs, so vital for young children.

Other LGT and GT&C funded projects for the 2021/22 reporting period can be found here.  

LGT’s contributions to Gowrie Australia’s national publication, Reflections, can be found here.


Strategic Goal 4: Growth and flexibility on strong foundations

Despite the COVID-19 and workforce challenges facing the organisation and the education and care sector in the 2021-22 reporting period, LGT and our people proved yet again our ability to remain adaptable, flexible and keep its focus on ‘Children First’. The COVID Response Team (CRT) was established and met fortnightly to collectively deal with rising numbers of cases when the Tasmanian borders opened in December 2021, the swift distribution of 35,000 RAT tests, vaccination policies, strategies to keep our community safe and the distribution of regular communications to families and our people. Workforce shortages proved to be more challenging than previous years but were mitigated by the flexibility of our people to change working patterns, paid pandemic leave and educator recruitment drives across the state. New positions were created to support the workforce in the People and Culture, Education and Care and Marketing and Communications teams.   

Notably we also decided to strengthen our expertise by creating a new Facilities Manager role and negotiating a new IT services contract with better access for our team. This meant that we saw Mel Byrne move back to Education and Care in a new role as Compliance Manager. We thank her for her significant contribution to organisational operations over a number of years. 

LGT continued to thrive and seek new opportunities for growth and development. The purchase of the old Department of Education Midway Point Kindergarten building on Penna Road, Midway Point will see the opening in 2023 of an exciting new early learning service offering a play and nature-based program for children from three to five years of age. The Board of Directors and Senior Leadership team began investigating the possibility of LGT purchasing the Campbell Street Education and Care Service and Glenora buildings. I note strong growth in the north as we welcomed to our community the children and families from Punchbowl Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) Pedder Long Day Care (LDC), Youngtown OSHC, West Launceston OSHC and West Launceston Preschool. Discussions were resumed about reviving and strengthening the Memorandum of Understanding with University of Tasmania  (UTAS) School of Education in terms of scholarships, internships and opportunities for shared teaching and learning. 

LGT’s solid financial position combined with successful government grant applications saw upgrades to many LGT buildings and education and care services. Education and Care Unit (ECU) Minor Infrastructure Grants supported significant upgrades to outdoor play and learning areas in the north at University North LDC, Alanvale LDC and Norwood LDC. In the south outdoor blinds to extend all-weather play spaces were installed at Midway Point and South Hobart and upgrades to fencing in The Paddock area at Acton LDC supported safety and supervision in this wonderful play and learning space. A signage audit was undertaken by the Marketing and Communications team and approval given to update outdated contact details and branding on most of the organisation’s external signage. It is expected that all new signage will be in place in early 2023.