Queensland Award recognises 30-year member's contribution

Rhonda Murphy’s extraordinary contribution to early childhood education has been recognised with a 2021 Queensland Day Award, writes journalist Emily Campbell.

Adored by her local Cannon Hill community and having educated multiple generations of the same families, Rhonda’s dedication and contribution to the early childhood education sector is hard to match.

After learning she had received 11 nominations from community members for the award, Rhonda said she felt honoured, although it was completely unexpected.

“I was absolutely blindsided to be honest, but I was so touched by everybody’s kind words – it was so lovely,” Rhonda said.

Beginning her teaching career in 1981, Rhonda said she was drawn to the profession because she enjoyed spending time with her younger family members and enjoyed the early childhood education age group.

“It’s such a great age because the children are so ready to learn and they’re like sponges,” she said.

“They’re so interested in everything and have a natural curiosity about learning.”

Engaged and enthusiastic learners

Rhonda was first employed at Canossa Kindergarten in Coorparoo, before moving to Cannon Hill Kindergarten in 1985, where she has worked ever since.

“My favourite aspect of the job is the young children, who are so engaged in what they are learning,” Rhonda said.

“I love watching them blossom into unique, capable and happy little individuals.”

Developmentally, Rhonda said she notices a big difference throughout the time she is with the children and noted one of the biggest changes she has witnessed during her career has been the growth of technology and its uptake in homes.

“You can see so much happening between the beginning and the end of their kindergarten journey, and it’s often when the new cohort of children come in next year that I’m reminded of how far they have come.”

Union gives staff a voice Having been an IEU member for 33 years, Rhonda believes unionism is vital for those working in the early childhood education sector and acknowledges the IEU has been instrumental in giving early childhood teachers a voice and making a difference when it comes to working conditions.

“I joined the IEU very early on in my career as a beginning teacher, because it gives you solidarity, being part of a group of like-minded individuals,” Rhonda said.

“Furthermore, members benefit from the ongoing advocacy for those working in the ECE sector, ensuring there is parity between teachers like myself working in the private sector and those in the state sector.

“It’s also reassuring to be able to rely on the IEU in terms of industrial advice, legal support and indemnity insurance if it’s ever needed,” she said.

A huge advocate for Universal Access funding for kindergartens, Rhonda said all members should support our union’s Fund Our Future campaign, which would help ensure every Australian child gets an optimal start in life.

“It’s so important because it ensures the experience of attending kindergarten is open to as many young children as possible, especially when you consider all of the long-term benefits studies have proven can be acquired from engaging in a quality early childhood education program,” she said.

A humble leader

Rhonda expressed her sincere gratitude to Di Farmer, Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development, who presented her with the award and all those who nominated her.

“Receiving the award will remain one of my most treasured memories of my teaching career,” Rhonda said.

“The privilege has been mine to work for so long as part of the Cannon Hill community.

“It really meant a lot, because everybody gets to a stage in their life where they wonder if they have made a difference, so it’s nice to consider that people think I have,” she said.