ECE Diamonds

Barbara Hale – a visionary leader

Life member 1995

A passionate new entrant teacher during the 1960s, Barbara Hale set up her own preschool – ‘Barbara’s Place’ – in 1973 after her husband was made redundant. 

The 1970s was a time of change for women. At women’s conventions, Barbara met other women involved with childcare and the Association (now Te Rito Maioha). She became involved with the Auckland branch and was branch secretary for many years, working alongside Berys Scouse as president, and joining the executive in 1985.

“I wasn’t radical but I could feel the change happening in me in the fifteen years I had been married. I had strong feelings that women were as good as men and we had every right to do anything that men could do.

“During the early 1980s there was increasing political support for childcare, including support from agencies. We needed political support for financial support. came to believe strongly in the right of children to have quality early childhood education before school.

“I was also involved in the push for childcare to be transferred to the Department of Education [in 1987]. That was an issue that I felt strongly about.”

As a centre owner, Barbara was involved with the newly formed employers branch of the Association, formed to negotiate pay awards with the new Early Childhood Workers Union. While the NZCA employers’ group supported NZCA’s principles for quality childcare, other private and corporate providers were not supportive and tried to keep pay as low as they could. It created fraught negotiations and the issues continued in the sector. Barbara stayed actively involved in early childhood industrial relations, lobbying for best possible conditions and quality for both staff and centres. 

“I didn’t like private providers endorsing profit-making. I didn’t want to be seen as a centre making money out of children. There is no place for exploitation of children and staff in childcare.”

In 2010 Barbara was honoured as a ‘visionary leader’ at the 25-year celebration of the Consenting Parties’ Agreement, hosted jointly by the New Zealand Educational Institute –Te Riu Roa, and Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZCA.

In 1990, the Before Five reforms bought a large increase in funding for qualified teacher pay. The following year, a new National Government cut the funding. Centres, including Barbara’s were forced to cut staff, raise fees for parents and accept child-staff ratios that Barbara strongly disagreed with: “ I was horrified by what was defined now as quality. I thought that we would at least get a one to four staffing ratio for under-twos… I was hoping for that after all the submissions I wrote.”

Barbara was made a life member of the Association in 1995. 

This article is an abridged version from Te Rito Maioha’s book on its life members and their work. You can read Barbara's full story and those of other ECE champions:

Life Stories on the Frontline: Growing a childcare movement in Aotearoa
Ngā kohinga kōrero a te aumangea: Kia mana te ara kōhungahunga ki Aotearoa