Don Wilson – childcare is about people – their potential, our duty towards them

Life member 1986

Don Wilson’s philosophy and vision, and his management, financial and political administrative skills were highly influential in setting the foundations of the Association which is now Te Rito Maioha. 

In 1963 Don was part of the Lower Hutt Child Care Trust Board, when he joined with others in supporting the suggestion from Sonja Davies that the NZ Association of Child Care Centres be formed. He helped with the organisation of the new Association and drafting of the membership leaflet. He was auditor of the Association from 1968–1977, executive member and treasurer 1977–1978, and active in the Wellington branch for many years.

Don’s files are the earliest records in the Association’s archives. They began in March 1961 with a letter from the Child Welfare Division of the Department of Education to the Lower Hutt Child Care Trust Board, reminding all ‘day nurseries’ and ‘private kindergartens’ to read the new Childcare Regulations, 1960, and apply for a license to operate a centre, which the letter said would be issued if all the regulations were met. These were the circumstances that fuelled the need for an association as a voice for childcare centres and support for the role they played in society.

Don worked hard to create a sustainable financial and legal infrastructure during the hard years when there was no government funding support for childcare or the Association. 

Don was a prolific writer of submissions and papers about the Association and childcare. These focused on economics and management, as well as broader philosophical ideas. He challenged the Association to look at itself and at the future, including the role of the Association, funding, improved standards, expanded and co-ordinated training, equity in remuneration, and co-operation within childcare and the early childhood organisations. His vision was that both private and community centres might benefit from potential government funding if they provided quality care.

There were times when Don felt that his ideas weren’t taken seriously because he was a man. Although he was growing concerned about the direction of the Association the early 1980s, he nonetheless remained committed – as he said in his speech to the 1981 conference:

“It really comes back to that lovely word: PEOPLE. Childcare is about people— who will become our strength of the future: their potential; our duty towards them. Every child matters! Nothing is too good for the children.”

Don was made a life member in 1986.

This article is an abridged version from Te Rito Maioha’s book on its life members and their work. You can read Don'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