ECE Diamonds

Pat Hubbard – a missionary zeal for childcare and women’s opportunities 

(1931 - 2023)
Life member c. 1988

Teacher, academic, mother, feminist and childcare activist, Pat Hubbard was a taonga of our organisation, active in the childcare movement for more than 30 years.

As a graduate in 1954 England, the newly married Pat withdrew from further university study; it was not deemed “possible to have children and pursue a career”. Instead, as a young mother, she developed her interest in early childhood education, studying and teaching in the United States before moving to New Zealand in 1972.

In Dunedin, Pat became the supervisor at Pine Hill Playcentre in a state housing suburb where education was not a priority for most families. Pat came to see other issues: “Some of these kids needed all day supervision and Playcentre wasn’t enough to keep them off the street. I remember going to somebody’s house and finding one of my Playcentre children sitting in the gutter playing with a ball. Mum had gone to the shops.”

International Women’s Year in 1975 brought an opportunity for change. Pat recounted: “The catch cry of the women’s movement was about opportunities for women but also that childcare should go side-by-side with opportunities for women.”

There was only one childcare centre in Dunedin. Pat and Otago University’s Dr Anne Smith audaciously secured International Women’s Year funding to establish a Dunedin Community Child Care Association. The idea of childcare was upsetting to many, including Pat’s Playcentre peers. 

The centre was set up on a shoestring budget in 1976, and Pat joined the NZ Association of Childcare Centres (now Te Rito Maioha) to share her ideas: “We were doing something exciting and had this missionary zeal.”

During 1978, Pat helped develop the Association’s new childcare certificate and coordinated the training programme. A network of training bases and paid tutors were established with the Association’s first major government grant for ongoing funding.

Over following years, Pat’s work in childcare centres combined with multiple research projects at Waikato and Otago Universities. She also helped establish new centres – the Otago Polytechnic Childcare Centre, the Kidzone Childcare Centre in Newtown – and worked in or led many more. 

Pat was made a life member in 1988. In 1991, Pat took on the voluntary position of National Advisor, offering guidance to the Association’s Council for 18 years. Pat retired from grass roots early childhood work in 2010, approaching 80 years of age. 

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