Action Research Inspires Leadership

2023 From the Ground Up & Senior Educational Leadership programs

“Confidence, inspiration and growth,” were key outcomes shared by ten members of Affinity’s national education community who participated in the 2023 ELACCA ‘From the Ground Up’ leadership project hosted by QUT. 

Designed to build applied leadership skills among early childhood educators and to strengthen and extend the leadership skills of emerging and experienced leaders, From the Ground Up is now in its third year, and continues to support the ECEC Sector.  

“Strong leadership is key in driving positive workplaces and continuous improvement in our sector, and Affinity has been proud to support our people to participate in both internal and external leadership programs during 2023,” said Dr Lesley Jones, Head of Education and Pedagogy. 

During the 6-month From the Ground Up (FTGU) leadership course, participants worked in pairs to build their skills and knowledge, coming together each week online in whole-of-group workshops or smaller mentoring and coaching sessions. 


Participant Shalini Chandaran and colleague focused their research on additional ways to build positive morale in centre team environments.   

Each team chose a research question to focus on during the project, using this as the basis to extend their own understanding of and capabilities as a leader.  

Deborah Aitchison, a Lead Educator with Affinity, chose an action research project based on the question ‘How can we support strong educator-child relationships that enhance quality and enable our Lifelong Learning Curriculum?’ 

This question arose after Affinity launched our Lifelong Learning Curriculum (LLC) in March 2023,” explained Deborah. 

“Working with my team member Joanne Sawtell, an Assistant Centre Manager from Townsville, we identified opportunities to investigate and improve the way educators use their time, and our LLC Art Zones in a meaningful way, benefiting relationships with children. 

“For example, we focused on ways to encourage educators to really engage with children while they create art, and not just focusing on ‘art output’ for parents to see.” 

“My participation in the program has shown me ways I can improve my leadership, and share with others, while holding myself to high standards,” said Deborah. 


Deborah presenting at an Affinity Education Group Community of Practice event 

Joanne Sawtell said her participation had “reaffirmed my understanding of leadership and built on my self-confidence to be the type of leader I want to be.” 

Joanne is one of 18 Senior Educational Leaders currently employed by Affinity who are regularly given opportunities to take their knowledge and share it with educators across a geographical cluster of centres. 

“I’m so proud to be one of Affinity’s Senior Educational Leaders, and grateful to be given the opportunity to visit other centres locally, sharing my knowledge and skills,” said Joanne.  


A dynamic duo at Aussie Kindies Glenn Innes, Juanita and Makalya, developed their FTGU research project based around sustainability in the ECEC community, while Affinity Education Advisors Shalini Chandaran and Sonia Sin from Victoria, focused on how to provide more support to educators and build team morale during times of difficulty. 

“Through the course I acquired a wealth of knowledge and insight into diverse leadership styles,” explained Shalini.  


“My objective is to support a sturdy leadership development structure that cultivates continuous improvement in the ECEC sector.”