Early childhood educator Tamara Ruffin was a finalist in the 2020 national Excellence in Family Day Care Awards.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

KILMORE early childhood educator Tamara Ruffin has been honoured at the 2020 national Excellence in Family Daycare Awards.

Family daycare is a form of childcare that focuses on each child’s individual development from the educator’s home.

Ms Ruffin has operated her own family daycare for nearly five years, working with children aged two to 11.

Ms Ruffin was one of four national finalists for the Family Daycare Educator of the Year Award, representing Victoria and Tasmania.

A total of 5660 family daycare educators were nominated, before 75 regional winners were chosen.

Ms Ruffin was named the winner for the Goulburn Valley region late last year, and was informed she was top four in the country last month.

“I didn’t manage to win the educator of the year but I’m quite happy with national finalist,” she said.

Ms Ruffin was nominated by the families of children in her care after she donated almost 700 bat wraps and joey pouches to bushfire-affected animals in early 2020.

The wraps act as swaddles for injured or orphaned baby bats and flying foxes as a substitute for their mothers’ wings.

Wildlife carers across Australia were in dire need of these wraps last summer as bats were acutely affected by the country’s megabushfires.

About one third of Australia’s native flying fox population perished, while dehydrated pups were seen dropping from trees in Victoria and South Australia.

“We had a lot of people donating whether it was blankets or sewing goods as well as even just beds and pillows,” she said.

Ms Ruffin taught the children in her daycare and their families to both hand-stitch and sew using machines, before Federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell collected the finished products and funded their distribution to animal shelters in bushfire-affected areas.

“It all came through really to help children understand,” she said.

“Victoria had big bushfires but also you could smell it in the air … it was a way to stay connected and help [children] understand why our environment was changing, why everybody was panicking. Everybody was being affected in some way.”

Since the pandemic hit, she said the needs of her children and families had dramatically changed.

“Coming off a year where you were able to do big projects and people were very willing to be involved to a year of COVID, and the uncertainty of whether it’s going to be the right time to … extend the children’s learning,” Ms Ruffin said.

“The biggest focus for me right now is actually staying still and processing and understanding what my children and my families need, and at the moment they need a safe secure environment.

“We’ve got a new group of children so we’re all just starting to get to know each other, really taking it slow this year.”