The Not-for-Profit Educator That's Been Serving NSW for 80 years

In the 1930s a visionary woman changed the future of early education and care in Australia forever.

In education, experience counts for a lot. Established in 1940, Gowrie NSW has been educating and caring for children for the past 80 years, providing diverse education and care, family support and professional development services to the early and middle childhood sector.

Eighty years on from the opening of one of Australia’s first early childhood centres, Gowrie NSW remains a trusted leader in early and middle childhood education. At Gowrie NSW, every child is valued and encouraged for their unique strengths, interests and character. Gowrie NSW programs have a strong philosophical foundation built on empowerment, respectful relationships, intentional play-based teaching and practitioner inquiry.

Dedication to education

Our dedication to research and leadership, while supporting children and their families, stems from our founder, Lady Zara Gowrie. In a time when education was seen as a privilege for the rich, Lady Zara Gowrie was determined to change people’s attitudes. When her husband became Australia’s tenth Governor General in 1936, Lady Zara saw her calling; to use her position of influence to improve the wellbeing of Australian children through quality education and health care.

Lady Zara knew it would take a lot of persuasion to get the funding she needed, and throughout the late 1930s she lobbied tirelessly in order to convince the government to open centres designed to improve the health and welfare of children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. By 1940, her hard work paid off, and she achieved her dream of founding the Lady Gowrie Child Centres. Funded by the government, and established in state capitals across the country, it was the beginning of the not-for-profit childcare leader that exists today.

An industry leader

Seen as a pioneer amongst educators, Lady Zara extolled the importance of education and family support for all, no matter what someone’s background is. “Our children are our greatest hope,” she said in a speech before opening the first centre. “We must build up a better world, and it is only through the children that this can be done.”

Lady Zara understood that to make her idea work long-term, she needed to ensure Gowrie Child Centres became centres of excellence, at the cutting edge of education. With a strong focus on research and leadership, she set up a demonstration centre in NSW’s Erskineville, to allow educators to concentrate on new approaches to education and family support, in the hope of showing the value of providing support to disadvantaged communities.

Advantages of not-for-profit childcare

Today, the value of good quality childcare to disadvantaged communities is clear. A University of Chicago study shows that children who received centre-based care had significantly higher rates of high school graduation, higher education and incomes than those who didn’t get the same early childhood education.

Eighty years after they were first founded, today’s thriving Gowrie NSW centres are still proudly not-for-profit, and committed to providing diverse childcare, family support and professional development services for children from all backgrounds.

Education and community

Although Lady Zara emphasised the importance of educating children, today we also understand the importance of supporting the whole family in order to nurture and educate a child. Community support and connection is an essential part of the Gowrie NSW ethos. With information and referral services for families and early childhood professionals, consultancy services to corporate organisations, outside school hours care and vacation care programs there is a support network for all our families.

Eight decades after it was founded, Gowrie NSW is still influencing national conversations around early and middle childhood. Its principles remain the same; quality care for children, their families, and their communities. Lady Zara would be proud.

Learn more about Gowrie NSW and its centres across the state.