Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa New Zealand Childcare Association

1963 –

Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa New Zealand Childcare Association

1963 –

Theme: Education: early childhood

Known as:

  • New Zealand Association of Childcare Centres
    1963 – 1990
  • Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa New Zealand Childcare Association
    1990 –

This essay written by Helen May was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993. It was updated by Helen May in 2018.

1963 – 1993

The New Zealand Association of Childcare Centres was founded on 14 October 1963 at a meeting of centre managers and staff organised by Sonja Davies, then president of the Nelson Day Nursery Committee. The association's overall aim was to improve the quality of care and education for preschool children, by supporting centres and providing staff training. Davies believed that a national organisation would also help centres to lobby the government, which was introducing childcare regulations. In 1990 the association changed its name to Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa New Zealand Childcare Association (NZCA).

Support for the association, and for the concept of childcare generally, was slow in coming, but by 1992 the association had a membership of 403 centres and 705 individuals, the publication Te Tīmatanga, 35 staff, and a national training scheme with Māori and Pacific wings and an enrolment of 305 trainees.

Davies and a group of childcare stalwarts led the association for fifteen years, at a time when childcare was seen as unacceptable in comparison with playcentre and kindergarten. 'Childcare was not a polite topic for conversation', commented Davies. [1] Although childcare centres were catering for the growing number of mothers who had to earn a living, the quality was not good. Davies recalled:

When my first Vice President (Jessie Donald) and I visited daycare centres throughout the country [in 1963] we wondered how we would touch them with a forty foot pole. Some of them were awful, the children had lacklustre eyes and a few plastic toys. [2]

The fledgling association tried to convince the public and politicians of the need for funding and training for childcare. It was an uphill battle; in 1970 Davies wrote, 'We were handicapped by a society that generally would not admit that social change was happening in its midst'. [3]

In 1969 the association had arranged for childcare workers to sit the Royal Society of Health Certificate of Childcare from London. During the 1970s it continued to lobby for local training schemes, and in 1975 a one year course was established at Wellington Polytechnic. In 1979 the Department of Social Welfare gave the association a grant to research field-based training, and the association's own training scheme was established. It was funded initially through Telethon, then by the Lottery Grants Board, and from 1984 by government. Lobbying for funding for centres was also a slow process. In 1974 Davies persuaded the Labour government to give fee subsidies to parents 'in need', but not until 1984 did childcare centres receive direct subsidies. [4]

Kids and adults at nursery

Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-090773-F.

Staff, children and parents outside the Wellington Citizens’ Day Nursery, Vivian Street, c. 1940s. Formed in 1916, this crèche continued to operate until 1985, making it the longest-lived childcare centre in New Zealand.

The 1980s were a time of consolidation for early childhood organisations. The association helped to develop and implement the major reforms in funding and administration set out in Before Five, the Labour government's 1988 policy document on early childhood services. [5] These policies were the rewards of a long battle for childcare, one which Davies, who became an MP in 1987, was now able to fight from within the government caucus.

During the 1980s the relevance of early childhood programmes to other cultures was also being reappraised. In 1988 the association established a training programme for Pacific teachers, who then trained other Pacific childcare workers. [6] Before Five required centres to evaluate their programmes in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi, and the association began a similar appraisal of its own organisation and training programme as a move towards biculturalism. At the 1990 AGM at Ōtīria marae, a name change and a new constitution reflected the new commitment to more equitable outcomes for both Māori and Pākehā children in childcare centres.

The association's aims and objectives were still relevant in the 1990s. Much had been achieved, but childcare services were still under-resourced. While there were staff who could not get training, parents who could not afford fees, and children who had less than quality care, the association still had work to do.

Helen May

1994 – 2018

Amidst the roller-coaster years of ECE politics, the association continued to be a strong advocate for quality ECE and a supporter of having 100 percent qualified teachers across the childcare sector (renamed education and care),[7]  ideals that imbued its employer members in the Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement (previously Consenting Parties Agreement).[8]

The association’s training role expanded alongside the political recognition of the importance of qualified staff, although mirrored by the swings and lows of political commitment to the idea. The principle of field-based delivery, undertaken alongside employment, remained a key to the organisation’s identity as a training provider.[9] From 1997 the benchmark qualification Diploma of Teaching replaced the Certificate in Childcare. In 2011, a Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) was introduced.

In 2003 and 2013 Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa NZCA celebrated jubilees, [10] and in 2015 the association changed its name to Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ. Some saw the dropping of ‘childcare’ as a forgetting of its radical beginnings in times when childcare was excluded from political approval. The organisation regarded its new name as a signifier of the mainstream status of childcare; a recognition that its graduates were employed across ECE services; and a better expression of its membership inclusive of a range of ECE services. The Early Childhood Council also had a burgeoning membership and exercised a political voice in support of private and corporate employers. Neither organisation was exclusive in its membership and there was collaboration.

Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa had strengthened its aspirational commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, first constituted by the organisation in 1990. These aspirations permeated all levels and endeavours of Te Rito Maioha. A strong Pacific presence in the organisation was also evident. The expanding suite of graduate and postgraduate diplomas and degrees offered by Te Rito Maioha in 2018 were characterised by the commitment to te reo Māori me ona tikanga. Success for Māori students in the programme was evident in national tertiary statistics.[11]

In changing political times, Te Rito Maioha maintained its presence as advocacy organisation  on behalf of young children and women, calling on the Labour-led Government coming to power in 2017 to address issues of teacher supply, pay parity, qualifications and poor working conditions, a consequence of underfunding in the sector over the previous 10 years. [12]

Helen May


[1] Sonja Davies, personal interview, 1983.

[2] Pauline Ray, 'A Child's Place is in the Home' (interview with Sonja Davies), NZ Listener, 20 March 1976.

[3] New Zealand Association of Childcare Centres Annual Report, 1970.

[4] This first funding package to childcare centres was in fact a transfer of funds: subsidies available to parents were cut back and the monies made available for subsidies for trained staff in centres.

[5] Department of Education, Before Five: Early Childhood Care and Education in New Zealand, Department of Education, Wellington, 1988; Early Childhood Care and Education Working Group, Education to Be More (the Meade Report), Government Printer, Wellington, 1988

[6] Most of these workers were involved in the rapidly growing Pacific Islands language nests. See Burgess, Feaua'i, 'Recent Developments in Pacific Island Language Nests', paper prepared for Second National Conference on Community Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages, August 1990; Early Childhood Development Unit, Pacific Island Early Childhood Education, 1991; Morgan, Poko, Pacific Islands Early Childhood Education, 1991; Morgan, Poko, Pacific Islands Early Childhood Education, Anau Ako Pasifika Project [n.d.].

[7] Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa NZCA, Quality Register Working Party Report, Wellington, 1996; Meade, Anne et al., 2012.

[8] May, Helen, Twenty Years of Consenting Parties: The Politics of ‘Working’ and ‘Teaching’ in Childcare 1985–2005, NZEI Te Riu Roa, Wellington, 2005.

[9] Bell, Nancy, ‘Field-based teacher education at multiple sites: A story of possibilities and tensions’, Research and Policy Series No. 2, Institute for Early Childhood Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, 2004.

[10] May, Helen, 2003; 2013.

[11] Meade, Anne et al., Te Heru: A framework for Māori success within an initial teacher education programme, Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa NZCA, Wellington, 2011.

[12] Te Rito Maioha, ‘Government must do more to about the crisis in early childhood teacher numbers’, 15 October 2018. https://www.ecnz.ac.nz/news

Unpublished sources

Department of Education, Child Welfare Division, Annual Reports, 1961–1971, E-4, AJHR

Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa NZCA records, 1963–1992, Parent and Early Childhood Archive, Department of Early Childhood Studies, University of Waikato, Hamilton

Published sources

Davies, Sonja, Bread and Roses: Sonja Davies, Her Story, Australian and New Zealand Book Co. Pty Ltd/Fraser Books, Auckland, 1984

Early Childhood Quarterly, 1976–1983; Childcare Quarterly, 1984–1990; Te Tīmatanga, Spring 1990

May, Helen (Cook), Mind That Child: Childcare as a Social and Political Issue in New Zealand, BlackBerry Press, Upper Hutt, 1985

May, Helen (Cook), 'Growth and Change in the Early Childhood Services', in Sue Middleton, John Codd, and Alison Jones (eds), New Zealand Education Policy Today, Allen & Unwin/Port Nicholson Press, Wellington, 1990

May, Helen, Concerning Women Considering Children: The Changing Fortunes of Childcare 1963–2003, Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa NZCA, Wellington, 2003

May, Helen, ‘Minding’, ‘Working’, ‘Teaching’: Childcare in Aotearoa-New Zealand, 1940s–2000s, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Vol. 8 No. 2, 2007, pp. 133–143

May, Helen, Ngā Āhuatanga Hurihuri o te Tiaki Tamariki: The Changing Fortunes of Childcare 2003–2013, Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa NZCA Wellington, 2013 

Meade, Anne et al., Early Childhood Teachers’ Work in Education and Care Centres, Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa NZCA, Wellington, 2012

Smith, Anne and David Swain, Childcare in New Zealand: People, Programmes and Politics, Allen & Unwin/Port Nicholson Press, Wellington, 1988

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Posted: 10 Aug 2022

Hi, How do I go about getting a copy of my ‘certificate in childcare ‘ that I gained in the mid eighties ?