The ABCs of a career at Austin Health
"Children are the most important people to us," says Donna Cosentino, Director of Child Care.
The Child Care Centre is what Donna calls "the Austin Health Family", an extended support network for working parents.
"It's a very emotional time for parents when they first drop off their little ones; it's very common and completely natural for them to shed a few tears, but we're always there to give them a big hug. Over the years, I've seen many parents cry again when their children finish up from here."
"For me, that shows that the children's stay here was a wonderful experience for the whole family. That really inspires me to give my best every day." says Donna.
For Donna, the Child Care Centre plays a pivotal role in transitioning mums and dads going back into the workforce.
"An example of this would be our strong support of parents who choose to continue breast feeding; we are all about supporting parents' choices and empowering them."
When Donna first started at Austin Health, the child care centre only had 29 places. Since then the centre has grown to have 70 places.
"Through hard work and dedication we've developed excellent facilities and educational programs. It's true that the first few years of a child's life are very important, that's why we continue to take a holistic approach to child care".
During this time, Donna has helped drive the development of a nature-based playground, in collaboration with Steven Wells, Gardens and Grounds Project Officer and Michelle Cimoli, Speech Pathologist who were both closely involved in the project.
"We're passionate about sustainable practices in child care. Showing the children where their fruit and veg comes from is very significant for their development."
Over the years Donna has held many positions at the Child Care Centre, including second in charge before taking on the role of Director.
She loves working at the child care centre and credits her 30 year career to being in an environment where she has been able to develop her skills and has received great support from other staff.
"The educators here, they are amazing. It's another reason why I come into work every day."
Caring for and educating thousands of children at Austin Health over the past 30 years, Donna has built many lasting friendships.
"As the parents are Austin Health staff, it's nice to catch up and see photos of the children all grown up and see how they're doing."
"There is one family that I keep in touch with; we are actually good family friends now. The little boy attended the child care centre over 26 years ago and now he's an engineer. It's so nice to see them all grown up and doing amazing things."
"When my second daughter started at the Child Care Centre, I returned to work at the same time. Even though my daughter was in the next room, it was still such a tough moment for me, to leave her in the care of others. So I completely know what parents are going through."
"On a side note, my daughter is now a nurse at Austin Health. It's a very small world, especially for her!" says Donna.