Childcare worker recognised as Young Achiever

By Veronika Cox

When Leanne O’Keefe was announced as the winner of the Tasmanian Young Achiever Award for Transition to Work, the Ludo Early Learning childcare worker felt as though her heart stopped for a moment.

“My whole life I’ve gone unrecognised and left in the dark, but hearing my name I felt recognised and supported by so many,” she said.

“I felt at peace with myself and like all my hard work has finally paid off. I have overcome my hardest challenges when I didn’t think it was possible.”

Leanne had a traumatic childhood and was homeless at 17 years of age, when she was offered a housing unit through CatholicCare Tasmania’s Therapeutic Residential Care program.

With the support of her Life Skills Educator, Leanne went back to school and completed Year 12, before commencing a traineeship with Ludo Early Learning and Care.

“I made a promise to myself when I was younger to never give up on children. I had a rough childhood and had so many people give up and push me to the side,” she said.

Life Skills Educator Craig Doyle and Leanne O’Keefe
Photo credit: Theresa Blizzard

“I made a promise to try my hardest to make a difference every single day, even if it was to make one child laugh or smile.”

Ludo State Operations manager Theresa Blizzard, who nominated Leanne for the award, said she was immensely proud of the childcare worker.

“Not only has she had a transformational transition to work, but her journey to get to that point was both enormously moving and inspirational,” she said.

“The message to all people is to keep a light of hope on for our youth who are doing it hard. They are expecting us to give up on them, but they are hoping that we don’t.”

Leanne plans to continue her career in childcare and hopes to encourage other young people to overcome challenges.

“If you get lost or unsure in life, just look for guidance and help,” she urged.

“If you fail, get up and just keep going. Keep dreaming and push through every single day with a positive attitude towards life.”

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