Updated: Mar 8
✦ And plays to learn for life
The care, stewardship and development of our young ones is critical, something TG’s Child Care has excelled in for the past 24 years by providing a safe, fun, engaging environment for children. Driven by their mantra “Playing is Learning for Life”, their trusted and respected reputation has been built with purpose, expertise and care. And it shows. As their website states, “Families say TG’s Child Care just feels right.”
Most readers will be more than aware of TG’s Child Care, either from having their own youngsters attend one of the six centres regionally or through knowing someone who has been there, maybe even knowing one of the fabulous individuals that work there.
However, we wanted to get to know a little more about the lady that conceptualised and grew the business to what it is today, to find out what makes her tick and what it takes to run such a successful enterprise.
Talk to Gayle Kee for less than a minute and it is evidently clear that she is a lady of conviction that truly cares about what she does. As in truly cares! Child care isn’t just a job for Gayle, it is a way of life, early childhood education is a passion that she has honed and provided to countless grateful families over the years.
She takes immense pride in providing a secure environment that can help children grow naturally, that can aid their development and allow them to really be themselves. These notions of love, care and development were ingrained in her from an early age, growing up with two younger sisters in rural Victoria with both parents in the teaching profession. Regular, long family holidays would allow the young Gayle to see and learn new things, to encounter fresh environments, situations, people and ways of thinking.
This was evident when, during the final two years of her primary schooling, her parents took up teaching positions on an aboriginal settlement in Papunya in the Northern Territory. It proved a real eye opener and key event for Gayle.
“This was one of the most significant events of my early years, learning about a very different culture and living in a very different and beautiful part of Australia,” she says. “It also significantly shaped me with my learning and understanding around other cultures and the importance of inclusivity, ensuring everyone is included and respected and has a sense of belonging.”
She admits that from a very early age she was a strong advocate of the underdog, of wanting to always protect those that were struggling, being teased, bullied or marginalised in anyway.
“If teachers would pour scorn on or belittle any of my classmates I would instinctively take their side,” she says. “I guess I have always felt a very natural tendency to provide care and support to those vulnerable or struggling in some capacity. I’m a huge advocate of inclusivity and do not like to see people left out.”
Gayle’s mother was a kindergarten teacher and Gayle would often spend time at her mother’s school, watching how she helped her pupils. This helped develop an awareness of how important a role teaching and education can play in developing a child into the best version of themselves that in turn fuelled her desire to want to pursue it as a career.
She later enrolled in a teacher’s training course for early childhood development in Melbourne and took her first job at a preschool in Churchill.
Gayle and Trevor met in High School and were childhood sweethearts. Trevor would, in time, become her husband, best friend, biggest influence and business partner.
Trevor specialised in landscaping and, once the opportunity arose to help develop a childcare centre on the Sunshine Coast, the couple took the plunge. It was a daunting challenge and a very steep learning curve says Gayle, but one that her and Trevor were well suited to as their combined expertise proved a perfect match.
After developing two childcare centres locally, it dawned on the couple that they wanted to establish their own centre. One day Trevor called his wife to say he had instinctively bought an old cottage in Wauchope which would be the perfect location for their first official childcare centre venture together and off they went!
By 2007 childcare centres had become very “en vogue”, with huge interest and demands. Almost inevitably, Gayle and Trevor were approached to sell their Wauchope business that they had built up - not an easy decision but one they decided to do. However, almost immediately they both regretted it.
“It felt like a loss of identity of sorts,” reflects Gayle. “There was a definite sense of loss, it was very peculiar. I would be around town and people would regularly comment that the centre was no longer the same, that standards had dropped. It even got to a point where I couldn’t even drive past our old centre for the fear of regret and sadness it evoked.”
Back on the horse!
It wasn’t long before Gayle and Trevor were looking for a new location to allow them to establish their next, new childcare centre. This took them inland to the town of Uralla where they bought the old school master’s residence in 2008, and purpose-built a new centre on the large block. Trevor’s sharp eye and expertise in landscaping ensured the outdoor environment and playspaces were in top shape in no time and Gayle brought her experience in building the culture and developing the actual care and education facilities for the children which saw prompt and steady enrolments.
Stepping back momentarily to when Gayle and Trevor still owned the facility in Wauchope, they had attended a seminar in Hawaii on operating and managing multi-centre services. They were there holidaying and attended out of curiosity but never thought for one moment they would expand beyond the solitary centre. Running one was challenging enough, they told themselves.
Fast forward to 2009, however, and an opportunity arose in Armidale to take on a centre that had, admittedly, seen better days.
“It was very run down, a premises that had been operational for over 15 years but had been clearly neglected,” Gayle remembers. “Safety was clearly the number one priority at that time as the facilities were threadbare to put it mildly – there was only one sandpit, one climbing frame, the entire outdoor area a synthetic surface virtually completely devoid of gardens with plants or any greenery. It was really very sad and you could see the effect it had on the children and their behaviour as the lack of smiley faces or happiness attested to.”
Whether it was the lessons learned from the Hawaii seminar, Gayle’s penchance for helping the underdog or the couple’s drive to take on new challenges and opportunities, they decided to acquire the business and immediately set about reinvigorating it.
“We pulled the entire outside environment apart,” recalls Gayle. “Trevor worked his magic and in no time we had different levels, gardens, greenery, more playspaces and facilities. It was a total transformation.”
What was more pleasing was the transformational effect it had on the children’s behaviour who attended the centre.
“Within six months the change in the children was clear to see,” beams Gayle, proudly. “It was incredibly satisfying to see them smiling, running around and playing, happy and confident and above all else having fun with exciting new challenges, because that’s what it is all about at that age. Seeing a smile on a child’s face is one of the things in life that inspires me most.”
The values of care, love, compassion, respect, trust and fun are the bedrock that Gayle and Trevor have built their business on, fundamental to their success and growth. Constantly encouraging others to develop, providing the right environment and culture for everyone to identify and understand their skillset, gifts and superpowers has seen the business blossom, something that applies to the staff as well and children. This is the TG's Way.
“We are completely invested in the business and staff, offering continual improvement opportunities,” comments Gayle. “Everyone who walks through the door at our child care centres must be made to feel welcomed and valued and that they belong. It is all about how we make people feel.”
Inimitable caring touch
In 2012 the opportunity arose to return to Wauchope and build and open a centre in the middle of the CBD. Before the building and refurbishment work was complete, the enrolment numbers had hit their maximum. Shortly after, a second centre was established in Wauchope and in 2016 they purchased their third centre in that area. The sixth and most recent centre is in Urangan in Hervey Bay, a 75 place facility that was 25 years old and had been rundown and neglected but which has now been renovated and rejuvenated and is flourishing with the inimitable caring touch from Gayle and Trevor.
“We have learnt that the secret to our success lies in getting the environment right, and the culture right and that’s when the magic happens.”
When asked how the COVID-19 pandemic affected them and their business, Gayle responded that it actually has been a positive.
“Not diminishing the awful impact COVID-19 has had locally, nationally or around the world, but for us it only improved things,” she says.
“Initially it impacted enrolment numbers and there were a few times where we had to close certain facilities, mainly due to many educator going into self-isolation, but they were few and far between. Overall it actually brought us all closer together; the teams bonded more and we saw more attention being afforded to issues like mental health and mindfulness training.
“Trevor and I have been stuck in Queensland for much of the last two years, mainly due to lockdowns and the restrictions on interstate travel but what was great to see was how each of the centres in all locations continued to thrive and run themselves efficiently. Everyone within the team was empowered and really stepped up.
“Even so far as the children at the centres themselves we have seen positives, especially in regards to awareness and application of health and safety and hygiene rules. Many of the children are constantly reminding each other how important it is to thoroughly wash your hands and maintain good hygiene!”
TG’s is clearly built on sound foundations and values that have fostered a community akin to one big happy family, with everyone contributing and worth their weight in gold. It therefore almost feels like a redundant question to ask what the future holds.
“We are so committed to this business and everyone involved in it, so committed to the communities we serve that we just plan to carry on,” says Gayle. “We could quite easily sell up and retire but that doesn’t appeal at all. Plus, we tried selling up once before and didn’t like the outcome,” she reminds me with a smile!
The sky is the limit!
Considering how busy Gayle and Trevor are with their burgeoning business I am somewhat surprised when I tentatively ask what she does to relax in the way of hobbies.
“We love to fly,” she replies! “I am always looking to improve, to develop myself and so one day made it a goal to learn how to fly an ultra light plane. Flying out over the likes of Fraser Island, looking down at the beauty below, seeing whales in the ocean – it’s just incredible!” Gayle and Trevor even had some of the pictures they took from the skies published in a nature-themed magazine, adding a further string to their already very impressive bow!
For someone who has inspired so many others, I decide to ask Gayle what inspires her most of all.
“Seeing the smile on a child’s face,” she responds without hesitation, alluding to her earlier point. “Seeing the significant difference our centres can have on a child, building trust, watching them grow with confidence and learning new skills - these are all the things I cherish about my work.”
Another key driver for Gayle is to make people more accountable for their behaviour and actions and to question their lack of empathy and compassion to their fellow mankind. Teaching the benefits of critical thinking is something Gayle holds in high regard, name-checking the likes of renowned Maltese physician Edward de Bono and American horse trainer Monty Roberts. This is something that makes perfect sense when I ask her what advice she may have for others, be it in regard to building a successful business or just in general life.
“Always be prepared to adopt a different perspective, to look at things with a different lens. Explore as much as you can and constantly be looking to improve yourself. Never make assumptions and always, always check the facts. How can I do better and work towards building a culture of kindness? Every single situation in life is an opportunity to grow, learn and shine.”
Wise words indeed.
The culture in any organisation comes from the top and Gayle Kee has established a best-in-class approach in all of her centres. If you needed any further proof that your children are in safe hands when enrolled at TG’s you now have it. After all, the secret is in the name itself: TG (Trevor and Gayle) Child Care.
I told you she cares. A lot...
TG's Child Care locations and contact details:
23B John St, Uralla NSW 2358
61 Miller St, Urangan, QLD 4655
11 Samuelson Crescent, Armidale NSW 2350
Wauchope - Hastings St
33B Hastings St, Wauchope NSW 2446
Wauchope - High St
223A High St, Wauchope NSW 2446
Wauchope - Riverbreeze
3 Riverbreeze Drive, Wauchope NSW 2446
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