• Glennie Oborn.
  • June Robins.

Celebrating 50 years of Kindercare

It’s hard to believe that just 50 years ago, early childhood centres were rare, and yet there was a growing need as more women either remained or re-entered the workplace after becoming mothers. Full-time working parents in the early 1970s had few options available for the care of their children.  Needing an income while desiring to start a family, Primary School Teacher, Glennie Oborn, pulled together her savings to setup what we know today as Kindercare Learning Centres. 

Kindercare’s History
The first childcare centre was established in Glennie’s family home in 1972 as Milford Day Nursery. It was licensed for 32 children between the ages of two and five years old. Seven years later and with three centres on the North Shore, the centres were incorporated to become Kindercare Learning Centres.
 Remaining a ‘family business’, whānau has always been at the heart of this organisation, with Glennie’s mum and sister involved in the early years, her husband Allan Wendelborn joining in 1980 and making a significant contribution to Kindercare’s story, and all four of their children serving in various capacities over the years. Since 2014, their son Kelly Wendelborn has led Kindercare as the Chief Executive.
The original centre in Milford was refurbished in 1990, as a purpose-built facility. This centre is still thriving today as Kindercare’s first, under the experienced and inspirational leadership of Centre Director, Philippa Terei. Philippa has been serving children and families at Kindercare for 32 years, beginning her journey at Kindercare as a Teacher at this very centre all those years ago.

Local History
Thousands of North Shore children, and their children, have spent their early years at Kindercare. From the beginning, Kindercare has been very much a part of the local Shore community, actively engaging children in creative and innovative programmes that foster respect and appreciation of the environment, music, movement, art and literature, while developing each child’s full potential. On Shakespeare Road, where Kindercare Milford is situated, Glennie’s parents, Flo and Ralph Oborn, had market gardens that stretched back to the Wairau Creek, producing vegetables for the community and cut flowers for florists. As growers and gardeners, they had a roadside stall, selling produce that didn’t make it to the markets. Today, Kindercare is proud to be serving a second generation of young children in this community, with many of them attending Milford Primary School over the past 50 years — like their parents before them and Glennie herself, just as her father did before her. 

Reflecting on my journey with Kindercare over the last 44 years, the things that have touched my heart the most have been the special relationships, as well as the love and kindness to all — the children, their families and my colleagues. I’m proud to be part of the 50 years celebrations and the difference that the Kindercare team has made in the lives of children, families and their teachers. My gratitude to Glennie and Kelly for their leadership, their mentoring, along with their love and kindness.

—June Robins, Area Manager, Kindercare Learning Centres

Teaching Teachers
Glennie believed that because children matter, having effectively trained and devoted qualified Teachers was essential to offer each child outstanding care and education. Casual training through evening workshops and short basic courses were not enough for an organisation committed to excellence. So, in 1982, Kindercare Early Childhood Teachers College, now known as New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC), was established in a spare classroom at a Northcote school. Setting up a private training establishment, offering a Diploma of Teaching (ECE) and gaining Teacher Registration approval for graduates were all firsts in the early childhood care and education sector — and simply put, a wild idea back then! In subsequent years, NZTC has gone on to offer teaching and education degree programmes. NZTC was sold to the UP Education Group in 2020.
The Teacher education programmes were an enormous commitment because they were about ensuring the best possible and well informed, child-focused care and learning outcomes for each child enrolled at Kindercare and beyond. At that time, a decision had to be made between investing in Teacher education, or upgrading the buildings. Teacher education won out and soon other centre operators were approaching Kindercare to provide training for them as well. The influence on early childhood care and education in New Zealand has been huge with over 10,000 students graduating over the years.

Some of my first childhood memories are at Milford Kindercare and it’s such a nice connection that one of my first Kindercare teachers, Philippa, is now the Centre Director and has been able to help my children settle in for their time at the centre 30 years later. The Teachers are always so kind, gentle and patient and I know they are in good hands and are benefiting from new experiences on a daily basis. My kids' smiling faces at the end of the day assure me they’ve had a fun-filled day.

—Charlie Bott, parent at Kindercare Milford

People Matter
Relationships matter at Kindercare, which is why people matter, and why leaders prioritise connection and closeness— not just with children and families, but within the team – in order to create an environment where people have a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves, where the work is purposeful. Along with opportunities for formal qualifications, ongoing professional development empowers team members and enables their careers to flourish. Leadership pathways are created for those who seek career growth. Most Centre Directors, and those in the team who hold support, advisory and leadership roles in the organisation have been developed from within, and many have been with Kindercare for 20 years and more!

I always knew that I would pick Kindercare when it was time for my daughter to start day care; my three sisters and I all attended Kindercare in our preschool years and I have such fond memories of our time there. The team at Kindercare have played such an important role in helping to shape my daughter into the beautiful little girl she is today and I will be forever grateful for the partnership we shared over the years while in their care. The centre and team became like a home away from home and our extended family. I can only emphasise the love, care and kindness your family will be shown during your time there.

—Linneah McKinlay, parent at Kindercare Pinehill

50 Years On
Children grow, and so has Kindercare from a single childcare centre in a Milford family home, to purpose-built centres with awesome play environments. Today, they have centres off Constellation Drive, Albany, Silverdale, Pinehill and Belmont, as well as 47 other centres across Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Palmerston North and Christchurch.
Kindercare continues its mission, recognising that children are a gift from God, entrusted to them by parents. In partnership with parents, they are dedicated to developing each child’s full potential, by providing outstanding early childhood care and education.
 Kindercare’s commitment to serve with love has stood the test of time — meeting the needs of parents for peace of mind when their children can’t be with them, honouring trust, providing confidence as each child’s individual strengths are nurtured, and ensuring children are safe and loved while they are learning every day.  
In 2005, Glennie and Allan established the Living & Learning Foundation to support the health, education and wellbeing of children and families, through weekly distributions to beneficiaries.

Moving Forward
The story continues with a new Kindercare centre set to open in Warkworth later this year; an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children in their local community...just as every Kindercare centre across New Zealand reflects their locale. Each centre, and indeed each teaching team, embraces and celebrates their local curriculum, their rich cultural diversity, and what makes them unique. It is with this in their hearts that the Kindercare team continue to serve and raise a new generation of Kiwis, one day at a time, one treasured child at a time.