A range of studies has demonstrated that collaborative professional development and learning (PD&L) is effective in implementing curriculum reform. PD&L that is contextualised within a specific setting enables educators to explore new theoretical perspectives, review existing knowledge and beliefs, and examine their current practice. This article reports on an investigation of how Australian early childhood centre directors understand and lead PD&L during a major reform of curriculum. Qualitative analysis was undertaken drawing on orienting concepts from the literature. Analysis of data collected from two focus groups of early childhood centre directors shows the importance of the director as overall educational leader but suggests that distributing leadership supports PD&L. Although directors articulated belief in the value of collaborative professional learning, individualised, one-off, external professional development events remained a common strategy. Directors’ perceptions about managing curriculum reform, their understanding of leadership and PD&L, together with considerations of broader social and system influences such as organisational culture and structural arrangements are factors that contribute to professional learning. A model for a centre-based professional learning system is proposed.