Be part of Reconciliation

1116Photos_headshot1_editedIn the lead up to NAIDOC Week (5 – 12 July 2015), National Education Leader Rhonda Livingstone discusses our shared responsibility to contribute to National Reconciliation.

As educators we have the potential to make a significant difference in National Reconciliation through our programs, practices and relationships, with the guidance of the National Quality Framework (NQF).

Cultures and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be woven into the everyday practices and learning experiences at children’s education and care services. It’s more than displaying an Australian Aboriginal flag, or engaging children in dot painting.

Case study 1, within the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) National Quality Standard (NQS) Professional Learning Program (PLP), gives examples of how experienced educator, Adam Duncan, embeds history and culture into every day practice. Some examples include:

  • acknowledging Country daily by focusing on ‘the history that children have had on this country, and relating the history of the land to the experiences of children’
  • exploring literacy and storytelling by telling Dreaming stories, and
  • utilising modern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music and arts to achieve learning outcomes in the program.

I often meet non-Indigenous educators who express concern about ‘getting it wrong’ or being ‘tokenistic’ when embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in their educational programs.

A great way to work on embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in your service is to further your own understanding and connection with these cultures. Services may also identify the need to develop the cultural awareness of staff through their Quality Improvement Planning process.

Cultural competence and Reconciliation

The NQF guides educators to develop their own cultural competency and that of children. Fostering children’s understanding and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and challenging biases can impact on children’s future attitudes towards cultural diversity. Educators are a crucial link between the rhetoric of Reconciliation and the reality of the vision fulfilled[1].

It is important to recognise that it is not only about seeing the easily identifiable parts of cultural identity such as language, dress and food in the program, but also the more hidden aspects which affect how we interact with the world.

For example, in Anglo-Australian culture it is polite to make eye contact when someone is speaking to you, but in some indigenous cultures, not making eye contact may be seen as a sign of respect. Educators’ practice should be reflective and inclusive so that children are not disadvantaged by an educator’s own views.

Inclusive services

When services support the cultural identity, language and values of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, it can significantly contribute to their positive sense of identity and wellbeing.

The NQF also encourages services to provide children with programs that suit their individual needs based on their current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests (NQS Element 1.1.2). The framework empowers educators to use teaching strategies which best suit the individual children, families and the local community of the service.

To effectively deliver inclusive programs educators must engage with the principles and practices of the approved learning frameworks including fostering secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships, partnerships with families and communities, high expectations and equity, respect for diversity and ongoing learning and reflective practice.

We must not underestimate the importance of gathering knowledge, ideas and input from families and communities in order to respectfully embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in a way which relates to the service’s community.

Community involvement

By drawing on community knowledge and expertise, you can enrich your learning program and ensure it captures local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and histories. Try these suggested ‘first steps’:

  • Form respectful relationships with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners and Corporations/ Co-operatives in your area
  • Attend community events and build respectful relationships to show that you are genuinely interested in getting to know more
  • Find out if your jurisdiction has an Aboriginal Education Consultative Group
  • Contact your State/Territory Education Department for referral to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison workers
  • Look up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander training or support providers in your area, and the Inclusion Support Agencies and/or the Professional Support Coordinator across your state or territory
  • Be aware of cultural protocols. Protocols will vary in different areas. If you are going to be working with people from traditional and remote communities you can seek out locally based training or advice.

Culturally competent services also work to overcome barriers which prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from accessing quality education and care such as inflexible service provision, fees or lack of transport. In addressing these issues, services create a supportive and culturally safe environment for children to experience belonging, being and becoming.

Video

The videos and resources listed below provide further insight into how educators can meaningfully embed indigenous culture into their service. Hear from experienced early childhood educators, Adam Duncan and Amy Tainsh and Judith Mckay-Tempest, an accomplished indigenous researcher and academic.

  • Reconciliation and community involvement
  • Tokenistic vs meaningfully embedding Aboriginal culture
  • Critical reflection and having professional conversations

Resources

Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework

  • Partnerships, page 12
  • Respect for diversity, page 13
  • Ongoing learning and reflective practice, page 13
  • Cultural competence, page 16

Educators Guide to Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework

  • Ongoing learning and reflective practice, page 7- 9
  • Partnerships, page 17– 20
  • Cultural competence, page 21- 23
  • Cultural competence in working with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures page 24-29

The Early Years Learning Framework In Action

  • Ongoing learning and reflective practice, Story 1
  • Cultural competence in working with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, Story 8
  • Cultural competence, Stories 14 and 16
  • Partnerships, Stories 28 and 33

My Time Our Place: The Framework for School Age Care

  • Partnerships, page 10
  • Respect for diversity, page 11
  • Ongoing learning and reflective practice, page 11
  • Cultural competence, page 15

Educators Guide to My Time Our Place: The Framework for School Age Care

  • Ongoing learning and reflective practice, pages 6- 9
  • Partnerships, page 11
  • Cultural competence, page 57- 60
  • Cultural competence in working with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures page 61-66

ACECQA National Educational Leader page

ACECQA We Hear You Blog: What does it mean to be culturally competent?

IPSP Online Resource Library

Early Childhood Australia – NQS Professional Learning Program

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Children’s Services Central. Engaging with Aboriginal Communities: Where do we start?

Child Australia. Cultural Connections Booklet

Early Childhood Australia. Including Aboriginal Australia

Kids Matter. Cultural diversity: Suggestions for families and educators

Early Childhood Australia. Becoming culturally competent

Early Childhood Australia Reconciliation resources

Early Childhood Australia. Talking about Practice: Cultural Competence

ABC Indigenous website

Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)

Reconciliation Australia website

[1] Nina Burridge Teaching Aboriginal Studies, Rhonda Craven 1999

2 thoughts on “Be part of Reconciliation”

  1. A great initiative, getting reconciliation and understanding established within kids and growing from there. For all of the achievements of the T.S Islanders and Aboriginals, I believe 1 week to commemorate isn’t enough.

  2. We are a LDC service in Duncraig WA (Mooro Country) and have found it very difficult to get into contact with anyone local. I plan to trawl through the resources given here to see what I can find but I am feeling discouraged as we have had no response to our reaching out to connect with the local indigenous community. Maybe we are asking the wrong people?

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