Engaging early with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture
Goodstart Early Learning is committed to providing a comprehensive early learning experience across its 648 centres. And that means teaching children about the importance of compassion, understanding and cultural awareness.
One way that Goodstart does this is through its reconciliation initiatives. These have been designed to inspire a greater understanding of, and deeper respect for, the country’s Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander cultures.
As a not-for-profit social enterprise, and Australia’s largest early learning and childcare provider, Goodstart is uniquely placed to promote this understanding.
These initiatives allow Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander families and children to experience respectful relationships, and to participate in experiences that authentically consider the histories and cultures of our Traditional Custodians.
The cornerstone of Goodstart’s commitment is the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which aims to improve cross-cultural awareness through appropriate and relevant resources.
The plan is extended into each Goodstart centre through a partnership with Reconciliation Australia’s School and Early Learning RAP program – Narragunnawali. This has been designed to help early childhood centres develop plans that are specific to their local community.
Through the RAP process, Goodstart educators are encouraged to engage with the histories, cultures and contributions of our Traditional Custodians, as outlined in the Early Years Learning Framework.
Programs that promote understanding
To underline the importance of reconciliation, Goodstart centre director Rebekah George has incorporated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learnings into her centre programs. To facilitate this, she has also sent members of her team to specialised training sessions.
As a result, Goodstart educators like Robynne Medhurst are better equipped to build awareness of Aboriginal culture, not only within the centre but in the wider community as well.
Like many centres around the country, Robynne's centre at Bray Park- Elmwood Drive uses special occasions such as NAIDOC week and National Sorry Day to place extra emphasis on cultural awareness.
This focus is then sustained throughout the year through activities and excursions, such as visits to local libraries where children enjoy storytelling sessions with Aboriginal elders.
Robynne’s centre has also set up an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander playgroup once a fortnight to encourage more indigenous families to visit the centre, by creating a common place for them to meet.
“Having an understanding of and respect for Indigenous and other cultures helps children learn many important values,’’ Robynne said. “It also helps them understand the story of their country and enables them to develop a sense of being and belonging,’’ she concludes.