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Future looks bright for Fitzroy Crossing project

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When early childhood educator Lisa Blattman first stepped through the doors of the Baya Gawiy Buga yani Jandu yani u early learning centre at Fitzroy Crossing, she felt goose bumps.

Ms Blattman had arrived in the remote Western Australia community on a three-month secondment, from January to March, 2016, from Goodstart Early Centre Salisbury North in Adelaide and was incredibly excited to be there.

“It was amazing to walk in to that centre and feel a connection to those children and families straight away,” Ms Blattman said. “As an indigenous educator, the bond with that community was very strong.”

The centre, in the heart of Fitzroy Crossing, four hours from Broome, Western Australia, was set up about four years ago under the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development.

It provides care for 30 families with children ranging from four months to four years of age, 70 per cent of whom are Aboriginal.

Throughout 2016, 11 Goodstart Early Learning educators are completing three month stints there, in an effort to support the Fitzroy Crossing by providing additional services. In return, the program teaches Goodstart educators about modern Aboriginal Australia so they can bring their learnings back to the organisation. The program has since been extended into 2017. 

For Ms Blattman, the secondment was the fulfilment of an Aboriginal Traineeship program, which she started with Goodstart Early Learning three years ago.

She is now a kindy assistant at Salisbury North and is planning on studying a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood).

“I decided to join Goodstart on the trainee program and found something that I really love doing,” Ms Blattman said. “But going out to Fitzroy Crossing really opened my eyes to how I could make a difference in the community.

“I feel like I’ve come back after being able to explore my culture from a completely different point of view. I experienced the traditional ways of living out in the bush and saw how the families worked.

“I remember walking in and just seeing the children I got goose bumps. But more than that, I saw how the community organised itself, and how important the centre was for the families who used it.”

June Oscar, AO, CEO of Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre, which runs the centre, said it offered the highest quality education while integrating into the learning ethos a profound respect for local indigenous knowledge and contemporary cultural practices.

“The indigenous peoples of Fitzroy Valley continue to live rich and contemporary lives which are connected to their traditional lands and culture.”

Ms Blattman said the experience was life-changing for her and helped her set goals for the rest of her life.

“This centre has made life for people with children in Fitzroy Crossing a lot easier. It provides a place for their children to be cared for during the day while they work which allows them to buy food, and clothes to wear. It’s helping people get ahead in the community and that is so important.”

Ms Blattman’s centre director Nicole Van Nistelrooy said the exchange had been a wonderful experience.

“Ever since Lisa arrived at our centre, I could see possessed certain qualities of being a great educator. She applied herself and did amazingly well and since she’s come back from the secondment I can see her understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island issues has grown which is great for our centre.”

Goodstart Wynnum West’s Crystal Broomham and Goodstart Morwell’s Kate Wojciechowski have now started their secondment at Fitzroy Crossing.

Due to the success of the first year of the secondment program, the program will continue in 2017.

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