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Creating culturally safe and inclusive spaces for First Nations educators

As the largest provider of early learning in Australia, we're passionate about First Nations careers.

Careers and employment

Article by Deni Kirkova

We're committed to increasing the representation of First Nations Goodstarters throughout our organisation. 

Goodstart offers deadly career pathways, growth and development, and culturally safe networks. These networks ensure our First Nations people have a voice in shaping and guiding our reconciliation journey.

Goodstart Stratton is a shining example of a service achieving First Nations engagement ambitions. They create a strong sense of belonging for First Nations educators, children and families.

Advancing reconciliation at Goodstart Stratton

Our Stratton centre has five Aboriginal educators and 34 First Nations children enrolled. The director, Corrine Ferraro, who is Aboriginal, has been leading the early learning centre for five years.

Corrine said: “I’ve been with Goodstart and at Stratton since 2016. I started as an Assistant Director on a fixed-term contract, after which I worked as a Senior Educator. Later, I stepped back up as Assistant Director and then to Centre Director five years ago. It's been a whirlwind.

“I have always had a passion for embedding culture throughout my work in ECEC. When I stepped up as centre director, mine and the centre’s journey were able to authentically begin. I've been on that cultural journey alongside Goodstart with their organisational Stretch RAP [Reconciliation Action Plan]. And then last year, I was given the opportunity to pilot a state-based cultural liaison role. Currently, I’m centre director two days a week and WA’s Cultural Liaison two days a week.

Corrine’s state-based cultural liaison role complements Goodstart’s existing National Cultural Liaison. This includes National Cultural Liaison Melody Ingra and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Liaison Cultural Liaison Peter Pilot-Wakaisu.

Corrine said: “I hope to see a cultural role within every state. I want to continue to support embedding cultural practices whilst being a culturally safe person for fellow First Nations employees, children and families across WA.”

As Cultural Liaison for WA, Corrine supports the network with cultural consultation. This can include developing RAPs, helping with cultural perspectives, and where to find things.

Prior to Goodstart, Corrine worked as a Centre Director at another service and has been in a CD position since the young age of 19. She’s been in the sector for 15 years, since graduating high school.

Corrine said: “I’ve had that passion since high school when I did placements in schools and early learning for my community service program. Early learning was better suited to me; I just loved supporting younger children. I had a lot of support throughout my schooling and early childhood, and that's what I wanted to provide for others.”

Goodstart Stretch RAPs support our people on their cultural journey

Djilawaa, trainee educator at Goodstart Stratton, working on some art with a child at the centreDjilawaa, trainee educator at Goodstart Stratton, working on some art with a child at the centre

In 2014, Goodstart was one of the first early learning providers to develop an Innovate RAP. In 2020 the plan was reinvigorated with the launch of a second, expanded RAP, and first Stretch RAP 2020 – 2023.

Goodstart’s 2024 – 2027 Stretch RAP has been conditionally endorsed by Reconciliation Australia. It will be launched later this year.

All 654 Goodstart centres across Australia have drafted or published their commitment to reconciliation in a centre-based RAP on the Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Education platform.

Each centre RAP documents actions to strengthen relationships, respect and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their community. 

Corrine said: “Goodstart Stratton has had its centre-based RAP in place since 2020. But we were always working towards that prior. Our local school is only just starting to develop its first RAP, and we’ve seen a small increase in other early learning services in the area publish their RAP recently which is great to see.”

“I feel Goodstart is leading the way in the early learning space. I’ve never had a RAP anywhere else that I worked. We did cultural things, but we didn't have it on the Narragunnawali platform.”

Culturally safe and inclusive spaces for First Nations educators in-centre

Corrine says: "Reconciliation is woven throughout the environment, our cultural calendar, our RAP, and business as usual, including everyday practice.""Reconciliation is woven throughout the environment, our cultural calendar, our RAP, and business as usual, including everyday practice."

Stratton is an outstanding example of an inclusive space for First Nations employees at Goodstart. Corrine has been mindful of this and is proud to employ five Aboriginal educators. She said: “I start with the visual, so having accessible artwork, story, books, and resources.

“Our Acknowledgement of Country in the Noongar language is displayed out the front of the centre. That is very important, to start there, visible from the outside. It conveys that we are culturally safe for First Nations people to come in. We’ve also had positive feedback on our reconciliation T-shirts and the use of our language in-centre.

“We use the Noongar language. You can spell it multiple different ways, and all are correct. Aboriginal culture was never intended to be a written language, so to translate it into English doesn't always make sense. If we have other language groups in-centre, we incorporate them.

Corrine added: “We don't have a segregated area for the cultural space. Reconciliation is woven throughout the environment, our cultural calendar, our RAP, and business as usual, including everyday practice.

“We also have good connections with the families. We're quite open and honest with them. So, word of mouth in the community has got us to where we are.

“When I started, we had small numbers of Aboriginal children and families in-centre and now we are the highest in the WA. We’ve got 34 First Nations children at our centre, which is huge. Some are siblings or cousins.”

Corrine sees her role and the roles of all early learning educators as vital for supporting families on their journey. She said: “We’re crucial for meeting families and children where they're at and providing additional support and education to get them to the next step.

“That's what I see makes a real difference. Working alongside children and families is huge for us, rather than trying to overstep that. We want to get them to where they need to be and have the best start in life.”

Corrine added: “Goodstart is very supportive of the RAP journey. We've got opportunities for First Nations employees and there is that huge connection piece. There's a drive and a future forward.”

Corrine on the impact of the Goodstart’s First Nations Voices Group

For more than three years, Goodstart has had a First Nations Voices Group. This comprises First Nations Goodstarters across the organisation. These reps work across various roles in centres and across centre support teams. A First Nations Leaders Group is also established to guide and shape our national reconciliation journey.

Corrine said: “The Voices Group comes together monthly. We discuss Goodstart’s cultural initiatives and give a voice from a First Nation’s perspective. As reps, we help form different initiatives and ensure they are culturally appropriate. We’d help voices from across the diverse nation be heard.

“All that essentially led to this State Cultural Liaison role. And because I’ve found my passion in my cultural journey, and we’ve just gone from there.”

“Without the Voices Group, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be where I am now.”

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