Although it is slightly brisk at this time of year I always enjoy travelling to Wiradjuri country. Last week Mum and I spent a few days in Orange to mentor and engage in workshops with educators from Orange City Council.
We began our venture with a visit to the local Aboriginal Bush Babies Play Group where we spent some time engaging with the families and amazing playgroup facilitators Lindsey and Tracey. The educators had taken such care to ensure the play environment was culturally safe and welcoming for the families.
After yarning with a few families I had managed to glean an aura of uneasiness when I broached the subject about sending their children to preschool the year before they started formal schooling. I later raised it with the educators and they confirmed that they had also had this suspicion. However, they had been proactive in how they would address this obstacle and had begun to develop a program in collaboration with other Orange Councils Early Learning Services.
Lindsey and Tracey had identified two early learning centres, Courallie Child Development Centre and Yarrawong Children's Centre that they both felt had exceptional programs. The facilitators have begun organising visits with families from playgroup to the services and will begin inviting educators from the centres to build relationships with families whilst at playgroup. I loved the innovative ways in which this group of early childhood educators have rallied together to help families feel safe and secure.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families have a mistrust towards mainstream institutions such as schools. This mistrust can be a result of intergenerational trauma. It is imperative for educators to build relationships with other stakeholders in their community to create holistic care for children and families and address barriers that some may experiences to access early learning services.
Heather Brady is the director of Yarrawong Children's Centre one of the amazing early learning services involved in this program. I highly recommend reading her chapter in The Aboriginal Early Childhood Practice Guide to learn more about her educators have developing strong, respectful and sustainable relationships with their local Aboriginal community.