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Educator Yarns Season 2 Episode 5: Interview with Casey Goodman

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On today’s episode of Educator Yarns, Jessica speaks with Casey Goodman, from Wurundjeri Land in Brunswick Melbourne.

Casey discusses her journey as Aboriginal Program leader across several services where she has shared her own passions and ideas of how to respectfully and meaningfully embed Aboriginal perspectives. Casey generously shares some of the challenges and celebrations on bringing other staff on the same journey.

Drawing heavily upon her belief in community, Casey details how she began to engage with local groups, and organisations while taking her time to build strong relationships. She reflects on her own journey and the journey of others as she learnt to understand and respect the different paces of her colleagues, recognising the importance of  the collective community, whether it be with staff, children, families or the broader community.

Show Notes

Casey Goodman:

I think I just spent the first, maybe five or six meetings just absorbing as much information as I could. Led me to think about what my practises were like and how I could better those to support these children. Failing at things means that you're growing, that you're learning that you have to be open to not getting everything right all the time. It's just not going to happen.

Jessica Staines:

As a profession, I really maintain where you have to get better at giving feedback and receiving feedback.

Speaker 3:

You're listening to the Koori Curriculum Educator Yarns with Jessica Staines.

Jessica Staines:

I'd like to acknowledge the Darkinjung people, the traditional owners of the land on which I am recording this podcast. I pay my respects to their elders both past, present, and emerging and pay my respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners. Hi everyone. My name is Jessica Staines, director of the Koori Curriculum. For those of you that aren't familiar with our podcasts, season two is all about our new book, Educator Yarns. We're meeting and interviewing with our educator contributors from right around Australia, who will be sharing little snippets of their piece. It will be a combination of stories about why embedding Aboriginal perspectives is so important, how to connect with local community, how to embed Aboriginal perspectives in our programme, how to work with anti-biassed approaches and so much more. So make sure you listen in and enjoy the episode. Bye for now.

            In this episode of Educator Yarns, I'm meeting with Casey Goodman, the Aboriginal programme leader at Moreland Community Childcare Centres in Brunswick, Melbourne. Together we'll be talking about how to bring about cultural change and make the most out of networking groups in your local community. Thanks so much, Casey, for joining me on the podcast today. We've already sort of started chatting about what we could focus on in our session, because your piece that you wrote for Educator Yarns was pretty holistic about both your personal and professional journey that you've been on, but your base down in Moreland City Council Centre, can you just give me a bit of a brief context for our listeners of who you are and your workplace context just to kick us off?

Casey Goodman:

Yeah, no worries. My name's Casey, I am an educator in the three-year-old kinder room at Moreland Community Childcare Centres. I'm also the Aboriginal programmes leader there as well. We are an organisation made up of three services in the Brunswick area, which falls into the Moreland council area of Melbourne. We have two smaller services and one larger service. I'm based at the larger service, but I do my role as Aboriginal programmes leader across the three. I am responsible for our Reconciliation Action Plan and just making sure that the working groups making progress and overseeing that process as well as peer mentoring, my colleagues and my peers. So, making sure that, we're gradually building everyone's cultural capacity and confidence and embedding and respectfully including Aboriginal pedagogies and perspectives.

Jessica Staines:

What an awesome role. I think a lot of centres and organisations, they really struggle to think about... Often what happens is that an educator not dissimilar to your situation has sort of had a personal experience or a catalyst for change in their personal life, and this has influenced their professional practise, but then it becomes a challenge on how we get all the other educators on board with us. So that, we're all on that journey. So how many educators would you say work for Moreland?

Casey Goodman:

I think we've got roughly 50. Roughly 20 at our larger service and 15 or so across the other two.

Jessica Staines:

So that's a significant number of educators that have a spectrum of different experiences and beliefs and ideas around Aboriginal culture and history, and then how that transfers into their pedagogy and practise. How did this role get created for you and what are some of the provisions that you have? Like, do you get X amount of time each week to go and visit services? How does it work?

Casey Goodman:

The role came about... I showed a keen interest in this area, as you mentioned, stemming from personal experiences that I have had in my life. My family, I think five or so years ago became foster carers through the Victorian Aboriginal Childcare Agency here in Melbourne, and that compelled me to think about my role as an educator and the education and care I was able to provide for children and families who identify as being Aboriginal in our service. We currently don't have any, and haven't had since I've been working at the organisations, but just led me to think about what my practises were like and how I could better those to support these children. Even in our home, the engagement and interactions I was having, was I going to be able to provide interactions for these children that were culturally safe, supportive, and respectful, keeping in mind, these children have experienced some traumas as well.

            So with that, I then looked at, what is my role at work? In my role as an educator that was to provide a culturally safe and respectful learning environment for all children and in particular children who identify as being Aboriginal [inaudible 00:05:42] coming into our service. I expressed to our management team that I was keen to explore this and explore this on behalf of our organisation. I linked up and attended a ECA special interest group on reconciliation here in Melbourne. I think I just spent the first, maybe five or six meetings attending that just absorbing as much information as I could, connecting to local events that were going on, heading to the Koori Heritage Trust and checking out the exhibitions that were on there. Learning as much as I could, so in my role as an educator, I'm able to share that with children, the children in my service and the children in my care, but also sharing that with my peers.

            So using that information and these new insights to encourage the team I work with, to use that in our programmes and our curriculums to teach children. I think that was really where it started with helping my colleagues on a journey for themselves. And then, we moved it into looking at the reconciliation action plan that we have as well. Our reconciliation action plan actually started from me and two of my colleagues attending these special interest group meetings and saying, this is our next step. This is the next commitment that we need to make on behalf of the organisation to say that we are committed to this and this work.

            I think what happened was there was a realisation that a reconciliation action plan needs dedicated time and commitment from at least, if not more one person at the organisation to make sure that progress is always being made to check in on everything, checking on everyone, make sure everyone's on the right track, make sure we're heading down the right path and just keeping everything really accountable.

            That was really how it started. Just making sure that there was someone in a role at our organisation who was really heading this work.

Jessica Staines:

Yeah, I couldn't agree more Casey and at the Koori Curriculum we developed a little short course, which was on our top 30 tips and you've just mentioned a heap of them in what you just said. The first one of them was around networking and it is so important for educators to network with other educators outside of their organisations and immediate service to get ideas, not just in reference to Aboriginal programmes, but in all areas. Particularly, I feel like when I first started working in early childhood, I know that things have changed a lot now, but there are a lot of educators that, the centre that they began working in was the centre that they stayed at, and they've been working there for 20, 30 years, which is a great thing, but you're not also being exposed necessarily to all the different ways that things can happen and occur.

            Just seeing the possibilities, I think can be really inspiring. Some of those things you can pick up and transfer back to your service and other things you can't, but if nothing else it's relatable and assuring in some ways to find that other people have got the same challenges as you and these are things that are supporting them. Quite often it's really just directors and educational leaders that get the opportunity to go to those sorts of networking events or groups and for other educators to have that opportunity, I think is so beneficial as well.

Casey Goodman:

I'd have to agree. The opportunities for inspiring motivational discussions and robust discussions at networking groups is invaluable. You can share ideas that, like you said, may or may not work for you. You can adapt them to see if they'll work for you and it's just a trial and error. The other thing is also sharing things that haven't actually worked. You're not always going to succeed all the time and there are going to be challenges, but you will get some things wrong and that's okay, but sharing that with others, I think makes the journey feel more like as a learning. So, you're always learning, you're always adapting, you're always overcoming things and we can learn from each other. I think being open to that as educators not taking the role of the teacher, rather than the learner is really important.

Jessica Staines:

A Hundred percent. I think feedback is really important as well. As a profession, I really maintain where you have to get better at giving feedback and receiving feedback. If the feedback is given in a constructive way, then I welcome it. I know that for me, when I teach at TAFE, students have to do an evaluation and a critical reflection of play experiences that they set up when they're on their practicum and when they're on in play session, and quite often the students will sit there and they'll talk about all the things that went really well. However, I think that's almost redundant. It's about having the awareness of knowing what didn't work and reflecting on that and considering what we could do differently next time. I feel like some of my biggest learning curves have been through some of my worst experiences. It's those failures, not necessarily the successes that affirm what good quality pedagogy and practise should be, just like that.

Casey Goodman:

I would have to agree. I think failing at things means that you're growing, that you're learning and you have to be open to not getting everything right all the time. It's not going to happen. I think the more educators become comfortable with learning and getting things wrong, going two steps forward to go five steps forward, I mean, going two steps back to go five steps forward. I think the better off we'll be because you need to fail, reflect, say, what else do I need to know, where else do I need to be getting information from? What other things do I need to be researching? And then, how can I do this best and better for the following time I attempted this? Then using your networks to get feedback again. Networks should be safe spaces for people to share ideas, have robust critical thinking discussions. I think when we have these spaces, people become far more inclined to grow and develop both on their personal journey and their professional journey.

Jessica Staines:

So true. I know that you've done my workshops and when I do my workshops, I always talk about my gym analogies right. But since I did a workshop with your group, I think we did our art workshops didn't we? I joined the gym, so I've got a trainer that I go and see three times a week and he tells me that when I do my reps... So that's when, Oh God, I don't like explaining it. I didn't know what a rep was, Casey, I'm sure you do. But, when you do your reps of lifting, you do like 10 sets of lifting a certain weight or whatever. It's always the last three that I really struggle with and he said, when you struggle, that's when you're growing.

            I think that, that's the same with your Aboriginal programmes, is that we have to learn and accept that feeling of being uncomfortable and struggling. It's when we're uncomfortable and that we struggle that we're really learning and developing our pedagogy and practise. I think particularly with Aboriginal programmes, with some of the learning that we are doing and with developing our own cultural capacity, it is really uncomfortable. You have to be prepared that it is going to be uncomfortable and you just have to embrace that, because that is where the real change is coming through.

Casey Goodman:

I have to agree. I've had so many of my colleagues... I've shared articles and short clips and little things for them to engage with. Many of them come back and say, wow, that was really hard to watch or, wow, that was really hard to sit with. I often have to say that is totally normal and totally to be expected. These things are uncomfortable, but please don't sit with that uncomfortable alone, you can reach out to your colleagues and to myself and we can talk about it and we can use this to move forward together, that we're not learning alone, that everyone's learning.

Jessica Staines:

Absolutely. I know that your also the three-year-old teacher at your centre, and I was going to ask you, if you could share a couple of ways that you are embedding Aboriginal perspectives with that age group, because I really do feel that it's an underrepresented age group in terms of understanding the ways that we can include Aboriginal perspectives in a meaningful way.

Casey Goodman:

I think everyone looks at under three's and then kinders.

Jessica Staines:

Yeah.

Casey Goodman:

We've had a few projects, particularly this year, the group I've been with, I've been with them since they were six months old. So watching them grow and develop and implementing certain Aboriginal perspectives into the programme for them has been really great. Most recently, we've actually been doing a project on the, Our Home, Our Heartbeat book written by Adam Briggs.

Jessica Staines:

Such a good book.

Casey Goodman:

It's amazing. We started off just by looking at the pictures and reading it once or twice. We would look at it every day and focus on small things out of the book. The picture of Adam Goodes with his shirt up and he's pointing to his skin. Little things like that, we would just look at and analyse and discuss with them. We then moved to reading the story, then playing the song. The Children Came Back by Adam Briggs as well.

            They were making connections particularly around the notion of the heartbeat and what that means, what home means, why the children were coming back and they started asking questions. Questions like, where are the children coming from? Why they're coming back. We used the song and the book to explore the notion that children are able to come back to their families and the three-year-old group, I think they're really great at asking questions and listening to the answer. They won't respond to you straight away. They'll come back to you next time and say, I remember when you said this, and I think this is what you mean.

            So we unpacked the book. We unpacked the song. The children started making small connections between the song and the book. We got to watch Adam read his story via Zoom, which was amazing. They thought it was like a VIP experience but [inaudible 00:16:33] and then we moved on to talking about the artists and illustrators that did that book. Rachael Sarra is one of the artists and illustrators who did the book. We looked at her artworks, there's a page in the middle of the book and it doesn't have images, it just has words, and then Rachael's artwork behind it. When I asked them, if we were to pick your favourite page out of the whole book, that was the page they picked. And it was because it had the word heartbeat on it. I had one of the three-year-old old children say to me, the children were coming back to [inaudible 00:17:10] country.

            They were making connections between country, connections between children coming back to their home land, the heartbeat and that people are alive, people are well, and we decided to explore Rachael and her as an artist, her artwork and using the book as a provocation piece. So I know Jess, you talk about this a lot and using books as art provocations is really easy. It's a great way to explore artists, where they've come from. We looked at where Rachael grew up, where she lives, all those little things that are really important to understand and to acknowledge. Then we made our own art piece and it was incredible. It was a really amazing experience and we're still reading that book, I think every day.

Jessica Staines:

So cool. It's such a good book and she's an amazing artist and Briggs is one of my favourite singers and even Briggs to play his music, at a staff meeting. He has a song that he's done, which is around the 26th of January and so forth and I think he's really powerful and political in what he does. He's an amazing person to follow, not just for his music, but for his political views and his social justice work and so forth. And Rachael I... So this is like a side note to everything that you've just said, but anyone that knows me, knows that I love a good pair of earrings and Rachael Sarra has now, she's doing a collaboration with Concrete Jellyfish and making these deadly Aboriginal earrings. They sell out within five minutes of being...

Casey Goodman:

[inaudible 00:18:55] Five to seven minutes.

Jessica Staines:

Exactly. So I set my alarm, get it all in the car, so I'm so excited that it's coming any day now. These are people that are amazing. I think I had a conversation with another one of our contributors, Donna Morley, who I recorded a podcast episode with her yesterday. We talked about whether or not we should teach young children Aboriginal culture and history and she believes that we should, all the lumps and the bumps, that they have the right to know. We should answer their questions and be careful not to push our political agendas and ideas onto them, but they have the right to know about this country's history. I tend to agree with her. I think we have to be mindful in the ways that we do it and really think through our intentional teaching and consult with families and all of those things.

            So we don't just rush in there and talk about issues like the Stolen Generation without being really mindful of how that's happening and occurring. You know for yourself Casey, being with a family that's got Aboriginal children in foster care. One of the first things when you start talking to children about kids being removed and taken under the act, it's very different when you're saying that to non-indigenous children who are not in the system or anything like that, as opposed to Aboriginal children who are living that reality.

Casey Goodman:

We're not having a conversation with our three-year-olds. One of the children, they were asking the questions, where are the children coming back from? Where had the children been? We did start unpacking the fact that children were taken from their families. I remember the same child who the question got quite upset at just the thought that children were taken from their families. She wanted to know that her mum and dad were going to pick her up that night and I said, of course they are. But for some children, not that long ago, but before your time that these things happen, and this is real. Our parents were really supportive of us having these conversations and these discussions with their children. They really see the value in their children not having the same education that they got, because they weren't ever taught any of this at school. So now they're having to unlearn, relearn and research this for themselves now as adults. So they're really supportive and are appreciative of the discussions and conversations that happen in our classrooms, which is really nice.

Jessica Staines:

Yeah. I find it really hard, Casey, because when people say to me, should we teach preschoolers about the Stolen Generation? I get that question all the time about Aboriginal history. Should we be teaching children about history and so forth? When somebody asks me that on Facebook, my answer to them is no, because I have no control or knowledge about who they are, what they do, their community setting and their community context. So I would always stay on the side of caution and would say no. However, like I say with everything, it's not that black and white, it's not as simple as yes or no.

Casey Goodman:

There's not a one size fits all response is there?

Jessica Staines:

Absolutely. There's no blanket approach to doing this type of work. It is all relative to your context, to the skills of the educator, to the relationships with the families, the interest of the children and where they take it.

            So that book, Our Home, Our Heartbeat, there are many different avenues that could have been taken through sharing that provocation.

Casey Goodman:

Totally.

Jessica Staines:

But this is what the children pulled out from it. This is what they took from it and you're responding to their leading with these questions and so forth. I think that's very different to sharing a book like The Rabbit For Stolen Girl, where the narrative is very direct about the Stolen Generation and that is your agenda from the beginning of sharing a novel like that, that you're going to go down this path with children. I think there is a time and a place for doing that. I probably think that when you're teaching very directly about aspects of Aboriginal history that way. In primary school is the place to do that in a direct way. But the way that you've explained that it's come about as Donna did, I can see that, that would be a meaningful and age appropriate way for these conversations to be taking place.

            This is why I always tell people, it's not a cookie cutter approach, you can't pick up one thing like people listen to this podcast and go, we're going to get that book and we going to talk about children being taken from their families. It's not as simple as that because it's the process that you've undertaken. There are so many things that led up to that moment and it started back with building your educators cultural capacity and confidence to be able to navigate discussions like that in the first place. Would you agree?

Casey Goodman:

I totally agree and I think we've gotten to a point now where my colleagues, who I work with every day in our room with our three-year-olds, they don't rely on me to be having these conversations with the children. They don't rely on me to be leading. Just reading the story that they've built their own confidence. Partially in observing me do it, but also partially in our team, having really robust conversations about what we do want to teach, what some staff feel uncomfortable teaching.

            Many of my colleagues are at different stages of their personal journey or their professional journey on cultural capacity building or having the confidence. In my role as Aboriginal programmes leader, I've got to spend a lot of time acknowledging that not every one's where I'm at and many people are right at the start. Some people are beyond me or in the middle and that is totally okay. I've got to make sure I'm working to that with the conversations I'm having. Some people need lots of encouragement and a little bit of help here and there, but some people just need you to say, go for it. Please have a crack. All of the educators that I work with in the three-year-old room, they just need me to say, give it a crack, just have a go. It's really inspiring actually to watch your colleagues have these engagements and interactions with the children and the learning that comes from it.

Jessica Staines:

I think the other thing is that what's really key about your service is that there're multiple layers here. There's individual personal growth and then the growth of individual services within your cluster of three, then what that looks like has a cluster of three and then as an organisation. The organisation has given you the time and given you the opportunities to build your knowledge and they're investing that in their educators, which is, I think really important. To do this work, as you said, it does take time and at least takes one or a couple of people to have that time exclusively to focus on this and make sure that there's momentum in moving forward. I think a really key part here is registering for a Reconciliation Action Plan. People know that I'm a huge advocate of Narragunnawali and the work that Reconciliation Australia does.

            There are RAP's for organisations and individual services, or you can have a cluster RAP. There are many options, but what it does is it creates a roadmap and it pools everyone on the same page. It allows for accountability. Everyone knows what their job is. Instead of someone like you Casey, who could easily have all of these experiences as an individual, and you continue to grow and grow in your cultural capacity and understanding, but nobody else is on that train with you. Some educators are still sitting there in their classroom too scared to start and not knowing what to do. So how do we create this cultural change amongst the whole service? I think Reconciliation Action Plans are a really key part in doing that.

Casey Goodman:

It works as a constant reminder, it works as a constant reminder of the commitment that your organisation is taking. You've decided that you're working at this organisation, their philosophy, you believe in, you are wholeheartedly following. This organisation now has a Reconciliation Action Plan. There is no reason why educators at the organisation can't use that as inspiration. Narragunnawali has a host of resources that are just incredible, that I often just send out to our staff occasionally, and just say, you should read this, or have you seen this hand out?

            I find that having a Reconciliation Action Plan, and we often allocate time at staff meetings to talk about the Reconciliation Action Plan. We pick one action or a few deliverables and we check in and we give progress reports and things like that. I feel like staff ask questions and they want to know more and so they are almost unintentionally, continuously connected to the RAP because they ask questions, they want to know more, they'll send me an email if they work at one of our other services and say, I'm doing this. How does it link in? How does it relate? Could you help me?

            It's a great platform and I didn't know about it until I started attending the special interest group way back a few years ago. When I found out about Narragunnawali, I thought how did I not know about this? I have since then established a network group for reconciliation in my local council area for earlier services in the Moreland area to attend. There's, I think 15 service representatives who attend and none of them knew about Narragunnawali and about Reconciliation Action Plans or how to get started. That blew my mind. It also-

Jessica Staines:

This is the thing, is that this is what advocacy is, advocacy isn't necessarily protesting, that's one form of advocacy, but sharing your knowledge and educating others. That is the most powerful form of advocacy. I find this a lot, I always assume that everybody knows what I know, and you're just surprised Casey, all the time, people still don't know this stuff and that's okay. They haven't had that experience yet. So what you're doing is amazing. You are becoming the centre of that ripple effect, so good on you.

Casey Goodman:

I feel like there's no point me holding onto all these cool ideas and great resources because there's so many services that are just around the corner from me that don't know about it. If they know about it and then that gets shared to their families and the children in their service, then that's a whole community of people who are benefiting.

Jessica Staines:

That's right. We're stronger together. That's how we should see it. We're not competing against each other. We're all in this for the same reasons and that's to bring about social change in a more socially just world and more awareness and love for this country's First Nations people in our culture. I think you're doing an amazing job and thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today and for writing in our new Educator Yarns book. There's so much more... I know it sounds like we talk so much on these podcasts. It's like, well, we've read the book now but trust me, that's only a sneak peek between the pages. There's so much there that we can talk about really. So I really appreciate you taking the time Casey, thanks so much for joining me.

Casey Goodman:

Thanks for having me Jess, great to talk.

Jessica Staines:

I hope that you enjoyed this episode and had a great little sneak peek between the pages of our new book, Educator Yarns. If you'd like to ask questions or connect with me, best to join our Facebook group, The Koori Curriculum Educator Community, which is free for all of our listeners and members. Join us for our next episode, where we'll be yarning with educators from Kelly's Place about the anti-bias approach in early childhood.

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