Deborah Little is a lovely early learning centre on Gadigal Land in Sydney’s Inner West. Our values include embedding anti-bias curriculum as well as supporting our families’ inclusion. Of course, this is nothing new for those working in the early childhood profession, however we like to think that these values guide us individually as well as drive our team’s overall actions and pedagogy.
Connecting with Koori Curriculum
While staff and families were committed to reconciliation and wanted to include Aboriginal perspectives in our teaching, there was a hesitancy in implementing this. It seems that this is a common theme amongst early childhood professionals, so the service sought funding for training and mentoring.
This step was important, as budgets in the early years are often tight and may not allow for whole of staff training. However, with the consistent enrolment of a few Aboriginal families, this was made a priority and a grant was applied for and received. With the help of this grant, Koori Curriculum has provided ongoing training, mentoring sessions, pedagogy workshops and even a family workshop.
Involving all educators is key
We believe that offering training to all educators as a team helped ensure successful embedding of the learning. This is because all educators had the same opportunity to engage with the knowledge and experience of our amazing trainer, Jess Staines. Embedding Aboriginal perspectives into our curriculum became part of our everyday program.
This also gave all educators the opportunity to ask questions, gain knowledge and confidence to add elements of learning to all aspects of our program. For example, learning about the ‘8 ways pedagogy’ was a wonderful shared experience to help our team look at Aboriginal ways of knowing through a different lens rather than as a discrete area of learning; it became part of how we teach.
What changes are visible in your service through this journey?
Some of the simplest changes we made were to add Aboriginal soft furnishings - cushions, rugs and table cloths. We were also able to purchase a wide range of prints with Jess’ guidance, as a way to privilege real artists and compensate them fairly. Coasters, postcards and books are all wonderful ways to introduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art into early childhood settings. We worked hard to ensure our foyer was welcoming and indicated a culturally safe environment.
We have beautiful mosaics outside our service in red/black/yellow and green/blue/black/white. These subtle signs may help Aboriginal families in our area feel that they are welcome.
Our curriculum also includes an Aboriginal perspective across all areas. We have found that high-quality books are our best asset when it comes to embedding this learning! There are books to highlight important events such as Say Yes: A Story of Friendship about the 1967 referendum or Sorry Sorry to introduce themes of reconciliation and Sorry Day.
There are also an increasing amount of high quality picture books to support other areas of learning that are incidentally Aboriginal, helping to move our teaching from topic based to a deeper respect. Some examples would be In the Bush I See.. or Backyard Birds. Again, we have prioritised Aboriginal perspectives through careful purchasing and always asking if there is a supplier who is Aboriginal owned to support our learning while we pay the rent.
Deborah Little is committed to advancing reconciliation, so we are working with our networks to see where our advocacy can best be used. Our current plan is to encourage more Aboriginal families to enrol, while examining systemic barriers that may hinder these enrolments. We are also examining funding options to ensure our mentoring journey can continue.