Jessica Staines, Director of the Koori Curriculum began her week at the Hays Reconciliation morning tea. Hays curated an excellent panel of speakers facilitated by Jason Timor co-director of the Aboriginal consultancy Two Point Co. Many of the attendees were gathered together to discover how to best begin their organisations reconciliation journey. Jason encouraged participants to first unpack their "why" before embarking on the journey.
Jason shared some of the statistics from the "Closing the Gap Report" which included:
- Aboriginal people being 5 x more likely to be unemployed
- Aboriginal people on average dying ten years younger
- Aboriginal people being 50% more likely to commit suicide
Furthermore, Jason shared with participants his "Why". Jason believes that Reconciliation Action Plans enable organisations to celebrate our countries first nation peoples whilst bringing about equality and equal opportunities.
It is important for educators to also unpack what their teams "why" is. Jessica has often said "It doesn't matter what you do as long as you know why it is important". If educators don't have that deep rooted intrinsic understanding of the importance of embedding Aboriginal perspectives in their program it is a frivolous task. What is your teams why? Do you and the rest of the educators in your team have the same shared understanding? If not how can you get everyone on the same page?
Kelly's Place in Crows Nest is an early learning service who has taken steps to ensure that the children, families and educators all have a shared understanding regarding the principles of The Aboriginal Early Childhood Practice Guide edited by Dr Red Ruby Scarlet and Jessica Staines. This week the Koori Curriculum visited the centre to support the team with an advocacy project they have been working on to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag on top of the harbour bridge.
The fifth principle of The Aboriginal Early Childhood Practice Guide is titled Working With Anti Bias Approaches. The Anti Bias Goals are at the core of this services program, the children at Kelly's Place are able to recognise unfairness and have developed skills and strategies to stand up and over come bias, prejudice and discrimination. Their recent cause has seen the children rally together in attempt to collect 10 000 signatures in support.
All teams have different starting points. This week the Koori Curriculum delivered their Embedding Aboriginal Perspectives into Early Childhood Curriculums workshop to the team at Mosman Early Learning Centre and to educators from services in the local community. This workshop is developed based on the fourth principle of The Aboriginal Early Childhood Practice Guide "Embedding Practice In and In-between". Including culture in a centres program is multifaceted and a balance between creating inclusive play spaces, embedding perspectives in children's emerging interests and using Aboriginal pedagogy to teach through culture rather than about it.
Often educators hold themselves under immense scrutiny and pressure to do everything correctly and of the highest quality straight away. Aboriginal programs is no different to any other element in a centres programming and planning. It takes time to build strategies and to reflect as a team to get things "right". However, there is no blanket approach. Its important to start slowly and where you feel comfortable. Often where educators feel most confident is with traditional aspects of culture such as the didgeridoo, dreaming stories and bush tucker. Often these elements of culture transpire into early learning services and are dismissed as tokenistic and stereotypical. This may or may not be true. The important thing is that you have unpacked your "why", you value the importance of embedding Aboriginal perspectives in your program and you continue to reflect and grow your practice.
There has been a catch phrase in early childhood for a long time, that is "educators becoming culturally competent". No one can say they are culturally competent. Culture is not fixed, it is fluid and it is shaped by many extrinsic factors. What educators should be aiming towards is to be culturally confident in the decisions that they make.
This week Jessica spent some time with a network of Aboriginal elders, professors, knowledge holders and community members at the Sydney Museum. It is important to continuously connect with community, to listen and reflect. Jessica was ecstatic to meet Professor Jakelin Troy who developed The Sydney Basin Aboriginal Languages dictionary. Jakelin spoke to the group about the protocols around the use of Indigenous languages both within Australia and with first nations peoples in other countries.
The Koori Curriculum educators have consistently spent time over the last five years visiting various museums and galleries with their yarning circles. They have found that these spaces are a hub of knowledge with willing staff only to keen to offer help and advise to educators wanting to learn more about Aboriginal culture and history.
This week Jessica and her Mum Debbie were lucky enough to have had enough time on their work trip to Brisbane to visit the local Culture Centre. In a whirl wind trip they visited Brisbane's gardens, museum and two galleries and were blown away at the amazing collection and exhibits depicting and celebrating Aboriginal culture. Jessica also felt that the collection of Aboriginal fiction and non-fiction books in the Brisbane Gallery shop was like nothing she had ever seen before. An incredible collection of texts and a great resource for local educators.
Whilst in Brisbane Jessica delivered the Koori Curriculums Aboriginal Art Workshop to local early learning and school teachers. The workshop was hosted at the beautiful C&K Oakleigh Pre-School where the team was made to feel incredibly welcomed.
This preschool is nestled in an amongst the bush and the children are blessed with an outdoor learning space where they can truly connect with country.
This is what participants had to say about the Koori Curriculum Workshops this week:
Vikki "What an inspirational session!"
Anna "Thanks Jess. It was an amazing session. Lots to think about"
Sue "Our team of five had some reflective chats all the way home"
Ally "Thank you so much for such an inspiring learning opportunity yesterday! Can't wait to start embedding perspectives as often as I can"