About Educator Yarns

Educator Yarns is a collection of relatable stories from the heart of our profession. This sharing aims to build educators cultural confidence and capability, equipping one to approach the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives with vigour and bravery.

There is no book or magic wand that will ever eliminate the possibility of getting it or doing it wrong. However, the journeys revealed throughout these chapters yarn about the processes and dispositions required to embark on this venture respectfully, meaningfully and with integrity.

Educator Yarns shares the experiences of many educators brought together by author and Director of the Koori Curriculum, Jessica Staines. Reflections by Jessica can be found weaved throughout the pages provoking educators to think, feel and delve deeper.

Jessica Staines

Director, Koori Curriculum

Jessica Staines is an early childhood educator, professional speaker, author, advocate and advisor. As the founder and director of Koori Curriculum, Jessica is committed to helping educators embed Aboriginal perspectives into early childhood education.

She has played many significant roles nationally and internationally in building cultural understanding, reconciliation and harmony, including as an Indigenous advisor to ABC’s Playschool.

Jessica’s family are originally from Wiradjuri country, but due to displacement have lived off-country on Gadigal and Wangal lands for four generations. Jessica is proud to be a Wiradjuri woman, and today lives on Darkinjung Country with her husband and two children.

Connect with Jess:

Podcast: Educator Yarns Podcast Season 1 & Season 2

Koori Curriculum: Facebook

Koori Curriculum: Instagram

Jessica Staines: YouTube

Koori Curriculum Educator Community

Contributing Educators

Alicia Hansen

Alicia Hansen has worked in early childhood education in Victoria for almost twenty years. Having started out as an assistant, she managed a long day care centre with 105 children for ten years. From there, she attended night school and found her inner cultural self. Alicia is a proud Aboriginal woman from the descent line of the Minang People from the Wagyl Kaip Nation in Western Australia. Finding this missing link gave her the confidence to move into the role of Aboriginal Best Start facilitator for the Dandenong community, where she became an advocate for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Alicia now uses her professional practice to support cultural awareness across East Victoria. She is the Indigenous Preschool Advancement Strategy Facilitator for the Grampians region (under Eureka Community Kindergarten Association).

Alix Hill

Alix Hill has worked in early childhood education and long day care settings in Sunbury, Victoria (Wurundjeri Land) for the last six years. She has held roles as both room leader and assistant director.

Alix is passionate about strengthening the emotional well-being of children and respecting the rights of every child in her care. She is also the co-founder of The Educators Village, an online space for educators to support other educators.

At home she is a solo mother to a hilarious nine-year-old, a risk-taking three-year-old and a snuggly ginger rescue cat. Alix and her family love camping, spending time at the beach and breaking into dance at the strangest times.

Amanda Lonergan

Amanda Lonergan is the Voice of the Aboriginal Family Project Worker at

Communities at Children Bendigo & Noah’s Ark Inc. She was born in Whyalla, South Australia, Barngarla Country, , an important site for a subdivision of the Barngala Aboriginal Group – the semi-nomadic Malkaripangala people.

She is of English and Scottish descent and has only recently started to learn about the land on which she was raised, having had little education about the traditional owners of the land throughout her schooling on Barngala Country.

Anne Marie Parkinson

Anne Marie Parkinson has been a kindergarten teacher for twenty-five years and is the nominated supervisor and educational leader at an inner-city suburban sessional kindergarten in Cairnlea, Melbourne. She has experience in remote, rural, suburban and inner-city kindergartens and has worked at the Education Faculty at the University of Melbourne as a practicum supervisor, and more recently has changed focus to pre-service mentoring.

She has been involved in speaking forums where she has presented at DET, Early Years Management professional development days and local council School Readiness parent sessions, and she was a panelist for a state-wide forum on School Readiness Funding (SRF) that involved local, regional and state government representatives.

Anne Marie is interested in literacy, creativity, the natural environment, encouraging critical thinking, and creating culturally inclusive programs in early childhood settings.

She lives in Melbourne with her husband, two children and wonder cat Pele.

Benny Thatcher

Benny Thatcher is a senior educator at Kelly’s Place Children’s Centre. He has worked in early childhood education for over twenty-two years in a range of services and programs. He holds a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care and a Bachelor of Music, and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at Macquarie University. He is passionate about embedding the creative arts within the early childhood curriculum. He writes and records children’s music under the name Benny Time and is a regular contributor on Kinderling Kids radio. In 2019 Kelly’s Place Children’s Centre was the recipient of the Anti-Bias Award and a finalist in the Narragunnawali Awards.

Casey Goodman

Casey Goodman is the Aboriginal Program Leader at Moreland Community Child Care Centres (MCCCC) in Brunswick, Melbourne. As an educator in the three-year-old kinder group, Casey embeds Aboriginal pedagogy in her everyday program, and supports and mentors the education team in learning and critically reflecting on Aboriginal pedagogies. Casey chairs the MCCCC’s Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group, working with educators and family members to achieve reconciliation in all levels of the service. She recently established and convenes the Moreland Reconciliation Network Group and has gained support from the local Council for Educational Leaders and Centre Managers, allowing members to engage with reconciliation in their respective services. Casey also recently joined the ECA Victorian Branch Reconciliation Working Group and was a speaker at the ECA Reconciliation Connect 2020 event.

Cassie Davis

Cassie Davis has been a teacher at Penrose Kindergarten, Wyndham City since 2015. She has long been passionate about educating young children and began a traineeship in long day care when she was sixteen. She has never looked back. Having worked in long day care for eleven years, she completed a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education degree in 2014. Cassie continues to develop her knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures and perspectives, including understanding local views within the Kulin Nations, where her kindergarten service is located. She has developed a passion and appreciation for Reconciliation and enjoys sharing her insights and learning journey with her husband, Luke, and their son, Eli.

Cath Gillespie

Cath Gillespie has been a teacher and educator for over twenty years. She lives and plays in the coastal town of Evans Head-Bandjalang land, in the Northern Rivers of NSW, where she is an early childhood teacher and Educational Leader at Evans Head Preschool, a community-based service for over forty-five years. The philosophy of the service strives to create and embed an ecological identity, inspiring children to care for land and Country.

The preschool’s knowledge and learning come from close consultation with the Elders, rangers and custodians of the land.

Redesigning the preschool’s outdoor learning space to incorporate plants endemic to the area was the impetus for Cath to use natural resources to investigate STEM by redefining how bush foods are used in the early childhood space.

Cathy Hope

Cathy Hope is a primary school teacher with over fifty years’ experience. She has mentored and run professional development training for other teachers in Victoria throughout her career. Her worldwide research of children’s traditional play has made a significant contribution to the study of play.

In 1988–1989 she was seconded to be State Education Officer for the Victoria Children’s Museum exhibition on children’s play, called You’re It! Her outreach program took the exhibition to 4,256 pupils in seventeen rural and urban schools. In September 2004 Cathy was invited by Alice Springs School of the Air to give one of their first interactive lessons using satellite technology. Her session on play reached a remote area covering one sixth of Australia.

In 2017 she spoke at the International Play Association Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Cathy has written more than thirty books and articles that are in use in schools across Australia.

Cecelia Wright

Cecelia Wright is a leading multicultural trainer, communicator, and champion for Torres Strait Islander education and inclusion in the early years. She is also the founder of Cultural Inclusions, which provides authentic and unique Torres Strait Islander resources, professional learning opportunities and educational workshops for early childhood education and care sector professionals. Originally from Waiben or Thursday Island in the Torres Strait Islands,

Cecelia has dedicated her more than twenty-year career to supporting inclusion and embedding cultural practices in the early childhood sector. She has worked in a range of early childhood services and schools across Australia, including Registered Training Organisations and the Indigenous Professional Support Unit, supporting early childhood services in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) and throughout the Torres Strait Islands.

The organisation not only supports the people of the Islands but also sustains the culture and shares it with others.

Courtney Glazebrook

Courtney Glazebrook is the director of Towri MACS, a Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service in NSW, where she facilitates a variety of programs that focus on a highly integrated, holistic model of care and education for Indigenous children.

She has travelled throughout the Northern Territory undertaking research to inform government policies surrounding issues related to ‘closing the gap’ in early childhood. Most recently she has worked in partnership with Charles Sturt University to implement a research study site at Towri, gathering data on STEM learning across different cultural contexts.

Courtney has a wealth of experience in engaging with Aboriginal families and communities and building inclusive and culturally appropriate learning environments for children in the early years.

She was a finalist for the 2018 HESTA award for building inclusion, and was named Young Business Professional of the Year for 2018 for her work in recognising and advancing the self-determination rights of First Nation peoples.

Donna Morley

Donna Morley has been an early childhood educator for forty years and has had roles as teacher, director, academic, TAFE teacher, practice supervisor, mentor, Reconciliation Action Plan champion, and educational leader. In 2010 she returned to working in childcare centres as a teaching director, leading a team of educators, through practitioner research and transformative change, to achieve the ACECQA Excellent Rating in 2018. She is currently working in professional development and teacher education.

Donna completed a Graduate certificate of Sustainable Indigenous Partnerships and a Master of Education degree while working full-time as a centre director. A passionate advocate for children as active participants and learners from birth, she aims to ignite the curiosity of learners of all ages. Her belief in the importance of childhood in its own right guides her interest in inclusive, holistic play-based learning, which extends to nature play, baby and toddler pedagogy, empowering children and challenging children to problem solve.

Eliza Lee

Eliza Lee is an early childhood teacher with additional qualifications in training and assessment.

She has twenty years’ experiences working in various early childhood settings in urban, regional and remote areas.

She has a passion for inclusive early learning, especially enriching young minds through play and mindful experiences.

Georgia Laddin

Georgia Laddin is a primary school teacher. Originally from Manchester in the UK, she spent her late teens and twenties living in Holland and travelling around Europe. In 2001 she moved to Thailand, completed a TEFL course and taught English to children and adults.

She moved to Australia in 2005, where she worked as a preschool teacher and SLSO while studying for her Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) degree, which she completed in 2014.

Her first teaching position was at a rural primary school of only forty students in an area rich in farming, where she taught all school years K‑6. Georgia currently works in a remote school in Northern NSW as an intervention teacher for literacy and numeracy.

Janelle Gallagher

Gallagher is an early childhood professional with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. For more than forty years she has advocated for the rights of all children and their families to access a high-quality early childhood education. She was director of the Kurri Kurri & District Preschool for thirty-eight years. Working in collaboration with the local community, she identified and removed barriers to attending preschool, thus ensuring every child’s right to an early education.

Her ‘nothing is impossible’ attitude has developed a culture of ‘getting the job done’.

She has published several articles in international early years education journals.

She is currently in retirement and busy spoiling her granddaughter.

Jordyn Pol

Jordyn is a primary teacher and proud Aboriginal woman from New South Wales.

She is the creator of the Instagram account @learning_to_Ngangaanha, where she shares educational resources to support teachers in their inclusion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and perspectives in educational settings.

Julia Timpson

Julia Timpson is a senior early childhood teacher and educational leader at Kelly’s Place Children’s Centre. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education (0–12 years) and is currently studying for a Master’s in Education.

She is passionate about embedding anti-bias perspectives, literacy and researcher skills within the early childhood curriculum and pedagogical practices to support a community of learners who work in partnership to be empowered and informed citizens of the world.

Kelly’s Place Children’s Centre was awarded the Anti-Bias Award in 2019 and the Sprouts Practice Award in 2018.

Karlie Wahanui

Karlie Wahanui has worked for Alexander Heights and Craigie Early Learning Centres for the past nine years. In the past five years she has been a pedagogista, with a specific focus on reconciliation and community projects.

With an immense passion for reconciliation and a fascination and love for First Nations histories and culture, she feels blessed to spend her days learning from amazing community members and focusing on embedding Aboriginal perspectives within the preschool environment and curriculum.

She believes that the RAP and subsequent curriculum have forever changed the identity and culture of the centres where she works. She and her fellow educators have grown into a community that is connected to Country and proud to share what they learn with the children, families and local community.

Kelly Pulver

Kelly Pulver is a passionate special education teacher who takes pride in holistically embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories across all curriculum areas.

She has been nominated for ACT Public Services Awards in both fields, and in 2018 received the ACT Public Education Award for Leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education.

She is a lifetime learner and considers herself blessed to be able to connect with this country’s little people and assist them in having a voice and love for their country.

Kristine Willems

Kristine Willems has been working with children for the past thirty-two years in a variety of settings in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria, ranging from long day care to nannying and sessional kindergarten.

She works in sessional kinder for Wyndham City Council, but in January 2020 she left her family behind to move to NT to live and teach for a year in a remote community.

Kristine is a diploma-trained educator, and is nearing completion of her Bachelor of Early Childhood Education degree. She is mum to four children ranging in age from twenty-eight to sixteen.

She is passionate about giving all children belief in their worth, creating good memories and letting them know that, no matter what, they are important, they belong and they will always have someone who believes in them.

Linda Price

Linda Price has been an early childhood teacher at Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre in rural Victoria since 2015. She uses enquiry-based learning to instil a love of learning in young children and uses holistic play-based approaches to learning tailored to individual children’s interests and developmental needs.

In 2017 she developed a bush kinder program in response to the challenging behaviour of children in our centre. She is aware of the mental health benefits of being in nature, so the program specifically targets children’s mental health. The program has led to strong connections to Country and increased feelings of belonging across the community.

Learning more about the Taungurung and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations changed everyday practices in the centre and empowered the children to drive reconciliation through passing on learning to their families. In 2019, bush kinder program was a HESTA award finalist in recognition of its exemplary practice.

Marnie Omeragic

Marnie Omeragic is a passionate early childhood teacher and director at Concord West Rhodes Preschool, a not-for-profit community-based preschool which has educated generations of children in the Concord area.

She has worked in this community-based service for twenty-nine years, developing strong relationships and connections with the local community, advocating for high-quality play-based learning, inclusive practices, embedded environmental and sustainable approaches and connecting children to place, particularly the riverside parkland alongside the preschool.

She is committed to supporting children to become active and important members of their community, encouraging them in activism, advocacy and custodianship through a sense of belonging.

Mica Corscadden

Mica Corscadden is the co-founder of Harrietville Bush Kindergarten. She has been an early childhood educator for over twelve years, during which time she has also completed a Certificate 3 and Diploma and is nearing completion of a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She lives in the gorgeous Alpine town of Harrietville.

Mica is passionate about embedding nature pedagogy and Aboriginal perspectives into the everyday learning program delivered at Harrietville Bush Kindergarten. With co-founder and co-worker Dianne, she delivers learning through play and in the outdoor Bush classroom setting for ten hours a week, and for five hours at Base.

Working collaboratively with Local Indigenous Studies teacher Rebecca Crawley and Dhudhuroa descendant Jida Gulpilil, Mica and Dianne strive to embed Aboriginal perspectives across the curriculum and to empower children on their learning journeys.

Narelle Avis

Narelle Avis has been the director of the Cooma North Preschool for fourteen years and has worked in the early childhood sector for over twenty years. She is a passionate early childhood teacher with a strong interest in inclusive practice and advocacy for children.

Narelle is an active member of the local Early Childhood Network. She is the Educational Leader of the service and enjoys mentoring and supporting other teachers and educators. She believes that relationships with families and children are central to children’s learning and development. Her deep respect for Aboriginal history and culture continues through self-learning and research.

Narelle’s article on her preschool’s reconciliation journey has been published on the Kidsmatter Early Childhood website. In 2014 she received a Member for Monaro Excellence in Education Award from the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, in recognition of her work in early childhood.

Narelle Debenham

Narelle Debenham from ‘Natured Kids’ is a passionate outdoor environmental educator, encouraging connection with, contribution to and long term custodial care for nature. Narelle believes It is critical we facilitate regular opportunities for our young people to participate in culturally inclusive, intergenerational experiences, empowering them to contribute to their communities in meaningful, conscious and purposeful ways.

Narelle feels privileged to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and perspectives when inspiring others to care for land and Country, in her various roles as teacher, researcher, trainer of professionals, presenter at local, national and international conferences, volunteer and provider of outdoor weekly ‘Natured Kids’ environmental experiences for families and their children.

Narelle welcomes opportunities to deepen relationships with local custodians. She was humbled by a pilgrimage to Uluru, connecting with and learning from Aboriginal communities and is in awe of their sensitive care of living things and implementation of sustainable practices to maintain environmental balance for millennia.

Narelle was a recent recipient of the Dame Phyllis Frost award for her work educating young people in our natural environment, teaching them to value traditional ecological knowledge and Indigenous wisdom and to care for our country: the land, fresh water, and the sea within Port Phillip Bay.

Nicky Hellberg-Smith

Nicky Hellberg-Smith has been a passionate interpreter of language for over twenty years and is now an early childhood educator in Aboriginal education.

For the past fifteen years she has championed the ‘Two Way’ educational philosophy, embedding the principles and practices in early childhood education settings in regional and remote Aboriginal communities across Western Australia.

The cultural knowledge she has gained in these settings has often been quite organic in comparison to what she learned while in formal education settings studying for teaching and linguistics degrees.

Valuing both pedagogies equally has been an inspiring learning journey in her ‘Two Way’ odyssey.

Paige Smith

Paige Smith is a passionate early childhood educator in Mount Hutton, NSW. She has worked in early childhood education for thirteen years across multiple states. She advocates for children and strives to improve outcomes for children, families and her community. She supports and mentors educators to reflect on current practices, challenge preconceived understandings and ideas, improve practice and provide an open forum where all voices are heard and valued. She has worked alongside many passionate, dedicated and exceptional educators who foster rich connections, promote inclusion and build cultural confidence, empower children and families and embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives throughout the service. She cites her colleague Marion Taylor as integral to leading her service’s journey of cultural competency and awareness and breaking down barriers to inclusion. Marion’s learning environments are respectful, meaningful, and reflective and always bring thought-provoking reflection on ways to heighten practice and understanding.

Rebecca Burch

Rebecca Burch has over twenty-five years’ experience in early childhood settings in community-based rural areas. She has been the lead educator at Nature Explorers since its inception in 2016. This child-led outdoor curriculum is aligned to the Forest School movement and delivered by Pottsville Preschool. Rebecca also works at Nature Play Qld, where she supports educators to embrace nature pedagogy and implement nature-based learning environments in diverse program settings across Queensland.

She is a passionate advocate for nature play and its immense benefits to support holistic development and well-being. She is an educator who loves inspiring children, families and educators to play and learn in nature. Rebecca values the process of connecting with land and water and all living things to learn about the world as a co-learner and collaborator with children.

Rhi Sugars

Rhi Sugars is a passionate disability advocate and someone who identifies as having a disability.

She has been an early childhood educator for fifteen years, spending much of that time working with children with disabilities and those who have experienced childhood trauma.

Since the birth of her son, a proud Wiradjuri young person with multiple disabilities, Rhi has focused her advocacy work on promoting the importance of cultural identity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with disabilities and the benefits of including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in inclusive learning curricula and physical environments.

Sue Motley

Sue Motley has been an early childhood educator for over fifteen years, and also worked for many years in the health sector. She is currently the director/nominated supervisor and early childhood teacher at Armidale Community Preschool. As a teenager she lived in Indonesia, an experience that embedded an appreciation for the natural environment and for cultural diversity. Sue’s vision for an authentic child-led programme and inclusive practice in a nature play environment has been evolving since the completion of her Bachelor of Teaching (0–5 years) degree in 2012. Sue and her team have inspired many early childhood educators and primary teachers to incorporate nature play in their settings. In 2019 her experience at Baya Gawiy Early Childhood Unit at Fitzroy Crossing widened her understanding of Aboriginal culture, caring for Country and issues affecting remote communities. In 2017 Sue received the Australian College of Educational Leaders William Walker Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership.

Can't wait for the book?
Listen to the podcast