The Reconciliation Symposium began with a powerful call to action from Karen Mundine (Reconciliation Australia), Carol Innes (Reconciliation WA) and James Back (Reconciliation WA). In order to engage in meaningful action, they reminded us that we must first understand that Australia is not a reconciled nation. We all have a role to play in transforming our nation and leaving a more positive legacy for future generations. Karen talked to the five dimensions of reconciliation: unity, race relations, equality and equity, historical acceptance and institutional integrity. She also gave us a sneak peak at the advertising for National Reconciliation Week 2018, with the theme Don’t Keep History A Mystery: Learn. Share. Grow.
The panel discussion that followed explored the lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identities. Aunty Denise Proud talked about her early life on the Cherbourg mission and paid tribute to her mother who gave her pride in her culture, despite the racist policies of the time. Cecilia Wright provided us with some insights into life in the Torres Strait Islands—such a multicultural community with common values around the importance of family, religion and food. Mikayla King had us all in tears as she shared some of her journey to discover her Aboriginal heritage and connections to both land and family. Jonathan Ford rounded out the panel with insights on growing up as an Aboriginal teenager and young person among preconceptions, expectations and peer pressure, and the implications of this for raising Aboriginal children, particularly boys.
Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker from Curtin University then delivered a terrific keynote on developing a positive cultural identity among Aboriginal children, including the importance of taking a strengths-based approach to focus on the positive. Isabelle Adams from Telethon Kids followed with a keynote on Aboriginal pedagogy, encouraging all of us to explore different approaches to teaching and learning. Isabelle referred to the 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning pedagogical framework—for more information on this framework click here or visit Kidsmatter Early Childhood.
Day 1 of the 2018 ECA Reconciliation Symposium came to a close with music from Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse followed by a panel discussion on promoting cultural inclusion in early learning settings and schools. An overriding message from panellists Cecelia Wright, Gina Williams, Rhonda Livingstone and Roseanne Paine, encouraged educators to start by incorporating cultural elements (music, art, images, language) into learning settings and building connections to local Aboriginal organisations. While tokenism isn’t ideal, it might be the only place to start, and then practice can strengthen as understanding becomes deeper over time. So rather than not starting to avoid making mistakes, instead, go ahead and make a start.
The second day of the symposium began with a presentation from Esma Livermore and Stephanie Woerde from the Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning team, who explained how the platform can help schools and services to build a Reconciliation Action Plan. This was brought to life by a panel discussion led by Alex Shain, featuring service leaders from Explore & Develop Penrith South (NSW) (Narragunnawali Awards 2017 winner), Balnarring Preschool (Victoria) and Uranquinty Preschool (NSW) (finalists in the Narragunnawali Awards 2017)—you can read about their inspiring stories here.
A powerful presentation on finding a third space to teach articulated how early education in the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands (SA/NT/WA) is delivered under the guidance of the Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara Education Committee (PYEC) and SA Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) with Kerryn Jones, Katrina Tjitayi, Makinti Minutjukur and Penny Cook. Hearing Pitjantjatjara language spoken was a particular highlight for many of us.
Then we heard from Geraldine Atkinson, Roni Forrest, Kym Benson and myself on strategies to support Aboriginal educators and Indigenous leadership, including the need to start with our own identity and journey. One of the key messages was the importance of valuing and respecting cultural knowledge, to be willing to engage in shared decision making, and understanding that this may require community engagement and consultation.
A very honest and raw keynote was delivered by Joanne Della Bona from Coolabaroo Services, followed by a fabulous performance from the Moorditj Mob of Wesley College celebrating traditional dance and music.
Thank you to the sponsors, keynote speakers, panellists and performers who helped to make the 2018 ECA Reconciliation Symposium one of our best events to date. In particular, thanks to the members of the Reconciliation WA sub-committee and ECA’s National Reconciliation Advisory Group for their contribution to planning the event, and to our two lead facilitators, Jo Goodwin and Catharine Hydon. Thanks to the table facilitators for helping all participants to engage in the discussion, and most importantly, thank you to all participants for coming together.
Early Childhood Australia CEO
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