Reconciliation in Early Childhood
When we view children, we look at their development as physical and emotional, but children also develop morally and ethically as they get older. By the time children are 5 years old they have already developed a strong sense of what is fair and an understanding of how things might make other people feel. This means Reconciliation in early childhood education is not just important, but necessary.
Reconciliation is a framework in which we can support children to learn about building strong relationships with First Nations peoples that are free of racism, telling the truth about our history, learning about fairness and equity, and celebrating the unique culture of First Nations people.
Early Childhood is a great place to start these conversations, and build foundations of empathy, understanding, fairness, critical thinking and truth telling to support children to be open to learning about Australia’s past, and build reciprocal and transformative relationships with First Nations people.
Reconciliation in education is a necessary step towards a just, equitable and reconciled future, but it is also a step that is rewarding, interesting, and fun. It is where early childhood settings foster knowledge and pride in First Nations history, culture, and contributions. Its about learning alongside the children in your settings and committing to work that will be ongoing and lifelong.
So, with that in mind, what can reconciliation look like in an early childhood setting?
Reconciliation looks like a commitment to learning together with children and researching things you don’t know together.
It looks like respecting language and culture.
It looks like unlearning stereotypes, and teaching children to embrace and celebrate differences.
It looks like sharing stories through picture books and videos.
It looks like invitations to First Nations people to work together and share their culture with the children in your care.
If you are stuck, or don’t know what to do next, there are plenty of small steps you can take! For any early childhood setting that is at a loss to get started, the best place is developing a Reconciliation Action Plan. This plan can guide you in the best way to develop a safe and inclusive environment that demonstrates respect for First Nations people. Developing a Reconciliation Action Plan will give you a starting point, and is a visible way to show your community that you are committed to reconciliation action and change.
The Reconciliation Action Plan process details four stages to complete in the process:
Establishing a working group of passionate educators, families and community members that will engage in planning for reconciliation and implementing the actions
Creating a vision for reconciliation, that shares your commitment to reconciliation and what has motivated that commitment
Participation in a reconciliation reflection survey to help you understand who you are, and where you are starting from
And finally, commitment to reconciliation actions that will guide your early childhood community to implement new ideas and celebrate embedded actions.
You can achieve all of this by signing up to the Narragunnawali community. A reconciliation in education program that supports education settings to understand reconciliation in education and includes tools and resources to support your development of a Reconciliation Action Plan.
At Reconciliation SA, we strive to build relationships in our education community, and set you up for meaningful reconciliation action. We are the reconciliation council for South Australia, and we champion a safe and inclusive South Australian society free from racism through education, information, conversation, and advocacy.
Our work starts in early learning settings, and we view early childhood educators as an integral part of our reconciliation movement. In 2021, a large percentage of Australian society agreed that education settings foster improved attitudes towards reconciliation. Your work as educators for reconciliation is essential to move towards a reconciled Australia.
Words: Natalie Gentle
Natalie is an Education Project Officer at Reconciliation South Australia. If you are interested in learning more about reconciliation in education, Reconciliation SA are here to help. Please get in touch for support on reconciliation in education, and developing a Reconciliation Action Plan in your setting.
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Spring 2022