Reconciliation in Education
Education is such an importnat part of creating an inclusive, supportive and culturally diverse society who respects and embraces our oldest living cultures. We spoke to Nykita about the importance of reconciliation in early learning and her journey towards fostering repectful releationships for our future generations.
Tell us about yourself?
My Name is Nykita Gibbs I am a Gamilaraay woman from Kamilaroi country in New South Wales. I have worked in the early childhood sector for 15 years. I have worked at Goodstart Elizabeth Vale as the Director for just over 4 years now and hold a degree in Early Childhood. I am very passionate about reconciliation and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children.
Why is Reconciliation so important in Early Childhood Education and Care? What does it look like for you?
Reconciliation is about respectful relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Building positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander families and children providing a learning environment where their culture is respected and embedded in everyday practice.
Goodstart Early Learning Elizabeth Vale strives to inspire children and families to achieve greatness through teamwork, communication, educational programs, purposeful experiences and ongoing support. Our vision is to have a culturally safe environment where everyone feels welcome. We aim to ensure that all families, children and educators feel accepted and included. We have developed and continue to foster respectful relationships with our local Aboriginal community in order to provide children with a greater knowledge and understanding of Australia’s First Peoples.
At Goodstart Elizabeth Vale, we have created a community where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families feel welcomed and respected in an inclusive environment which celebrates and encourages all families to share their knowledge and experiences. This practice, which is collaborative, embodies the culture of our centre and enables families to be active partners with educators in their child’s learning journey.
Can you tell us about your reconciliation journey at Elizabeth Vale?
Supporting families and their culture empowers our educators as advocates and promotes reconciliation and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and our community. Children are central to everything we do; it is important to give children the opportunity to explore and learn about our First Nations People. It is also important that our families feel safe, secure and supported knowing they can be proud of their culture and respected in our community. The community has helped us get flags to fly in the centre and have provided us with important feedback which has helped us to progress on our reconciliation journey.
It is important for education services to be inclusive and teach reconciliation at a young age to create a better future for all Australians to ensure we stand strong together.
How have you engaged with your local community through Reconciliation? What are some of the benefits of this?
Since 2018, Goodstart Elizabeth Vale, in collaboration with our local Aboriginal health service, has offered an Indigenous playgroup to support local families.
The playgroup provides a range of developmentally suitable activities for children. Staff model appropriate interactions with children, support children’s development with the health workers and engage parents in discussions about parenting. The playgroup operates 49 weeks each year to support a routine of regular attendance at playgroup, children’s services and school. A number of playgroup families have subsequently enrolled children in early childhood services.
The real work begins at home, as the best thing for developing children is to have great relationships with their family members. This gives the child a sense of attachment and stability, whether we are talking about developing relationships with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or other carers. A major benefit of playgroup is that children come assisted by their parents or other carers. From an emotional point of view, this strengthens the relationship between the child and their carer, because it creates a shared experience. At the same time, the child meets new people at playgroup, which allows for a safe test of separation from their carer. This is an important trait for building confidence in children, encouraging them to be independent from an early age.
This playgroup is engaging families in our community. A focus of the playgroup is supporting children’s development and the families role as children’s first teachers, as well as encouraging a pattern of regular attendance. Building positive relationships between the families and staff at the playgroup will support the transition of children and families into early childhood services and school.
We have been lucky enough to have Elders come and support our playgroup and provide some painting and cooking experiences. Elders have also shared some wonderful artifacts and engaged with the children and families about culture.
What would you want to share with others that are starting the process of Reconciliation and writing a Reconciliation Action Plan?
At the start of our reconciliation journey, it was important for us to understand and be accepting of everyone’s varying knowledge and experience with reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Together we worked to create and change our practice and pedagogy which advocates for reconciliation and is underpinned by our educators’ skills and knowledge. By developing our team’s knowledge, we were able to move forward positively and create a vision in which our team is inspired to promote in all areas of their educational programs. From this, we were able to work through the Narragunnawali platform to create our RAP.
Words: Nykita Gibbs For more information on Reconciliation in Education, visit www.narragunnawali.org.au
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Spring 2022