The role of early childhood education and care in the social and political life of our nation has never been more apparent. As the national conversation about changing the date of Australia Day accelerates—and, at least in some quarters, becomes a topic of lively and respectful debate—early childhood educators are participating and many are pausing for deep reflection. In the coming days, educators will ask themselves important questions about their curriculum decisions and their role in supporting children to understand what it means to be Australian and celebrate this identity.
For Early Childhood Australia (ECA), these questions have formed part of a reconciliation journey spanning many years. This year that journey gets consolidated with the launch of our second Reconciliation Action Plan. Just like our colleagues in the early childhood education community, we have sought to understand and acknowledge the story of the injustices faced by our First Peoples. With the support of our Reconciliation Advisory Group, we have challenged and confronted ourselves about the continued discrimination, and we are working together to construct a different and more equitable future.
Our commitment to this work is more than compliance and expectation, it emerges from a fundamental belief that valuing and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and identity enhances who we are as Australians, and that this must form part of how we educate our youngest citizens. The questions in this most recent debate strengthen our resolve and are matched with our belief that children, and those who work with them, have a right to participate in the evolving life and decisions of the Australian community.
With this understanding, ECA stands alongside Reconciliation Australia in their call to change the date of Australia Day, and agrees with Chief Executive Karen Mundine that ‘a relatively small task’ would ‘demonstrate a willingness to address past wrongs’ and move to a stronger, more respectful relationship in the future. Our work in partnership with many key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations confirms the need to listen closely with respect and act to change situations that cause further harm.
Cultural shifts are never easy, and we recognise that change is complex. But in this change, unlike many others, there is so much to gain and very little to lose, especially if we can find another more truly unifying way to celebrate our shared Australian identify. We call on our colleagues and the broader community of early childhood education and care, to join in this important national debate and—mindful of our professional and ethical commitment to act in the best interests of children—consider how we can best contribute to a more equitable future.