What does engagement with reconciliation look like in practice?

This section showcases snapshot examples of the reconciliation journey undertaken by a number of services across Australia. They are all unique, but share common embedded practice strategies that have enabled the children, families, educators and community members to work together in supporting reconciliation. The key strategies are highlighted to signpost the range and breadth of genuine and respectful actions, and as a way to help others take the first or next steps towards a reconciled, just and equitable future.

‘A major goal for professional development and staff engagement should be the improvement of staff’s cultural competence and understanding’

As the educational leader at Wiradjuri Preschool and Child Care Centre (located on Ngunnawal land at the University of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory), and as a proud Biripi man, I work tirelessly to support my colleagues in their understanding of the complexities of reconciliation—as both a process and as a focus for teaching.

Reconciliation has been a cornerstone of the curriculum and pedagogy at our centre for many years, even before I started working here in 2009. In fact, many of the reconciliation-focused practices that we now undertake on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis are things that have always been happening as part of Wiradjuri’s program.

In 2016, we endeavoured to improve on our practice in the reconciliation space. Wiradjuri developed a Reconciliation Action Plan through the Narragunnawali platform, and consolidated the work that we have been doing for years, including:

  • daily Acknowledgement of Country
  • smoking ceremony to mark dates of important
  • the display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags throughout the centre.

We also undertook several other Narragunnawali ‘required actions’ within the RAP framework. We were encouraged by the fact that, in formalising our commitment to reconciliation work, we could help families and our wider community understand our undertaking in this challenging area of education.

Our centre’s reconciliation working group allows us to mentor younger staff members as they get involved in measurable and achievable action, led by a senior staff member. Our working group includes everyone on staff, as we are predominantly staffed by students within the Bachelor of Education course at the university. The experience of being involved in a RAP working group provides them with both a teaching and learning opportunity, and serves as an example of how many other intra-school committees and working groups function.

When looking through the Narragunnawali survey, we found that many of the questions left us with the realisation that although we have been working towards improving our practice in the reconciliation space, our staff’s broader knowledge and understanding of reconciliation was, and is, an area that needs further development. Our service benefits from the knowledge, experience and commitment of its leadership team; however, through the RAP development process, it became clear that a major goal for our professional development and staff engagement should be the improvement of staff’s cultural competence and understanding.

When it came to the actions that we chose for our RAP, the Wiradjuri working group found that many, if not all, of the Narragunnawali ‘required actions’ were already being explored or undertaken in some manner at our centre. Predominantly, our RAP serves to reinforce our efforts in the reconciliation space and to provide us with some documentation of the work that we feel so passionately about.

As teachers and educators who are passionate about reconciliation, we also find the suite of resources that Narragunnawali continues to develop and expand, to be both culturally important and useful. These resources have served to form the basis of our early childhood teaching, and some of our initial explorations into improving our staff engagement and understanding of cultural competence.

Whether your journey is just beginning and you are looking for some guidance on those first tentative steps, or you are looking to consolidate the work that has, like ours, always been a part of your day-to-day working lives, I highly recommend the Narragunnawali platform and community. As a teacher/educator, educational leader and a member of the team that worked on the development of the Narragunnawali platform itself, I can attest that it is an excellent step forward towards meaningful and culturally responsive theory and practice for reconciliation in the early childhood space.

This article was taken from ECA’s Research in Practice Series—Acceptance, justice and equality: Exploring reconciliation in early childhood education and care. To purchase a subscription to the series, click here.


ECA RECOMMENDS 

Acceptance, justice and equality: Exploring reconciliation in early childhood education and care
By Catharine Hydon and Adam Duncan
This edition of the Research in Practice Series aims to support early years practitioners in exploring reconciliation with young children. Starting with insights into the history of reconciliation in Australia, the book provides ideas for reflection and action towards a reconciled Australia. To purchase your copy, click here.

 

 

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Adam Duncan

Adam.Duncan@canberra.edu.au'
Adam Duncan is a Biripi man, whose ancestors were traditional custodians of the Manning River region of north-eastern New South Wales. He was a part of the team that developed the Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning program to support early childhood educators in their exploration of reconciliation. Adam is an early childhood educator, storyteller, educational consultant and artist. He currently works as a teacher and educational leader at Wiradjuri Preschool and Child Care Centre at the University of Canberra (Australian Capital Territory). Adam is also part of ECA’s Reconciliation Advisory Group.

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