Australia Day—it’s time to change

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. 

Early Childhood Australia’s 2019 article on this issue is available here, which argues for a change of heart as well as a change of date.

Catharine Hydon

Catharine Hydon is the Director and Principal Consultant at Hydon Consulting. Over the last 10 years Catharine worked with a range of organisations and governments to understand and articulate quality and inspire change. With a Masters in early childhood education, Catharine has extensive experience in the early childhood sector beginning as a teacher in a kindergarten program in the northern suburbs of Melbourne to lead roles in a range of services and projects.  Catharine draws on her experience and ongoing practice research to consider how theory connects and informs practice.  Specialising in early childhood practice and pedagogy, quality improvement, policy and governance, the delivery of integrated services to engage vulnerable children and their families.  Catharine’s involvement in the early childhood sector is an important part of her commitment to the outcomes for children.  She is a long-time member of Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and has just concluded her role as the Co-chair of the Reconciliation Advisory Group and is a regular contributor in ECA publications. Catharine has been a member of the ECA Code of Ethics working group for the last two reviews and is a co-author on the recently published Ethics in Action Implementation guide. Catharine is a dynamic speaker and collaborative facilitator and is skilled at engaging professionals in reflective dialogue and creative conversations.   

5 thoughts on “Australia Day—it’s time to change”

    Leal Beazley says:

    Thank you Cathatine. Such an important discussion to have. I agree with you that there is little to lose and much to gain.

    Jennifer Voogt says:

    I agree whole heartedly it is time to change. I want to find another way to celebrate our shared national identity. I think it’s vital that we discuss how to have a more equitable future for children and families. It is time to consider change.

    Norah Colvin says:

    I agree. Respectful discussions are what is needed.

    Yarrow Andrew says:

    Yes, we definitely should be supporting a change to the date. Then perhaps as a country we might work on some of the harder things (at least from our government’s perspective), like an Indigenous Voice to parliament, working to prevent Aboriginal and Islander children being removed from families etc.
    Thanks for your post, Catharine.

    Gabby Millgate says:

    Woden Valley Child Care Centre will be celebrating being Australian on May 8
    Australian M8 day

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