Get to know your AOs: Lesley Kirkpatrick

Authorised Officer, Lesley Kirkpatrick, talks to us about cultural diversity and why it needs to be reflected and promoted in ECEC programs and practices.

Position and hub?

I am a Senior Field Officer in the Wiradjuri Hub and am based out of Wagga Wagga.

Why did you decide to become an AO?

Prior to becoming an authorised officer I worked in early childhood settings including preschool, long day care and family day care for over twenty-five years. Over these years I worked with service stakeholders and communities. As an authorised officer I am able to use my skills and knowledge of having worked in the early childhood sector to guide and support services to ensure best outcomes and safety of children.

How important is it that services make sure cultural diversity is reflected and promoted in their educational program and practice?

All children have a right to feel accepted and respected. We live in a multicultural society and the inclusion of cultural competency within the program and educator practices is important to support the development of each child’s sense of belonging, being and becoming.

What are the benefits for children's learning and development, and what are the benefits for services themselves?

An educational program promoting cultural diversity supports and fosters children to grow up with an appreciation and respect for the diversity of cultures, races and ethnicities. Educators develop further understanding, knowledge and respect for the families’ cultural practices, communication with families and broaden their cultural interactions with the wider community.

Could you give us any examples of services drawing on the expertise of their families and community to promote inclusion and awareness of cultural diversity?

On an assessment and rating visit earlier this year a parent and extended family member with Indian heritage were sharing their traditional dress and food with the educators and children indoors, whilst an Aboriginal artist in residence was on the verandah with children and educators making gunyahs which is an Aboriginal bush hut made with bark and sticks.

The Aboriginal artist in residence who is a Wiradjuri woman was talking to the children about her great grandmother’s family story (drawing) which was displayed on the smartboard. Her family had lived in a mission in western NSW and to stay together they moved up and down the Lachlan River making gunyah’s and setting rabbit traps to catch rabbits for their dinner.

From what you've experienced, what are some of the best programs that services have fostered to develop children's understanding and respect for diverse cultures, languages, and identities?

The best programs I’ve seen developed occur when:

  • educators acknowledge where each child comes from
  • educators, children and families celebrate cultural events
  • parents and extended family members are invited to share song, story, language, music, food, traditional dance and dress
  • members of the cultural community share their heritage
  • children and families can access multicultural and multilingual resources.
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