Creating a culturally safe and supportive environment allows children to thrive

Nikinpa Aboriginal Child & Family Centre, located on Awabakal country, is committed to providing a culturally safe environment and cultural activities that supports the children’s Aboriginal identity.

Responsive relationships are built among the children, educators and families through the inclusion programs delivered at the service, which provides long day care and preschool program.

A focus at Nikinpa is supporting the children to regularly learn and connect to their language and culture, making sure language is embedded throughout the children's day which builds each child’s engagement and confidence.

Awabakal woman Renee Lydiard is an Nikinpa educator and language teacher who speaks a number of Aboriginal languages - Awabakal, Gomeroi, Wiradjuri and Bunjalung – and is committed to educating the younger generation.

Renee is focused on ensuring Aboriginal languages are not lost but secured for the future.

“I didn’t have full language as a child, so through my work I make sure it is renewed – my passion and dream is to make sure children know and use Awabakal language.

“To come here and teach the children language, but also song, dance and learn about our culture, it’s really wonderful.

“The children are always wanting to learn more Awabakal words and the families love that their children have this opportunity,” she said.

Renee shared her plans to extend Awabakal language education to both the families and wider community in the future.

“There’s not enough people who are trained in language and there’s only a few people in our community who can speak Awabakal language fluently - But everyone is eager to learn and will get there together”.

“The Nikinpa educators are committed to picking it up and learning Awabakal, especially with the children being so confident in language already.”

Renee said teaching Aboriginal language and the cultural activities have been beneficial for the Aboriginal children at the service.

Nikinpa also has a strong partnership with Firstchance, a local organisation that works with Aboriginal preschools and playgroups, early years services and Aboriginal communities to deliver the Aboriginal Families as Teachers (AFaT) program to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens areas.

AFaT aims to improve children’s literacy development through family's playgroup participation and by providing regular home learning packs that include books, resources, and language flash cards, for families.

Worimi Elder and Firstchance Parents and Learning co-ordinator Michelle Perry, has been involved with the program, now AFaT funded, since 2005 having worked alongside educators to adapt and evolve the program.

“The best thing about the program is the interactions with the families - it’s all about building the parent’s confidence as they learn about their child’s development and understanding their abilities, taking on their role as their child’s first teacher,” Michelle said.

“We work with our families to build their knowledge on a range of areas - from getting the most out reading with their child, to understanding the curriculum and school system,” she said.

Michelle shared how families feel more confident about sending their children to long day care or preschool, as through AFaT they’ve built strong relationships with the early educators and know their children will be supported to learn in a culturally safe environment.

“We’ve had some great success in the greater Newcastle community as our Firstchance tutors who deliver the program have worked with families on language development and the educational games,

“A number of the parents have gone on to become Firstchance tutors or complete higher education courses,” she said.

The Aboriginal Families as Teachers program is part of the NSW Government’s commitment to the First Steps: the NSW Aboriginal Children’s Early Childhood Education Strategy 2021-2025.

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