Reconciliation Australia: Education, respect and relationships are critical to reconciliation

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services can play a vital role in reconciliation being advanced and celebrated, working with children and their wider community. Reconciliation Australia shares some advice for educators about their role in building strong relationships and respect in the delivery of reconciliation initiatives.

Image: Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said that education is critical to how we understand and think about the world and about reconciliation; the earlier we have these conversations the better.

“It’s through the teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in the classroom, as well as building relationships across education settings and their local communities,” Ms Mundine said.

“I’ve seen many educators in early childhood services, working in partnership with Elders, Traditional Owners and community members to ensure teaching and learning is relevant to their local community context,” she said.

“Strengthening relationships and building respect, are central to reconciliation initiatives in education – allowing collaboration across the service and with members of the community and creating an environment where children and community members acknowledge and respect the First Australians.”

Ms Mundine encouraged all ECEC services to take part in the Narragunnawali Reconciliation in Education program, which supports element 5.1.2 that the dignity and rights of every child are maintained.

Creating a Reconciliation Action Plan

Over 450 NSW ECEC services already participate in the Narragunnawali program and have a current Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which is a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation.

Narragunnawali supports ECEC services and schools to develop environments that foster a high level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions.

The Narragunnawali free online platform provides practical ways to introduce meaningful reconciliation initiatives in a services, guiding educators work with children, families and their community to deliver creative and innovative work to advance reconciliation.

Through the platform, services can develop a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), to register and extend on existing initiatives or to begin a new journey and educators.

Educators can also access free professional learning that aligns to the National Quality Standard and curriculum resources aligned to the EYLF to support the implementation of reconciliation initiatives.

Services may utilise the RAP Framework which focuses on relationships, respect and opportunities for reconciliation with children, families and the wider community.

Ms Mundine said she has been impressed by the continued efforts of many ECEC services participating in Narragunnawali who have kept reconciliation a priority within their service and community.

“It’s amazing to see that even with all the challenges posed to services over the past few years, educators have remained some our biggest advocates, giving children the skills to contribute to reconciliation,” she said.

RAPs support the building relationships with children

A central part of the RAP process is the work and objective to strengthen relationships with children. This includes offering increased opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as cultural competence for all children.

These activities support Quality Area 5 Relationships with children, as educators provide children with the opportunity to build understanding of diversity and have interactions that forge trusting relationships, for each children to feel secure, confident and included.

“While there is still some way to go, awareness, understanding and active inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and perspectives, is moving into the mainstream – reconciliation in education is becoming increasingly well-embedded.”

“If we are to move forward, reconciliation must happen where we live, where we learn and where we work, and schools and early learning services are at the heart of this,” Ms Mundine said.

Key Steps in Developing a RAP

  • Establish a RAP working Group
  • Complete the Reflection Survey
  • Write a Vision for Reconciliation
  • Add RAP Actions
  • Submit the RAP
  • Refresh the RAP annually

NSW services display reconciliation excellence

Each year Reconciliation Australia holds the Narragunnawali Awards, Australia’s first and only national reconciliation in education awards that aim to recognise commitment to reconciliation in schools and early learning services.

In the past two years, 2 NSW ECEC services were the awarded winners of the early learning category. View their stories below:

For more information on Narragunnawali visit Reconciliation Australia’s website.

Services can also register to attend free webinars to engage in real-time conversation and professional learning, guided by representatives from the Narragunnawali team and guest speakers.

Narragunnawali (pronounced narra-gunna-wally) is a word from the language of the Ngunnawal people, Traditional Owners of the land on which Reconciliation Australia’s Canberra office is located, meaning alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace.

Reconciliation Australia pays their respects and thank the United Ngunnawal Elders Council for giving permission to use the word narragunnawali.

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