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The Tribe

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Early Childhood Australia’s biennial* conference was held in Sydney this year and Community Early Learning Australia, a long-time supporter of ECA, attended as an exhibitor. The experience of immersion among 2000 educators left CELA CEO Michele Carnegie pondering the nature of the early childhood and OSHC sector in Australia, and led to this reflection and provocation on ‘The Tribe’.

Any conference organiser knows that only part of your success can be measured by the program and speakers, the catering and the ticket sales.  The real success we all hope for is something that can’t be planned or scheduled, it can only be observed. I’m talking about the buzz.

You know it when you hear it, see it, and most importantly, feel it.  It’s that vibe coming off a group that might be as small as five or as big as – recently – 2000, and it means that ideas area pinging, connections are forming, and relationships are extending among your delegates.

As I listened to, saw, and felt the buzz at ECA’s most recent conference, a word kept coming into my mind: tribe.  I didn’t just see a sector, or even a profession, I saw a group of people who came together in the interest of early education, and who will protect and inspire each other to achieve their goals. To me, that’s a tribe.

For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another.

A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

Seth Godin

Early this year our CELA team saw it with a much smaller group when we hosted a director’s retreat in Byron Bay.  A few people already knew each other, some knew of each other, but it was clear that personal relationships weren’t essential to the bond that quickly formed.

These educators recognised each other as being part of the same tribe.  In only a few sentences of greeting they started to relax and see common ground: care and concern for children, engagement with families, opportunities with funding and clarity about regulatory settings … The list goes on.

Being part of this tribe is often complex: stress over budgets, staff and child welfare; the endless pursuit of professional improvement; the ongoing effort to be heard in the wider community, and especially by politicians. But these issues can bind us as together, too.

Of course, even within a tribe there are differences and there’s no doubt that we are a collective rather than a single society. I believe we are brought together by more issues than those points which divide us.

We all want to see the best for children.  There are various ways to achieve that but I believe it happens most effectively in a community-based setting without the pressure of making a profit or being accountable to shareholders.

Another thing that makes us into a tribe is shared story-telling, the most human way of learning.  Amplify, with its focus on real-life, real-time stories, is just one way we aim to encourage the early years and OSHC tribe to keep coming together, to keep telling stories, and to keep learning from and supporting each other for the benefit of children.

Tell your story.
Shout it. Write it.
Whisper it if you have to.
But tell it.
Some won’t understand it.
Some will outright reject it.
But many will
thank you for it.
And then the most
magical thing will happen.
One by one, voices will start
whispering, ‘Me, too.’
And your tribe will gather.
And you will never
feel alone again.
L.R. Knost

What about you? Tell us about your tribe!

*ECA’s national conference will be annual from 2019.

One thought on “The Tribe

  1. I also belong to a tribe. The TRIBE is Bankstown Family Day Care and consists of Coordination Staff, Educators, Families and our Local Community. Belonging to an organisation that values you as a person and values its people is essential and drives one’s behavior to be the best that they can be while respecting the diverse knowledge of all stakeholders. I am proud to be associated with family day care and especially the tribe at Bankstown.

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