By CELA on 28 Jul, 2023

In recent political times, The Uluru Statement from the Heart has become synonymous with the Voice to Parliament. But as an incredibly powerful document for Australia, it’s important that we consider and learn from The Statement in the context of our circumstances. 

The history of the Uluru Statement from the Heart 

In May 2017, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders gathered for the First Nations National Constitutional Convention. They met on the lands of the Aṉangu people at the foot of Uluru in Central Australia. It was at this convention that the Uluru Statement from the Heart was drafted and endorsed. 

In a single page, The Statement talks to the past and calls for a better future. As an invitation to the Australian people, The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for voice, treaty and truth-telling. This includes a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution. 

Using The Statement to inform practice 

Jo Grimmond is a proud Dharug woman, living on Yuin Country. She is also Professional Learning Manager at CELA. Jo recalls her own journey of discovery to learn about her culture and history. 

“When I was an early childhood teacher and director, I had this innate fascination to learn about the Aboriginal community where I had moved,” she explains. “I wanted to develop authentic connections and embed culturally responsive practice within the centre to create a sense of belonging.” 

Jo says that the Uluru Statement from the Heart is an opportunity for learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. When we show genuine interest and develop deep relationships, we understand the communities in which we live and work. 

We must learn from the traditional owners of the land,” she adds. “Through this learning we can develop a deeper sense of history and understand the past. Then we can do better in the future for all children and families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives are woven throughout the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) 2.0. Jo advocates for intertwining these perspectives into our everyday practice, saying that it’s not just about celebrating and acknowledging First Nations culture on specific dates on the calendar. 

“We need to do better,” she says. “As educators and teachers, we need to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can see themselves, their identities and cultures within our environments. By truly embedding First Nations perspectives authentically in our philosophies, pedagogies and practice this will go a long way towards advancing reconciliation.” 

Cultural responsiveness 

As a key tenet of the EYLF 2.0 Jannelle Gallagher, CELA Early Education Specialist, encourages educators to consider their cultural responsiveness to The Statement (which draws upon the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration), commits educators to ensuring all children learn about the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. 

There’s a richness that comes from being open to listening to and going on that journey with First Nations people,” she explains. “Being responsive means that we can go on this journey together and that’s what The Statement is asking us to do. It's an invitation to walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Jannelle suggests some reflective questions that educators can ask themselves: 

  • How am I being culturally responsive to The Statement? 
  • What resonates with me? 
  • Where are the links in terms of the EYLF and my pedagogy and practice? 
  • What can I explore and learn from The Statement? 
  • What can I take away from The Statement about collaboration and working together? 

Jo shares an example of a preschool on Yuin Country that has a special connection with their local elders and community leaders. Stemming from this, they weave Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into their everyday practice. While Jo acknowledges that we are all at different stages of learning and embedding culturally responsive practice, this is an example of leading through authenticity. 

“They don’t just have yarning circles and totems in their environment,” says Jo. “They celebrate the Dhurga language and culture. They have even written a book called 'Yarn to Learn', supporting Aboriginal families to take the role of their first teacher in their child’s learning and development by creating culturally rich tools and resources. Their routines are flexible and inclusive, and they connect to Country every day.” 

Start a conversation 

For help, support and advice for future directions, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), Koori Curriculum, Reconciliation Australia and the National Museum are great places to start. Always use reputable sources that are endorsed by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, where the sources of the provisions are clearly displayed.  

Most importantly, Jo says that connection is the key. She encourages curiosity and genuine interest, calling out discrimination and discussing this with children so we can empower them to empower each other, regardless of their background. 

"Talk to the local community and learn about resources that are specific to them – engage with the local community to learn,” she explains. “Reach out and connect with your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Start a conversation and show genuine interest to learn and build your knowledge from those that are the knowledge holders. 

“We also need to recognise the uncomfortable truth of the past so we can learn the true histories and experiences of our First Nations people. When we develop an authentic understanding of the past, we have a deeper comprehension of where we are now and where we need to go for true reconciliation.” 

Key points 

  • The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for voice, treaty and truth-telling. 
  • As educators we can explore The Statement and use it to inform our everyday practice. 
  • We should consider our cultural responsiveness to The Statement, in line with the Early Years Learning Framework 2.0. 
  • By connecting with local Elders and community leaders, we can gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and history to weave into our practice. 

Further reading

What is Children's Day? via Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day website

Referendum 2023 via the Australian Electoral Commission 

Download the Uluru Statement from the Heart

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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