By CELA on 2 Oct, 2018

We recently shared on Amplify the expertise of learning specialist Kerrie Maguire in developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Your responses confirmed that creating a RAP is still a high priority for you, frequently linked to your Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) goals.

There’s nothing educators value more than learning from their colleagues’ experiences. We’re very fortunate that Lavinia Jenkin-Panelli, director, and Marieke Lutterberg: educational leader, from Tyabb Village Children’s Centre, are willing to share every aspect of their RAP journey.

In fact, Lavinia and Marieke are preparing a book about the journey to share at their community-centred service. They have combined elements from their writing with additional responses to our questions for Amplify.

Their generosity means we can bring you their journey as a four-part series.  If you miss one, don’t worry, just click on the ‘RAP journey series’ tag in any article to find the rest. Look for back links and related stories at the end of this article, too.

Now we join Lavinia and Marieke on part three of the story of the Tyabb Village reconciliation journey. This week they share the challenges, embedding actions, and insights from their journey so far.

Challenges overcome, and continuing

Connections have been made and foundations have been laid, but it is sometimes tricky to keep the momentum going and to create time, funding and opportunities to do more.

It is also challenging to be patient at times! As early childhood professionals of course we are excited to embrace reconciliation and most educators we speak to see the value and importance of taking steps towards reconciliation.

However, we must be very mindful of protocols within the Aboriginal community we work with, protocols we don’t understand yet. We must be comfortable with accepting that sometimes there is not an answer to our question. While we may want to drive the project to completion, in fact we need to accept it is a journey we are on. Sometimes we have to roll with it, capture it, and put it into practice.

‘Unguided missiles with good intention’

We are participating in the Possum Skin Pedagogy Project with Annette Sax and Dr Sue Lopez Atkinson.One of the presenters of the project put it well at a recent gathering:

It is sometimes easy to act like an “unguided missile of good intention”. As Aboriginal communities work to revive culture and language, it is their choice to decide what aspects they wish to share.

Denise Rundle, Teacher, Boroondara Kindergarten, Richmond.”

If educators can come from a place of respect, kindness, patience and curiosity, they will be able to build more genuine relationships for their specific community. Patience is the key! We need to understand that reconciliation is a shared path, a journey. Travelling and learning together. It’s not a box to be ticked off.

Embedding perspectives

Together with Lionel Lauch (a key partner in the journey, see Part One) the children planned, prepared and planted their own Bush Tucker garden. This has seen a huge increase in children’s interest in plants and how they can be used for a variety of things. The children are very protective of their garden and will often remind others not to run through it.

We have planned, practiced, and now provide a Bush Kinder in our local ‘forest’. Each Monday the educators and children spend five hours, investigating, learning, creating and exploring the raw and natural environment.

Learning the land

Because of the project with Lionel the entire Tyabb Village community has developed a better understanding of how the land would have been used by the BoonWurrung and Bunurong people in our area.

Lionel has taught us how to understand the spiritual significance of certain trees. In particular, Lionel discussed the She Oak (Casuarina) with the children, He told the children how the She Oak is part of the Creation Story and has given them a deeper respect for the land they play and learn on.

We named the She Oak in our forest the Story Telling Tree. Listening to a story under the She Oak tree has special meaning for us at Tyabb Village.

Connections invite new forms of play

Being more connected to the land invites different play.

The children are becoming more aware of small things. They will point out the sap a tree is releasing, ask about what a special type of berry in our forest could be used for, or bring a leaf that has an interesting smell and ask what we can do with it. They are seeing the resources that the land is offering us and they are learning to use them with curiosity and respect.

Recently we commissioned a local Aboriginal artist to work with the children and paint a record of our journey towards reconciliation. We plan a welcome at the Village gate and a map of our travels along the garden pathway, bringing us towards our inclusive environment. This process is expected to be lengthy, but we now understand that it takes time to embed practice.


Insights to share

Our advice to other educators on a RAP journey is:

Build connections with your local Aboriginal communities.
  • Go out of your way to make this happen: invite the community in and get to know each other. Building a relationship takes time, trust and respect.
Do your research.
  • The more you know about the history of the land, the people, the traditions, local groups, contemporary issues, old and new culture and so on, the more likely it is that you will embrace the journey towards reconciliation.
Don’t just stick to the traditional images of Aboriginal people.
  • Highlight the great role models in our current times. People like Jessica Mauboy, Casey Donovan, Dan Sultan, Deborah Mailman, Adam Goodes, Anthony Mundine, Cyril Rioli. They all hold prominent positions in our society and their achievements deserve to be celebrated.
Be patient and listen.
  • Only share what you have been given permission to share. Acknowledge your sources.
Research the pedagogy.
  • Discover the Aboriginal 8 Ways of Learning and map how this can be implemented in your service. It’s about moving away from doing an activity to embedding Aboriginal ways into your curriculum. Investigate the KidsMatter program, this is also based on the Aboriginal 8 Ways of learning.

Educate all the educators.

The more confident they are, the more willing they will be to learn new ways, the more likely change is permanent.

  • There are so many different ways to look at reconciliation and Aboriginal ways, what is it that will work for your Aboriginal community? What might that look like in your service, in your room, in your curriculum decisions, in your relationships, routines and environments?
Celebrate the big events.
  • These include Naidoc Week, Aboriginal Children’s Day, Reconciliation Week.
Think deeply about how your service would welcome an Aboriginal family for the first time.
  • What would they see that resonates with them and gives them confidence in your ability to provide an unbiased and culturally safe space for their child and family.

And, finally,

Inspire others to embark on the same journey you are on.

Next week (final in the series)

Misconceptions, partnerships, resource list.

The story so far

Other related articles

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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