Speaker highlights

The 2020 ECA Reconciliation Connect gave us the opportunity to continue our conversation about reconciliation in the early childhood sector. We’d like to thank our speakers for sharing their multiple perspectives, expertise and experience to help us move a step further in our journey of reconciliation. Here are some of the highlights of the event:

The day started with Larrakia Elder Richard Fejo welcoming attendees from the lands across Australia where they were virtually connecting from. Richard reminded us that we would have been meeting on Larrakia Land (Darwin) for the sixth ECA Reconciliation Symposium if it weren’t for COVID-19. But we’ll meet there next year!

A powerful keynote address by Karen Mundine (CEO, Reconciliation Australia) followed. She talked about ‘How reconciliation will build better lives for our jahdjam (children) in a time of pandemic’, and about people re-imagining what their lives could be like in a post-pandemic world—‘re-imagining’ being the key to a successful reconciliation. She also introduced the theme of this year’s National Reconciliation Week, ‘In this together’.

Next, we heard from Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson who delivered a thought-provoking presentation: ‘Children’s behaviour can be a language that opens the possibility of deep communication. Are we listening?’ Judy emphasised the importance of listening to children, as their brains are still developing and they may not have the words to describe what is happening to them or how they feel. She explained that to understand children, we need to rephrase the question by asking ‘not what is wrong with the child, but what has happened to the child’.

Throughout the event we heard from educators who shared their reconciliation practices and experiences. Cassy Read and Sofia Machado (Pottsville Community Preschool) shared their personal experience and talked about Sofia’s ‘epic fail’ when she first attempted to engage with the local Indigenous community. Cassy explained that we shouldn’t be looking for quick answers, as it takes time and patience to build strong reciprocal relationships.

Educator Cecelia Wright (Cultural Inclusions), who’s a firm believer in giving, emphasising “what you take you must give back.” Cecelia taught us how we can use simple concepts to implement learning about culture in early childhood settings. One example she gave was of Floral Fridays, a beautiful Torres Strait Islander tradition where everybody on the Islands wears floral each Friday!

After lunch, Richard Weston (CEO, SNAICC) spoke about the need for a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commissioner and elaborated on SNAICC’s position in advocating for policy, particularly the Family Matters campaign.

Two more educators joined us after Richard’s address. Amy Shine (Forbes Preschool) spoke about her service and its reconciliation journey over 10 years, based on their philosophy of respect. A key strategy for those hoping to start their own reconciliation journey, according to Amy, is building relationships and treating everyone equally. Casey Goodman (Moreland Community Child Care Centres) reflected on her personal journey and her role as Aboriginal Programs Leader. She stressed on the notion of learning and ‘unlearning’, and encouraged educators to position themselves as learners and listeners.

Then we heard from Esma Livermore and Stephanie Woerde of Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Education. They highlighted the abundance of resources available on the Narragunnwali platform and explained how these can help services build a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and join 4000 other early learning services across Australia that already have a RAP!

The 2020 ECA Reconciliation Connect virtual conference came to a close with author Leonie Norrington sharing a story of hope with all attendees. Leonie spoke of the importance of storytelling, leaving us with a beautiful parting message: ‘The best thing we can do for our children is to give them images of hope that they can embody and take into their future … the way to do this is through story’.