Editorial: Reconciliation, recognition and respect
It may be a generalisation, but I think many early childhood professionals have a large dose of ‘do good-ism’ in their personalities. Very often, we come to the profession because of a sense of joy in working with young children and participating in their lives.
We enjoy the way young children notice the small things around them, the conversations as their language develops and the curiosity and exuberance of their play. As time goes on, we begin to understand the powerful impact of what we do in our interactions with children and their families. We observe what neuroscientists have confirmed as the highly influential nature of early experiences to lifelong development of learning, attitudes and skills. We often also develop a powerful sense of social justice, as we become increasingly aware of the inequities in our communities and our world, and their impact on children.
However, as this edition of Every Child makes clear, addressing some of these challenges takes more than a ‘do good’ approach.
Amanda Harris’ article on the experiences of refugees and June Slee’s advice about helping young children who experience natural disasters emphasise the need for sensitivity and consistency of care.
The most recent Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) data confirms that although most young children of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background are developmentally on track in each of the five AEDI domains, they are twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable as young non-Indigenous children. There has been some improvement since 2009. In 2012, 43.2 per cent of Indigenous children were developmentally vulnerable, compared with 47.4 per cent in 2009. The stark reality however, is that this figure of 43.2 per cent compares poorly to the 22 per cent of total children in Australia being developmentally vulnerable in one or more domains.
What can we do?
The guest statement by Frank Hytten, CEO of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), gives us some idea of the actions we may take.
The notion of becoming culturally competent could be considered challenging or even tokenistic. However, celebrating and embracing Aboriginal culture is important for all Australians and we can create a culture of, and opportunities for, high expectations for all young children in Australia.
We can create an environment that recognises, respects and celebrates Indigenous history and cultural identity.
Sue Mays gives an insightful response to the approach she has taken in her early childhood service. Judy Radich provides an excellent example of reflecting local Indigenous knowledge and understanding in the development of the bush garden at her service. We can also be open, like Tracey Simpson, to learning more, and we can share SNAICC’s commitment to ‘building stronger communities’.
As with previous editions, we continue to feature a number of articles outlining experiences with the Early Years Learning Framework. Initial Quality Improvement Plans (QIP) have been prepared and many services have already undergone assessment. Rural and remote Indigenous services under the Budget Based Funding model are now encouraged to self-assess against the National Quality Standard and prepare a QIP. As a nation, it is vital that we continue to focus on working towards the best interests of all children and commit to continual improvement. Vision, reflection and understanding will help us to continually strive to do better. Let’s celebrate what we are doing well and keep a clear focus on ‘doing better’. The ‘do good’ approach may be of value after all, if it inspires us to ‘do better’.
This edition of Every Child also features our new National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell. We welcome her to her role and applaud her commitment to hearing the voices of children.
May you enjoy reading the articles as I have been privileged to do over the last few months!