NAIDOC Special: 6 Tips for Educators to Keep the fire burning in the classroom.

We often get asked by parents and teachers how they can introduce children to Indigenous culture without being tokenistic or inappropriate. Lucky for us, our Marketing Coordinator has a background in Early Childhood Education and is now raising her own little boys to be confident Allies. For NAIDOC Week this year, we asked Peta to share her story of Allyship in the classroom and her top tips for educators.

As an Early Childhood Educator I look back and cringe at some of the work I have produced. Tokenism has been rife in the past within Early Childhood Education.

I remember very early on in my career, in the early 2000’s; NAIDOC week was coming up and I was preparing my lesson plans for the week. I read an article about how important it is to teach with intention, to learn about the Traditional Owners of which I teach, ensure I’m using the correct terms and names and to not be tokenistic. 

Which to me meant enough of the dot painting, enough of the red, yellow and black boomerangs and enough of the white washing.

But, where to now?

I spent weeks researching about the Traditional Owners of my area and sadly as we were one of the first areas colonised, a lot of the history has been wiped. I attest this moment of realisation as one of the core moments for the start of my true Allyship. I was determined to eradicate any tokenism from my teaching, so I kept searching. I managed to find who the Traditional Owners were (which I know now there is A LOT of contention around this name). I couldn’t find anything else. 

I used my imagination. I imagined what my small coastal area would have been like before colonisation and I used this in my teaching. I encouraged the children to imagine this too. What does our Country look like? What colours is it? What animals would we have seen? What would have been our food? I look back on this particular week as one of the most pivotal moments in my teaching career as I wasn’t just an educator educating, I was one that was inspiring change and nurturing Reconciliation.

I am so proud of how far Early Childhood Education has come with embedding Indigenous voices into their practices, but I also know there is so much more to be done. With the knowledge I know now, I believe it’s important to pass this knowledge on. 

6 TIPS FOR EDUCATORS TO HELP KEEP THE FIRE BURNING:

1. Educate yourself:

Knowledge is power. Educators with a non-Indigenous background or limited experience with Indigenous culture should equip themselves with the knowledge and confidence to engage with content appropriate for young children. Be prepared to touch on subjects with a sensitive matter. Check out Koori Curriculum Educator Yarns.

2. Know what traditional Country your school is on:

With this knowledge have an Acknowledgement of Country in your classroom, whether it’s written or say one at your morning welcome time. Encourage the children to partake in writing it. Introduce students to the AIATSIS map, which shows Indigenous nations, and the ABC interactive Indigenous languages map

3. Learn about traditional cultural practices:

Contact your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community and invite them to speak with your class or school about the local area. Invite performers and artists into the service and hold workshops for children and families. Network with the local community and partner with them on a specific project. It’s important to know cultural protocols.

4. Discover the local languages and seasons:

Learn greetings, names of Australian animals, plants, body parts, and other familiar terms in local traditional languages. Ensure you use reliable sources, such as local Elders or families, for accurate information. Additionally, explore the traditional seasons as described and understood by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

5. Incorporate storytelling:

Storytelling is a huge part of First Nations customs and provides a huge insight into culture and history. There are many amazing books by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Authors and Illustrators to share with your class. Explore Dreamtime stories from your local area and create art inspired by the characters. Riley Callie Resources is a great place to explore First Nations stories and books.

6. Ensure any experiences you are planning are culturally appropriate:

Throw out those cotton tips for dot painting with your bright red paint. Use natural materials such as sticks and natural colours for painting and drawing. Be mindful that dot painting can be considered cultural appropriation. Instead, explore the work of First Nations artists with your children, observing the symbols and their meanings. Keep in mind that in some cultures, traditionally only males are allowed to play or handle Didgeridoos/Yidakis, and you may need to seek approval for the use of ochre. Koori Curriculum has some great blogs around ways you can ensure you are doing this appropriately. 

The biggest advice I can give is ensure that content is truly embedded, which means incorporate these experiences into your service EVERY DAY, not just on NAIDOC week or Reconciliation week and the importance of role modelling, as educators, we play an important role in helping children to create a positive perspective, understanding and appreciation for First Nations people history, culture and lives.

Check out Peta’s TikTok video on how to embed First Nations culture into Early Childhood Education 👉

@peatreeeee Today is National Close The Gap Day. Its so integral to start now with the children of today to build a stronger and brighter future for everyone. #closethegap #closingthegap #earlychildhoodeducation #earlychildhoodeducator #alwayswasalwayswillbe #peatreeeee ♬ Taba Naba - The Wiggles
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