Giving Indigenous children better access to pre-school education is one of the cornerstone policies of the Closing the Gap goals.
Indigenous youngsters in one of New South Wales’ most disadvantaged regions are benefitting from a literacy program that boasts amazing results.
Kempsey’s indigenous Dalaigur Preschool was the launching pad for the program, which is run by not-for-profit organisation the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF).
The project markedly increased the pre-literacy learning skills in 100 per cent of children who undertook it.
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Roslyn Moseley, who is better known as Auntie Lotti, runs Dalaigur and is firmly committed to education as a way of lifting an entire community out of poverty.
"I’ve always been one who’s been about education because I didn’t have a good education myself growing," Auntie Lotti says.
"I just want to make sure these [children] are going to get what I didn’t get."
Kempsey is one of the most disadvantaged parts of NSW, and has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state.
After seeing the results of the Dalaigur trial, other schools in the town were keen to take part.
"These children are going to go on to school, to kindergarten class and they’re going to say, I know what this is about. I’ve got my head around this," teacher at Kempsey Children’s Services, Jane Morrison, says.
"Success breeds success, and these kids are starting out confident so they’re going to fly."
The ALNF program is based on speech pathology principles by teaching children about the shapes and sounds of letters, as a pre-cursor to reading and writing.
It works by targeting individual students so no one is left behind.
"This program enables us to incorporate their interests so we’re not just focussing on their needs or their deficits," Director of Kempsey Children Services, Rebecca Minter, says.
The program uses themes that resonate particularly well with indigenous children.
Auntie Lotti says incorporating visual tools like Tommy Turtle mean indigenous children feel more comfortable with the program.
"They it around the emphasis of Indigenous learning, Aboriginal learning, culture learning."
"[The children] see their reflection in this process, because a lot of this stuff [educational material] has been English, English, English with no Aboriginal perspective to it," Auntie Lotti says.
The education professional says promoting indigenous excellence is good for the whole community.
"We’ve got kids not just taking out sports awards anymore. Academic awards are the biggest most powerful thing, and seeing our Aboriginal people at the forefront of that – that’s been a really big plus for Kempsey itself."
Lifting education outcomes for indigenous children is one of the cornerstone policies of the Closing the Gap campaign.
Early results show that it has slowly been improving.
Between 2006 and 2011, the number of indigenous students completing Year 12 has shot up by 6.5 per cent.
But literacy programs like the one created by the ALNF aren’t enough to close the education gap on their own, according to experts.
Chris Sarra from the Stronger, Smarter Institute says lifting teaching standards and increasing expectations from indigenous and rural students, is key in closing the gap.
"[If] you have a high expectations environment where there is intellectual integrity in the classrooms and the schools, these are schools where excellent teachers want to be," Dr Sarra says.