There's a clear racial divide in Australia. During many speaking engagements, for example, I have learnt from older non-Indigenous generations that they were never taught about the truthful history of this country and certainly did not have knowledge of there being more than 200 nations already present when white colonists arrived.
This raises the question of the school curriculum and certainly highlights the importance of education in bridging what is a widening gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.
Obviously, the history is not a pleasant one to impart onto children, nor are the current policies which continue the disjointed approach to Indigenous Affairs and maintains the status quo of oppression.
But what if, rather than teach the negative, we teach the beauty of culture from a young age and then – when the requisite maturity and respect for culture is present – we can teach the accurate dark history of this nation and the continuation of structural racism. This would have a greater impact and give us a generation of children who are subsequently more culturally aware and would assist in ensuring that the mistakes of previous generations would not be repeated.
After watching a gorgeous 4-year-old doing acknowledgment of country recently, it was obvious that children are pure empathy, and if they learn about the presence of Indigenous people and the value of the culture from early learning education onwards, we will have a different future as a nation.
In Australia the educational curriculum currently includes rudimentary 'first contact' history in Grades 4 through to 6 which deal with themes of culture and the contact between settlers and First Nations people. The curriculum, however, does not include any analysis of the more complex themes of dispossession, conflict and governmental policies of genocide and ongoing political unrest. The high school curriculum does include conflict and very sophisticated themes of international conflict and race relations, but does not delve into the Australian landscape specifically.
While it is a sorry state of affairs that children in Australia are not currently receiving a fulsome education on the historical truth of the arrival of European settlers and the numerous political, economic, environmental and social issues that have ensued, some child care centres, however, are taking the matter into their own hands. Many pre-schools around the country have enacting cultural learning programs where children are not only learning the acknowledgement of country but learning dance, food and songs from Indigenous elders in their areas.
Good Start Early Learning Centre, a national childcare organisation with centres throughout Australia, have a number programs connecting children with culture. The organisation, in accordance with the National Quality Standard (NQS), engage with children with unique activities like, 'yarning circles', dreamtime stories, learning about "saying sorry" and growing a bush tucker garden with native herbs and plants.
Since Albany, WA built their garden last year, centre director, Lana Penny said that the children have developed an appreciation and respect for different culture, and the focus on Indigenous culture has increased the number of Indigenous children in the pre-school body.
The organisation's Reconciliation Action Plan last year also introduced acknowledgement of country, using rhymes and gross motor skills.
Queensland childcare, Young Discoverers also actively integrates culture in their learning, stating,
"The Indigenous background of our region connects us with our heritage and allows us to understand the value of social justice as we move forward. For this reason we will actively incorporate our Indigenous heritage within our centre life."
Such is the approach case with many other early learning centres around the country.
The incorporation of Indigenous culture and respect with gross motor skills is certainly laying the platform for a generation of children who will surely become a part of the solution to bridging the cultural divide in this country and should be rolled out across all early childcare centres. Now, the government needs to progress their education curriculum reforms to include more comprehensive and age appropriate content on the history of this country.
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