Each year, celebrates achievements in the journey towards reconciliation. This years National Reconciliation Week theme ‘National Reconciliation Week with the theme ‘Let’s Take the Next Steps’.
We were so happy to have one of our talented staff Narelle asked to speak at Early Childhood Australia’s third Reconciliation Symposium held on the Gold Coast on the 5-6 May 2017.
Narelle was a huge success, inspiring others about our scheme’s future of reconciliation. Narelle spoke about our RAP and our journey to reconciliation.
What is a RAP?
A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation. A school or early learning service can develop a RAP using the Narragunnawali platform to register existing initiatives or to begin a new journey.
My Journey with Family Day Care Providers C & R Cowling Scaife towards our Narragunnawali RAP .
My name is Narelle Lightbody. I have been in the child care sector for 25 years now. In my current position, I am the managing coordinator in the Fraser Coast region with C & R Cowling Scaife. Our offices in Nambour and Kingaroy and Maryborough manage almost 90 Family Day Care educators across south east Queensland.
For me personally my journey about reconciliation began when our scheme attended our educator retreat in 2015. We visited Cherbourg and spent several hours at the Ration Shed Museum. Previously I have only a limited knowledge about what went on in this region and our indigenous heritage, but to really understand how the people of this area were treated, and meet some of the elders who had lived there really touched me, and opened my eyes to the harsh conditions people were subjected to. I was personally heart broken when I realized that as little as 1968, (50 years ago) mothers were not able to nurture their own babies from birth. As a mother this felt very profound to me.
We had the privilege to talk to many of the locals and some aunties who look after the museum . We also had a Guided Tour and Morning tea during our time there . At the Ration Shed Museum we had the opportunity to observe how life was and is, in their Aboriginal community of Cherbourg. Within the precinct, we were able to view old films, hear the stories of their elders and look at photographic displays and old documents that relate to their lives and their history. If you have never been there this is one place I would encourage you to visit. It has left a lasting impression on me, and if I am honest , embarrassed and saddened, that I never knew that this was how our indigenous people were treated and are still being treated.
After this weekend, we began to look at all our services and just see how we can embrace inclusiveness of our indigenous background. We as a scheme did not want this to appear tokenistic and wanted to really promote the knowledge that we were learning in visible ways.
We purchased flags for Australia, Aboriginal, and Torres strait islands for all the three offices. And encouraged all educators to purchase these as well. All educators were also encouraged to see how they could adapt their own play environments to naturally show this too.
All offices then looked at how to display these flags to best reflect respect. We also had access to many natural wood products. Stumps for seating in what became yarning circles, cable reels became tables, sticks, twigs and rocks became important items for craft and games in our offices and educators environments. These natural products extended to a more natural setting for all our play areas which then promoted more sustainable aesthetic environments. By placing these images once completed on Face Book we were able to share our ideas and give others different plans and ideas to update their environments. I have bought some photos if any one is interested in looking at what their areas look like.
We have educators from Darling downs, Sunshine coast, Fraser coast and Central Queensland, so this meant taking into account the varied areas and cultures that our scheme services. Sometimes opportunities that are available in one area are not equally available in others so this can be challenging to all staff.
Our educators regularly participate in community events such as NAIDOC week, play sessions for National Sorry day and Mabo day . During the past year we have also linked with a personal friend of mine who was transferred to a school in Kowanyama. To raise money for their P & C they sold shirts for NAIDOC week and then sold the school sports team shirts, this one being one of them. Many of our educators purchased these and wear them proudly both for work and play.
Ruby Cowling Scaife, one of the Co- owners of our company, then attend a workshop in Nambour in December of 2016. This was titled “Start them early” which is a project that aims to facilitate the design of high quality early education services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in positive ways.
It also aims to connect child care services with supports to improve their cultural competence, and encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to participate in early childhood education and care. From this work shop Ruby then bought back to the team a discussion on how we can move forward and ensure that we implement what she had learnt.
In this initial discussion we followed the advice given at the workshop :-
What don’t we know,
What are we doing,
What we want to investigate and Opportunities for change : –
We also looked what policies, practices and how curriculum will have a direct impact on our organisation?
How can we as an organisation implement policy around reconciliation?
How can we support all staff to be culturally competent?
And How best to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities?
We also needed to look at the Reconciliation Action Plan and see where we sit as a scheme and what we need to do to ensure competence in this area. At our team meeting I was asked to look at this and really get my thoughts clear on how we fit this plan into our environment. I found the Plan itself was very easy to follow and there are lots of tips and help throughout this document. Although time consuming it is a great learning tool for me in particular, as I Navigate my way through it. I requested input from all staff to form our vision and their combined ideas have now formed our vision for the future
Although we have been working on the RAP for a while, we are still only 50% through, I feel this is a learning experience for me and our team as this has now become an agenda for every team meeting we attend and guides us to where we want to be with our reconciliation plan.
Thanks you for the opportunity to share my journey with you.