A policy proposal for nationally mandated content and professional development for educators on Australia's First Nations.
Policy Status: New
Portfolio: Minister for Indigenous Affairs, The Hon. Senator Nigel Scullion
Brief description of the proposed policy:
Quality education and care services for all children need to recognise and include First Nation cultural histories and their rich contribution to modern Australian society. Culturally inclusive programs that acknowledge and honour First Nation cultural contributions as well as our other histories must be included.
A national professional development program, designed by local Indigenous communities, should be funded and made compulsory. This would improve the educational program offered to children in their early years by incorporating cultural sharing as part of all education and care services’ curriculum.
As well as educating non-Indigenous children, appropriate culturally inclusive programming (and staffing) helps reduce serious gaps in access, attendance and outcomes for Indigenous children and their families, enrolled in the services.
Why these changes are needed?
There is no mandated content in quality criteria on this part of our history and our current cultural diversity. The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia has ‘respect for diversity’ as a key principle and ‘cultural competence’ as a key practice but goes no further. The Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework recognises that cultural competence in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is distinctly different from the broad idea of “respecting all cultures”’.
The omission of mandated content and professional development for educators both weakens broad standards of education and care by limiting learning about both diversity and our long history. Mandating its inclusion both improves the curriculum and increases cultural understanding in services. It will also improve access, attendance and engagement of children from Indigenous and those from diverse backgrounds. On a practical level, Indigenous parents and children will be more likely to engage with early education and care as they will feel appropriately valued in services which welcome their strengths.
Who benefits/gains from the policy proposal?
Indigenous children, families and communities who feel valued and respected, and therefore will benefit from their engagement with early education, especially in non-Indigenous controlled services.
Other children and families who participate in mainstream education and care services, as such a rich educational program will expand their understanding of wider cultures and our histories.
Who may lose from the policy proposal?
There are no groups or individuals who stand to lose. Rather, the beneficial impact of a policy such as this means the economic and social returns will increase generationally.
Does your policy have either major party’s support?
Not yet, it needs to be discussed.
Other groups and categories of people supportive of your proposal?
Indigenous groups and services; parents of children looking for inclusive, non-prejudiced services; educators and others concerned about quality care being inclusive and diverse.
Groups and categories that would oppose it? Why?
Some commercial services that want to avoid extra costs.
Will extra costs be incurred?
As there is no current government funding for professional development additional funding will be necessary to cover training for all services.
Timeline for the proposal to be implemented:
This needs to be discussed and negotiated with Indigenous experts and communities before a timetable can be set, but funds should be allocated soon. The policy requires meaningful consultation and the development of in-service models.
Keywords/search terms for identifying the policy:
Cultural awareness, Indigenous knowledge, inclusive services, closing the gap,
First Peoples’ knowledge.
Submitters: EMC and LB/TD/LG