Transcript: Indigenous early childhood educational leadership

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Transcript: Indigenous early childhood educational leadership

Well it actually came about in 2013, it’s actually an extension of the Remote Indigenous Professional Development Workshops that we were doing. There are particular mentorees that really stood out from all of our workshops that we identified personally as leaders in their own community.

They were starting the journey around early childhood educational leadership and then that’s how we came out with the first mentorees in 2013. 

The Sister to Sister Mentoring Program, we actually started that off yarning around the campfire. 

The fire is a symbol of sparking that flame for learning about the Early Years Learning Framework. It’s a place where families gather to share stories and it’s also special because it’s a place where people hand down cultural stories to the younger generation.

And that was a way to connect with each other so they can tell their story.

That’s the most important thing, is establishing that relationship.

At the very first workshop some of the mentorees would say “I can’t get up in front of everyone and do a presentation”.

Now [LAUGHS] everything just comes out naturally and it’s because of those respectful relationships.

Connecting with all the sisters in the mentor program is just really deadly.

I feel a bit more confident.

And it's given me more knowledge to take up there.

They sort of pushed me. Like I said “Oh I can’t do it” or “I’m ashamed”. They said “No, bub, you’re right. Just keep going.” So, yeah, I’ve sort of built my confidence up from being around them.

They’re like more clear to me, that I can understand. Like open my mind and open my understanding. I learned a lot from them. 

They have that light bulb moment, “I get it now” because we did it in a cultural way that made sense to our mob.

I learnt a lot about the Early Years Learning Framework which I didn’t know before.

And breaking that framework down and really understanding what it’s about and how it can be embedded into the centres.

They’ve actually went and implemented that campfire and the yarning circle back in their service. 

You know, for children to learn to listen and wait till it’s your turn for talking. From talking to prep teachers in school, like they often say to me “Oh you can tell children who have actually come in from Early Childhood Services, how better behaved they are and how knowledgeable they are from the kids who don’t have those experiences.” 

Because our mob understand community, they understand the families, they’re in a better position to support our children’s learning and it just gives our kids that foot through the door, you know, to be able to access that western system of learning that they have to face.


And we focus more on leadership - what does that mean and what does it look like, what does it sound like? You know, at the reflection workshop where they share the ideas, you can see the pride and confidence in them.

They’ve travelled such a great distance already and you can feel that confidence that they’ve gained, the amount of knowledge that they have now about the eight ways of learning.

You can see and feel and hear the excitement in their voice and, you know, you get excited for them. You know, we say to them, “You know, we’re going to be in contact with you, text messaging you, email you or we’ll just call you for a yarn just to see how you’re going.” 

And it might be just having a yarn with Ursula or Denise or ringing up Naomi and saying “Hey, you know, I’ve tried this with one particular child and it didn’t work, what do you think?” It just helps us to be better educators.

The next step for some of these mentorees is we’re going to pluck, be plucking some of them out to be pedagogical leaders, that’s the next step for them and they’re delivering the program.

From the mentorees from last year, Kim and Joanne, they both delivered an RIPD program in Port Augusta and they’re actually going on to deliver another RIPD.

It’s deadly now, imagine what it would like in 20 years’ time? 

We always get emotional, you know, because of what everyone has achieved, you know, and their journey is still going and so is ours.

This is not the end. Your journey is going to continue long time after you’ve left us and we’re still here, text me anytime, email me anytime, ring me up... Or just send me a message and I’ll ring you. [LAUGHS]


The Sister to Sister Mentoring Program, we actually started that off yarning around the campfire. It was around one of those principles from the Early Years Learning Framework too around building those reciprocal and respectful relationships with each other. 

And how we use that campfire there too, so when everyone gets... When it’s their turn to talk we pass a piece of wool around and that goes all the way around the circle, around the campfire and once that last person or educators finish sharing their story, what has brought them to the mentoring workshop, we tie that wool together, the string, and that formulates our connectedness as a basically a family.

An idea of that too is we remain connected no matter where we go. 

Creating that and setting the scene for around that belonging. Belonging Being Becoming is interwoven throughout the program, you know, every morning of the workshops and every afternoon when we do our reflecting, you know, we base that around that Belong Being Becoming. 


Belonging is the, you know, how do you make children feel that they belong in their service. You’re saying good morning to them, you’re asking them “How are you?”, listening to them. We’re wanting our children to be able to just to walk in the room and feel comfortable.

And we model that with our mentorees, that same process as we work with children, that sense of belonging. When they walk in the room it’s straight away, you know, greeting them at the door or even before they get to the door when they’re signing in. Say we’re out there with our coffee yarnin’, yarnin’ up with them and gammin’ asking them “You know, where you from? What’s your name?” You know, you’re establishing that relationship straightaway, soon as they get there. So, you know...

So, you know, making them feel that they belong.

And that sense of connectedness too, eh? Because we always ask them “Oh, where you from?”  And as soon as they say “Oh...” you know “From...” could be from Oakvale or some... “Oh you know so and so from Oakvale?” “Yeah, I know them” and that’s how we connect with each other too, wanting that common ground. 

Being is the here and now.

And focusing on the strengths, you know, and we’ve always told our mentorees, you know, there are times when you cannot control what goes on in community but what you can control is what you are doing with the children. So focus your attention on the children and on your strengths because you do have skills and strengths and you have to always be pointing it out to them and, you know, talking to them about how deadly they are and what strengths that they have, you know, to remind them. 

Yeah, like we are always talking them up, you know, that you are so deadly in what you do, keep doing what you’re doing. 


You know, because they are doing wonderful things in their service.

And they also needed to be reminded of the fact that how important they are to our children and our families, our communities and you constantly have to remind them who’s, who’s the real expert? You are because you are the one who knows those children, you know their family history, you know their background, you know their culture, you are actually the expert in your community and, you know, making them feel good about themselves. 

Becoming is...

Looking towards the future.

Yep. They’ve travelled such a great distance already and you can feel that confidence that they’ve gained and the amount of knowledge that they have now about the eight ways of learning, about embedding indigenous perspectives, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of learning and teaching. That’s so important, not only western knowledges but also embedding indigenous ways of learning. They’re in a better position to support our children’s learning than non-indigenous people are who don’t understand our children, especially when it comes to language differences as well.

Our educators, they speak the language of those children in their community, so they’re in a better position to support these children, learning concepts that are often English concepts. We do it very differently. We’ve flipped it on its head and gone in there and grow leaders from the grassroots level up. So it’s actually sustaining indigenous leadership. You know, they’re the key to it all. They’re actually the key.

‘Cause I think it’s important to realise too for our mob for too long they’ve been told constantly they can’t be anything. So to grow indigenous leadership and what we do was constantly remind them how deadly you are. You have skills. You have knowledge. You’re the leader in this community. You’re the expert in this community. You’re important. 

We train them too to stop at the waterholes and rest and reflect on themselves. You know, to take care of their wellbeing, which is something that they need to do because they’re important to us.

Yes, and we always share our journey too with the mentorees, you know, where we started, along the way, you know, what journey we’ve taken and how did we get here as indigenous pedagogical leaders and mentors.

Yeah, and getting them to rise above those challenges. Yes, we all have those challenges but here we are, we’re here to help you rise above those challenges. So walking alongside them with that journey too was really important.

And I think, you know, we just get better and better. Like Denise and I, after we did the reflection around the campfire this afternoon with the mentorees, we just gave each other a hug because, you know, this is another one that we’ve done, another mentoring program and another successful one. It was emotional too because every single mentoring program that we’ve had - this is the third one - we always get emotional, you know, because of what everyone has achieved, you know, and their journey is still going, and so is ours.

Mm, and further concreting that relationship with each other, stay connected. This is not the end. They still want to learn, that’s what’s deadly about these programs; they’re still wanting to learn more, they don’t want it to end. [LAUGHS]