Guiding principles


​​​​​​​​​​'Quality environments are those where children are encouraged to explore – where they have the opportunity to encounter rich learning experiences that nurture and expand their thinking, language, and physical and social development, and where their cultural identity development is supported.'

(Priest, K, 2005, Preparing the ground for partnership – exploring quality assurance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child care: a literature review and background paper, Department of Family and Community Services, Government of Australia, p.41)

Foundations for Success expands on the 5 principles of the Early Years Learning Framework to underpin educational practice that is focused on extending and enriching learning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

1. Sec​​ure, respectful​​ and reciprocal relationships

Children​​ lea​rn best through respons​​ive and reciprocal relationships that connect with their world.

Responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places, times, experiences, ideas and things support children’s strong sense of wellbeing. Through secure relationships and consistent emotional support, children feel valued and respected. They develop confidence and learn to appreciate their connectedness and interdependence as learners.

You can ​​do t​his by​​:

  • nurturing positive interactions that are responsive to children’s ways of knowing and learning
  • implementing culturally and linguistically sensitive and respectful interactions, in partnership with families and communities
  • assisting children to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interact positively and collaborate with others.

First languages define e​​very child – their kn​owledge, identity and relation​ships.

First languages are primarily acquired from families and have been developing from birth, shaping the way children see and describe the world. Language is a powerful communicative tool and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are generally competent users of their developing first languages when they come to early childhood education and care.

You can do t​​h​​is by:

  • being aware of, recognising and valuing children’s first languages
  • supporting children’s continuous development and use of their first languages
  • working with adults who speak the same languages as the children to plan and deliver the early learning program, wherever possible
  • including a range of strategies and resources in the program to support children to use and strengthen their first languages
  • including a range of strategies and resources in the program to support children who are learning Standard Australian English (SAE) as an additional language to use and strengthen their proficiency in SAE.

2. Partner​​ships

Strong f​​amily and community engag​​ement ​​​​enables children’s health, learning and wellbeing.

Families are children’s first and most influential educators and their engagement is central to creating a holistic early learning program. Respectful interactions with families and communities facilitate the sharing of culturally specific knowledge and information about children and their learning that builds involvement, collaboration and negotiation.

You can​ do thi​s ​by:

  • nurturing trusting relationships and partnerships that evolve over time
  • being a learner, collaborating with co-workers, families, Elders and community members to reinforce and promote for children the continuity and richness of their cultures and languages
  • helping children feel secure, confident and included.

3. High expectations an​​d equity

Childr​​en are competent and cap​​able and have been learning since birth.​​

Recognising children as competent learners means knowing their capabilities and using these as a starting point for new learning. Every child has unique aptitudes and abilities that must be valued and maximised.

You can d​o t​​hi​s by:

  • believing in the competence and capability of children
  • having high expectations
  • valuing, respecting and accommodating the diverse experiences, languages and capabilities of all children
  • making decisions that are genuinely inclusive
  • carefully adjusting your interactions and the environment to support every child’s equal access to learning and participation.

Childre​​n’s positive attitudes to learni​​ng are essential for success​​​.

Children’s early learning influences their life chances. Valuing children’s sense of wonder and capturing their enthusiasm towards learning encourages them to engage with learning, persevere, take risks and negotiate with others. Children grow these attitudes in culturally safe environments where they are treated with trust and respect.

You can d​​o this by:

  • supporting learning through active involvement in children’s play – modelling curiosity, demonstrating a love of learning and implementing intentional teaching strategies to promote learning
  • viewing yourself, together with children, as participants within a community of learners, in which all members share in learning.

4. Respec​​​t for diversity

'Knowing who​​​ you are' and having a ​positive sense of cultural identity is central to children’s social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spir​​itual wellbeing.

An early learning program is culturally strong and socially and emotionally safe when relationships honour children’s traditional and contemporary cultures and languages, while at the same time, building bridges that allow children to move fluently across diverse cultures. Children should experience many opportunities for their developing identities to be a source of individual strength, confidence, pride, belonging and security.

You c​an ​​do this by:

  • recognising that there are many ways of living, being and knowing, and that diversity contributes to the richness of our society
  • creating connected learning environments that value, respect and build on children’s cultures
  • broadening children’s understandings of the world in ways that make them 2-way strong.

Children are entitled​​ to a voice o​​f their o​​​wn and to having their rights valued.

The Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNICEF 1990) states that all children have the right to an education that lays the foundations for the rest of their lives, maximises their ability and respects their family, cultural and other identities and languages. The Convention also recognises children’s right to play and their right to participate in decisions and actions that affect them.

You can do t​his​ by:

  • engaging children as active participants and contributors in a play-based learning environment
  • respecting children’s independence and interdependence within the context of family and community
  • listening to children’s ideas and engaging with them in planning, sharing and reflecting on the learning process.

5. Ongoing learning and r​​eflective practice

Ongoing learni​​ng and reflective pra​​ctice underpin a quality early learning program.​​

Children represent their knowledge and understanding of the world in many ways and everyday play experiences offer rich opportunities for gathering evidence about their learning. Purposeful and systematic observation and documentation support educator judgments about a child’s developing capabilities, inform new learning and enable ongoing reflection on the effectiveness of teaching practices.

You can do th​is​​​ by:

  • seeking new insights and perspectives that support, inform and enrich decision-making about children’s learning
  • implementing an ongoing cycle that includes planning, documenting and reflecting for children’s learning, and the information gathered is shared with families
  • engaging in reflective practice and professional enquiry alongside children, families and community.
Last updated 01 June 2022