Starting the reconciliation journey in childhood

25 January 2022

“Reconciliation is an ongoing journey that reminds us that while generations of Australians have fought hard for meaningful change, future gains are likely to take just as much, if not more, effort.” – Reconciliation Australia

YWCA Canberra is honoured to work on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people. Our vision for reconciliation remains one where the ACT and surrounding region truly acknowledges, pays respect to, and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, contributions, knowledge and histories.

Why embed reconciliation in childhood education and care

As noted in the above quote, achieving our reconciliation aim requires significant effort now and into the future. So while we work towards reconciliation now, we are preparing future generations to continue this effort through our early childhood and school age education and care services.

The majority of the Australian community is proud of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. However, over 40 per cent of Australians don’t know the name of the country they live on, and only a third of non-First Nations Australians know what they can do towards reconciliation.

We can, and must, be part of changing this. Children within our children’s services will grow up knowing the names and histories of the countries they live, play and learn on. They will recognise that “reconciliation is everyone’s business” and understand how they can contribute to improving race relations.

Unlike many adults, they won’t have to un-learn and re-learn racist or exclusionary information they were taught in school. They will start from the point of pride and inclusion.

The impact of this early education on reconciliation is profound.

It not only leads to more inclusive and knowledgeable adults but decreases the harmful effects of racism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

How YWCA Canberra embeds reconciliation in childhood education and care

 Our childhood services all have age-appropriate acknowledgements of country and celebrate special occasions like National Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. But it also goes much deeper than that.

Our services reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in their educational spaces and practices. Children’s learning across the services is linked to the Eight Aboriginal Ways of Learning, which means First Nations perspectives are included not just in content but also in the processes and environments.

We also work with our local community, including bringing in local Elders to teach children Aboriginal histories and stories. Increasing contact between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and other Australians was shown by an ANU study to decrease negative attitudes and increase trust.

And it’s not just about the children. We recognise that many of us grew up with unconscious biases, and we actively train our Directors and Program Managers in cultural awareness so they can pass this knowledge and respect on to the children in their services.

At YWCA Canberra, we are proud of our services’ commitment to meaningful reconciliation, and look forward to the day when this is reflected in all educational settings across Australia.

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