Nykita Gibbs Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My Name is Nykita Gibbs I am a Gamilaraay woman from Kamilaroi country in New South Wales I have worked in the early childhood sector for 13 years. I have worked at Goodstart Elizabeth Vale as the Director for just over two years now and hold a degree in Early Childhood. I am very passionate about reconciliation and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children.

What does reconciliation mean to staff at Goodstart?

Reconciliation is about respectful relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Building positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander families and children providing a learning environment where their culture is respected and embedded in everyday practice

Goodstart Early Learning Elizabeth Vale strives to inspire children and families to achieve greatness through teamwork, communication, educational programs, purposeful experiences and ongoing support. Our vision is to have a culturally safe environment where everyone feels welcome. We aim to ensure all families, children and educators feel accepted and included. We have developed and continue to foster respectful relationships with our local Aboriginal community in order to provide children with a greater knowledge and understanding of Australia’s First Peoples. At Elizabeth Vale we have created a community where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families feel welcomed and respected in an inclusive environment which celebrates and encourages all families to share their knowledge and experiences. This practice, which is collaborative, embodies the culture of our centre and enables families to be active partners with educators in their child’s learning journey.

Supporting families and their culture empowers our educators as advocates and promotes reconciliation and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and our community.

What role do staff play in the reconciliation process?

Every educator has a role to play in reconciliation at Goodstart Elizabeth Vale and we are committed to providing a high-quality program which celebrates and consistently acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and culture. We have created a culturally safe and inclusive space for all families to support them in feeling safe and secure. As educators we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in children’s lives.

What does this year’s NRW theme mean to Goodstart?

NRW theme this year means we all have our part to play in reconciliation. It is important to support and encourage each other to make positive steps towards reconciliation. As educators we advocate reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and promote reconciliation through education and play. This is vital to ensure we are educating children about our history to ensure we are taking more positive steps towards an inclusive future. It is important to continue to connect to our Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander families and provide support where needed.

 Why is reconciliation important to education, and why is education important to reconciliation? How did you engage your local community in the process?

Children are central to everything we do; it is important to give children the opportunity to explore and learn about our First Nations People. It is also important that our families feel safe secure and supported knowing they can be proud of their culture and respected in our community. The community has helped us get flags to fly in the centre and have provided us with important feedback which has helped us to progress on our reconciliation journey. It is important for education services to be inclusive and teach reconciliation at a young age to create a better future for all Australians to ensure we stand strong together.

What are some challenges you have faced with Reconciliation?

Covid-19 has been a huge challenge this year as we have a Nunga playgroup which has been running successfully since term 2, 2018. This group helps to support our Aboriginal families in partnership with our local Aboriginal health service and local elders. From creating this playgroup, we have fostered relationships with families and were lucky enough to have a high percentage of families enrol their children in the centre. We have been having Nunga playgroup online whilst Covid-19 restrictions have been in place. Educators connect with families online to check in and also give families ideas for fun educational experiences at home such as cooking, how to make playdough and craft experiences. This online platform has helped families to continue to feel connected to the centre and educators through these unprecedented times.

What have your successes been?

Our successes have been developing an inclusive Nunga playgroup which has been held once a week since 2018. We have made positive connections with our local elder village, where we take the kindy children once a month to visit the elders. The children participate in different experiences such as reading stories, dancing and painting with the elders (This is currently on hold due to covid- 19). We have built some wonderful relationships with our community which we will continue to build and strengthen over the years to come.

The educators underpin their programs and experiences with Aboriginal perspectives. Educators and children do an Acknowledgement of country every morning showing their respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. This pedagogy aims to support children in developing a deep understanding and respect for the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Our educators are continuously reflecting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices to ensure they are maintaining an inclusive environment for all children.

What key learnings would you share with others that are starting the process of Reconciliation and writing a Reconciliation Action Plan?

At the start of our reconciliation journey, it was important for us to understand and be accepting of everyone’s varying knowledge and experience with reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Together we worked to create and change our practice and pedagogy which advocates for reconciliation and is underpinned by our educators’ skills and knowledge. By developing our team’s knowledge, we were able to move forward positively and create a vision in which our team is inspired to promote in all areas of their educational programs. From this, we were able to work through the Narragunnawali platform to create our RAP.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We provide experiences for children to explore different aspects of Aboriginal cultures through loose parts play. Our nursery children enjoy sensory experiences. I would like to share a beautiful set up created for our babies to explore different textures and materials with some aboriginal perspectives.

I have also completed a large welcome sign for the centre with help from the educators and children for our entrance. To show we respect and acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of the land we learn and play on.