St Peters Early Learning Centre – 2021 Nurragunnawali Awards Finalist

It was recently announced that St. Peters ELC was a finalist in this years Nurragunnawali Awards, in the Early Learning Category.

Kate Mount, the director of the early learning centre, featured at the Reconciliation SA National Reconciliation Week Breakfast Q&A Panel alongside a range esteemed guests that included the CEO of Reconciliation Australia, Karen Mundine.

The early learning centre was nominated for the award by a colleague who’d worked on and supported the St. Peters ELC Reconciliation Action Plan. Kate says the nomination was an invitation to “reflect more deeply on our journey, what we had achieved, feedback from our community, what was possible when working with 2 – 5-year-olds and how we had progressed our journey.”

Situated on Kaurna country, St. Peters ELC, has been working toward reconciliation for over four years and been an active member of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) community. The ELC has worked extensively with Kaurna Elder, Uncle Tamaru, who has assisted in embedding practices and activities into the every day learning opportunities for children to grow their understanding of Kaurna people and culture. St Peters ELC, have also engaged other Kaurna community members to work with teachers and children to in a truly whole of community learning.

Kate says that the reconciliation work allowed staff to establish a trusting environment where they could ask questions, as well as learn alongside the children at the ELC. They also launched a research project which created a deeper connection and provided ongoing reflection to reconciliation and involved the whole team/community.

In terms of teaching the kids, Kate explains, the ELC invited in Uncle Tamaru to help rename group time to Banbanbalya and use terminology like Palti Circle, the children gathering at the sound of the clap sticks. Each room has its own ring tone. The children represent themselves in the group using symbols.

The kids are also able to do an Acknowledgement of Country in Kaurna language, as well as single some songs, in language also, a few that they have written themselves. The ELC also now has a focus on diversity, difference, inclusion, and bias in their social justice teaching.

The progress was not without challenge, however.

“It was challenging in the beginning to find the pathway into this space, we definitely did not want to become tokenistic – it almost became a barrier for us, and it wasn’t until we began our relationship with a Kaurna elder that we could begin to imagine what might be possible.”

Says Kate, who continues to say that

“Our early steps were baby steps, cautious steps, as we began to build our confidence.”

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Eventually though, the confidence came which the Reconciliation Action Plan was a key component, Kate says.

Along with the RAP, flying the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander flag alongside the Australian flag was a positive change that helped build confidence. It acted as a daily symbol of the centre’s position on reconciliation and was also a symbol and statement of walking side by side.

An Acknowledgement of Country written by the children also assisted in embedding why this is important and what it means on a regular basis. It is far more than just words, says Kate,

“We believe that the children understand their responsibilities as we begin this learning with children from 2 years of age.”

The highlights from 2021, that have likely led to the award nomination include an intensive reconciliation week where the families of students were invited to take part in a smoking ceremony, and the be a part of the regular rituals, including listening to the kids sing in Kaurna language, and say an Acknowledgement of Country in Kaurna language.

The ELC also watched its front garden develop, with plans of it representing many significant aspects of their learnings, with Kate explaining that

“Our Wodli, Canoe carved out of a 300-year-old redgum, Rainbow Serpent and palti circle are a few of the components of the design”.

Videos were also created to help document the journey representing Relationships, Respect, Opportunities, which are all aspects of their RAP.

Kate says that “this documentation is a part of our story, our history and our professional development as well as a communicator to our community.”.

St. Peters also produced a webinar entitled Reconciliation within an ELC Context available through the Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange (REAIE) to a large group of educators across the country.

It’s been a busy year and St. Peters ELC is planning on staying busy, looking to achieve many more goals in the future.

Plans and hope include finishing their front garden , which they can use as both a play and a teaching place, having a Kaurna shield carved into one of the entry trees, and as Kate says,

“most importantly we hope that our work assists others to navigate their pathway forward, helping realise that you do not have to be an expert nor the deliverer of a prescriptive curriculum, but rather authentic in who you are and establish and embed core values that assist you to embark on a journey with no time limit.”

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