Mt Isa kindergarten receives reconciliation award

Estelle Cardiff Kindergarten in Mt Isa, North Queensland was recognised earlier this year at the Queensland Reconciliation Awards for its work in promoting reconciliation in the centre, Bedrock Journalist Sara El Sayed reports.

Estelle Cardiff received a Highly Commended award for educating children to be part of practical, meaningful and insightful exploration of cultural integrity through an ongoing program of reconciliation.

Being the oldest kindergarten in Mt Isa, Estelle Cardiff has set the precedent for exceptional work in promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and cultural competence among the children who attend the centre.

Engaging local Elders and members of the community, Estelle Cardiff has exposed its students to invaluable learnings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their history and their culture.

IEUA-QNT member and centre Director Narelle Elliot said the centre first launched their Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in 2009 with a handprint painting to show all children belong in the kindergarten.

“We have our Elders and cultural leaders come in and work with the children teaching weaving, painting, walking on country, collecting ochre, bush tucker. We have been very fortunate this year to gain an Artist in Residence grant,” Narelle said.

Local Kalkadoon artist Aunty Barbara Sam was invited to the kindergarten to help create the children’s end of year handprint painting.

Early childhood assistant member and descendant of the Tagalaka people from the Croydon/Normanton Area Sam Eaton said handprints mean belonging in Aboriginal culture and belonging is one of the centre’s fundamental core learnings.

“Our centre is continually incorporating reconciliation and cultural competency into our kindergarten program,” Sam said.

Some of the elements that have been incorporated into Estelle Cardiff’s program include:

an end of year painting assisted by a different artist each year

NAIDOC Celebrations Family Fun Day

an Artist in Residence program

working with Uncle Shawn Major to teach children about Aboriginal culture including weaving, spear throwing, bush tucker, walk on country, animal tracking, dancing, ochre painting and fire making

teaching painting and storytelling, and

creation of a ‘Deadly Kindy’ shirt and hat

a ‘Let’s Walk The Talk’ painting being the inspiration for the front cover of C&K’s RAP Book

celebrating Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week, Closing the Gap Day and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

recognising Sorry Day, and

participating in NAIDOC March and Community Celebrations.

“The award is definitely a great honour,” Sam said.

“Narelle has worked behind the scenes doing wonderful things for our kindergarten for many years and it was great to see all of the hard work recognised.”

IEUA-QNT North Queensland Branch Organiser Wendy Hutchinson said Estelle Cardiff’s efforts deserved such recognition.

“Staff at Estelle Cardiff do excellent work in their centre and with their students – they truly deserve this award.

“As a union, promoting reconciliation is one of our main focuses, and Estelle Cardiff’s work in doing so at a Chapter level is to be commended,” Wendy said.

Sam suggested ways to create a culturally inclusive environment in kindergartens, including:

incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dolls into the centre

displaying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags

dedicating a special area of the kindergarten to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander display, and

creating a song, learning some language and dancing.

“Becoming culturally competent is a very important step towards reconciliation,” Sam said.

Narelle said kindergartens should invite Elders to come into their centres and work with students.

“Telling Creation stories, teaching arts and crafts, weaving, teaching children about bush tucker – community Elders have so much knowledge to share.

“Kindergartens should also support and encourage staff to attend workshops to gain knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture,” Narelle said.

Sam said the centre is proud to be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kindergarten.

“Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is promoted in centres starts with connectedness with families.

“Kindergartens should talk to parents, ask them to come in and show the children about their culture. It is important to create a culturally safe environment.”

Sam said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family engagement is integral.

“We get a lot of our enrolments through word of mouth and connections with current and previous families.

“It’s about valuing the families’ culture and beliefs, encouraging children to share their knowledge and culture, and respecting that culture is part of a child’s everyday learning.

“Every child is important, every child is unique.

“We all belong at Estelle Cardiff Kindergarten,” Sam said.

References and credits

Photographer: Andrew Watson