Increasing the numbers of Aboriginal children who attend education and care services in NSW is a State Government and department priority. Your service and staff can help encourage local Aboriginal families' participation by developing positive relationships with Aboriginal communities.
Developing positive relationships with Aboriginal communities
It's important for education and care services to build positive relationships with their local Aboriginal community members to help promote services as welcoming and respectful of Aboriginal culture:
- get input from the local Aboriginal community on how to encourage Aboriginal parents to bring their children to your service
- speak with parents at community events about the value of early childhood education
- hold an open day for local Aboriginal parents and Elders so they can get to know your service and your staff
- attend local Aboriginal mothers' groups and community health centres to introduce your service to parents or host a group at your service
- send newsletters about your service via local organisations, councils and primary schools that work with Aboriginal families
- employ Aboriginal staff and trainees or do a staff swap with a service that employs Aboriginal people
Amanda and Jake
Amanda had heard that preschool would help her young son Jake to make some friends and learn some basic counting and language skills before starting big school.
None of Jake's brothers and sisters or cousins had ever gone to preschool, so Amanda felt a little nervous about walking into the local preschool to find out more about it.
Even though the service was very clean and bright, Amanda felt a bit overwhelmed. There were big posters of smiling children around the reception area – but none of them looked like they were Aboriginal.
Amanda wasn't sure if Jake would fit in or learn anything about his own culture, so Amanda decided that preschool wasn't such a good idea after all.
What your service could do: Consider welcoming all families with a reception area that includes images of children from a range of cultural backgrounds, including Aboriginal faces. You may wish to display the Aboriginal flag or Aboriginal artwork too. This sends a positive and welcoming message to Aboriginal families.
Kyra and Shana
Kyra's early childhood nurse had been talking to her about sending her three year old daughter Shana to child care. Kyra didn't finish school herself and so was keen to give Shana the best chance at doing well at school and getting ahead in life.
Kyra went to visit all the child care centres in her town, she spoke with staff and was happy to find one that would also teach Shana some Aboriginal culture and language along with other games and lessons.
But when it came time to enrol Shana, Kyra hit a brick wall. The service gave her a bundle of application forms to complete. Kyra smiled and took the papers away with her but never returned them as she didn't feel confident filling out the forms.
What your service could do: Sometimes the paperwork involved in enrolling a child can be overwhelming, so consider sitting down with parents or carers and talking them through the process and where possible offer support to help complete the forms.
Provide clear instructions about where forms and paperwork need to be submitted. Sometimes a follow-up call may be helpful and encouraging when this step is a barrier for families.
See more resources for making your centre more welcoming to Aboriginal families.