Author: 
Cherie Lamb, Queensland Council of Social Service
Embrace training for kindergarten educators

The EMBRACE Culture in Kindy Program aims to increase kindergarten participation for children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds in Queensland.

Our ‘Embracing cultural diversity in kindergarten’ training package is designed to facilitate increased cultural awareness, teach cross-cultural communication skills, and encourage increased parental participation.

We offered our first three courses in the Inala, Logan and Toowoomba/Lockyer Valley areas in Term 4, 2014 and 86 people have attended the training so far.

Whilst the program focuses on diversity in general there is also a specific focus on working with families from refugee backgrounds. The four sessions cover cross cultural awareness, communication, working with refugee families, and encouraging parental participation.

What prompted the development of the professional development program?

One of the issues identified through research, stakeholder and community feedback is that kindergartens do not always provide welcoming and inclusive environments for families from these backgrounds. Families are therefore opting to either keep their children at home or find alternative childcare arrangements. This decision deprives children of a good foundation for school which may ultimately limit their life opportunities.  

Have any unusual, unpredictable issues or results emerged from the courses?

A number of educators who identified as being from either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds attended the EMBRACE Diversity Training in each of the areas listed above. Several of these participants made comments similar to the following one. “I didn’t think that that coming to a session about refugees would be of any benefit to me and I had considered not even attending that session. However, I did come and found it to be the most beneficial session because I realised that what refugee families have to face is similar to what Aboriginal families are facing, and as a result of this session I will work much better with refugee families in the future”.

What reactions/feedback have you had from participants?

Overwhelmingly, feedback has been very positive with. Eighty-one per cent of participants felt that they now had noticeably more or significantly more skills and confidence to embed diversity.

Participants said that they would like all the sessions to be longer and that they would like more practical activities to take back to the classroom.

One participant who was the child of refugee parents said “I didn’t know what my parents went through because they never talked about their experience as refugees. I understand my parents better now”.

Another participant who had experienced being in a refugee camp as a child disclosed to the group her family’s story of survival particularly in relation to food insecurity.

The three locations have varying indigenous and multicultural population mixes have any significant issues emerged because of this?

Surprising, the issues faced by educators were very similar in each of the regions, and most felt isolated within their own centres, therefore networking was an important part of the training for many of the educators.

Do you plan to run more courses in 2015?

Yes, we plan to run courses in a number of other areas including, but not restricted to Cairns, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Ipswich and North Brisbane including the Caboolture, Carseldine and Strathpine areas.

The EMBRACE team is also currently working on a series of tip sheets and vignettes to upload onto our new website, along with information on upcoming courses across Queensland. More information on our new website will be available early in 2015, so stay tuned!

If you have any questions you can contact Cherie Lamb from the EMBRACE team on 07 3004 6930 or cheriel@qcoss.org.au

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