4 Connecting with community elders
I wish we had more opportunities to make connections, formally and informally. There are email groups but there’s no real sense of the person. A personal approach is more effective because conversations, sharing, knowing someone personally makes meaning. How can we create more opportunities to make community connections for Reconciliation?
Connecting with a Local Elder of Laidley
Aunty Liz is a local Elder to the land of Laidley and identifies as belonging to the Yuggera country (personal communication, Dec 2019). Her great grandmother Annie Simpson on her mother’s side, originated from Ipswich and belongings to the Yuggera peoples (State Library of Queensland, 2019). Liz engages in cultural traditions as she grew up connecting to the land. She engaged in practices such as killing her chickens to feed her family sewing kangaroo skins together to make a blanket. Aunty Liz has a strong connection to her family, with the belief that family means being “as one.”
Liz is actively is involved in the Kambu health – Family wellbeing centre that supports health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the local community. The service is supported by the state electorate of Lockyer and the federal electorate of Write. At the centre she attends community group meetings and actively engages in building positive community connections. She shares her Aboriginal knowledge through visiting local childcare centres such as Free-Range Kids, Laidley 1. She engages children in the Early Years by sharing cultural knowledge and initiates cultural learning experiences such as shared reading stories. Aunty Liz is enthusiastic about developing cultural awareness in her local community. In advocating for the Reconciliation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, she believes it is important for children to explore their natural environment and develop a connection to the land. She advocates for children to develop an understanding of native Australian animals.
Aunty Liz is passionate about developing cultural awareness. She is open to sharing her knowledge and understandings of histories and cultures through contacting her on her personal phone number. She has identified a preferred communication strategy of text messages. Aunty Liz is able to bring questions to her local community groups or to peoples who she has developed a strong connection with in her community.
Image: Personal photo
The professional learning resource Connecting with Local Elder of Laidley was created to strengthen connections with the local community elders. The resource provides community access to a local elder in Laidley region or known as the Aboriginal Yuggera country (The State of Queensland (State Library of Queensland), 2019). The resource provides a description of Aunty Liz’s history and culture, as well as her preferred contact details. She believes that it is important for children in the early years to build a connection to the land through exploring their natural environment and connection to family (personal communication, Dec 2019). The resource is used by connecting her preferred communication strategy of contacting via text messages.
The professional learning resources one addresses the concern of access to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Elders in the local community. A recount on a local Elders’ culture and history as well as contact information is provided. Connecting with Local Elder of Laidley provides access to develop stronger relationships based on trust and respect and that are free of racism (Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority, 2018). Relationships can influence a child’s developing sense of self (Kim & Lee, 2011). A reconciled Australia is where our rights as First Australians are not just respected but championed in all places that matter (Reconciliation Australia, 2017). Therefore, it important for educators and all Australians understand as well as value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous cultures, rights and experiences (Reconciliation Australia, 2017).
The Early Years Learning Framework is underpinned by the principle of Respect for Diversity. It is the educator’s role to promote greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR], 2009, p. 14). The United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child highlights that “you have the right to practice your own culture, language and religion (United nations General Assembly, 1989). Goal one of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians advocates for Australian schooling to promote equity and excellence. The goal promotes working in partnerships with local communities on all aspects of the schooling process (Ministerial Council on Education Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2008, p. 7).