Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives during National Reconciliation Week and Beyond

This year's National Reconciliation Week (NRW) theme is 'Now More Than Ever'. The theme acts as reminder that all Australian's should continue to work together for the justice and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NRW presents an opportunity, ‘now, more than ever,’ to explore and re-commit to how we can progress reconciliation in education and across the nation.

The approved learning frameworks (ALFs) reflect the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (Education Council, 2019), in particular, the Declaration's Goal for all young Australians to be "...successful, lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community...[who] possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians".

The ALFs also promote a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and experiences, including ways of knowing and being. This is most notable in the ALFs’ vision for children’s learning, which emphasises how knowledge of, and respect for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures can positively impact children’s Belonging, Being and Becoming.

As early childhood professionals, we understand the importance of acknowledging, celebrating, and respecting diverse cultures and worldviews. Underpinned by this practice, is a commitment to actively honour the role – and each of our roles within – the reconciliation movement, which works towards a future of stronger race relations; historical acceptance; equality and equity; institutional integrity and. Respectfully embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives within service philosophies and daily practices encourages active listening to, and learning from, diverse perspectives, and is an important part of Reconciliation Action Planning.

To advance reconciliation, services should genuinely, respectfully and authentically embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across planning, policies, practices, philosophies, and all service environments and operations. As well as committing to their own continued learning, un-learning and re-learning as part of the reconciliation process, Educators are encouraged to consider how children can also be active citizens and agents of change who, through their learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, are motivated to contribute to the intergenerational reconciliation movement.

Some examples of what respectfully embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in philosophy and/or practice may look like in a service include: 

  • Building genuine and authentic partnerships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, and, through these relationships, actively listening to and learning about First Nations perspectives and experiences. Acknowledging the strengths and capabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and local community members assists in fostering wellbeing and reinforcing and affirming a positive sense of identity for First Nations children, all the while supporting important learning and relationship-building processes of all who are connected to the service. 
  • Showing deep respect for the Elders and Traditional Custodians of the Lands on which services reside, including through incorporating Acknowledgement of Country protocols and practices as an opportunity for shared reflection amongst Educators, children and families about the importance of Country/place and its connection to local histories and cultures. 
  • Educators critically reflecting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being to ensure contextually and culturally responsive ways of including First Nations perspectives within a service’s philosophy; curriculum planning and implementation; and wider everyday environments and operations. 
  • Committing to the wider Actions and steps involved in developing and implementing a whole-service Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

To further assist in respectfully embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and progressing reconciliation, services are further encouraged to engage with the following resources on Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali platform: 

  • Reconciliation Toolkits: Recognising that reconciliation is everyone’s business, and for everyone’s benefit, these toolkits contain comprehensive guides and core resources for diverse members of educational communities
  • Early Years Learning Framework and My Time Our Place RAP Actions: These Actions talk directly to the relationship between reconciliation and the Approved Learning Frameworks, with resources to support Educators to actively honour this relationship in practice 
  • Professional Learning: Aligned to RAP Actions and professional teaching standards, these resources support Educators’ personal and professional learning journeys within the wider journey of reconciliation-in-education.

Keep an eye out on the Celebrate National Reconciliation Week (RAP) Action page, as well as the webinars and workshops pages, as resources specific to the 2024 NRW theme become available in the coming weeks, remembering that reconciliation – and an active attention to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives - is an important part of every week throughout the year.  

Now, more than ever, education has a critical role to play in the nation’s reconciliation movement, with your role as Educators helping to shape the hearts and minds of future generations to be a positive part of our reconciliation story.