Yirrkala Preschool has been awarded an Excellent Rating

Date awarded: 11 September 2019

Valid until: 10 September 2022

Yirrkala Preschool has been awarded the Excellent rating by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), the highest rating a service can achieve under the National Quality Framework.

The Yirrkala based service was recognised for collaborative partnerships with professional, community or research organisations, commitment to children that respects, reflects and celebrates culture and diversity, including place of origin, inclusive partnerships with children and families and practice and environments that enhance children’s learning and growth, positive.

Examples of exceptional practice at the service include:

·         The service identified the need to improve how they engaged with their families and community.  In collaboration with the Yirrkala Families as First Teacher program, the service developed the Women’s Learning and Action Circle (WLAC) that is made up of female members of the Yirrkala community, Elders and family members of children who attend the service. The WLAC meet in a culturally safe place to discuss and share knowledge of children’s learning and development. The WLAC improves children’s learning outcomes by developing the families and communities understanding of the importance of learning through play and improving children’s attendance and engagement at the service.  

·         Yolngu culture is the foundation of the service, with a staff team primarily consisting of educators from the local Aboriginal community. The service’s program includes regular opportunities to learn about the Yolngu culture and develop children’s sense of identity. The service invites school staff, community Elders and specialists into the service to run activities such as traditional storytelling and dance. Aboriginal organisations such as Yirralka Miyalk Rangers (female rangers) make bush scrub and soaps with the children and families. Dhimurra Rangers (male rangers) teach children about ‘Being Crocwise’ and take the children out on country to collect bush honey, make traditional fish traps, collect bush medicines and attend special ceremonies.

·         Families are an important part of the service and as such, have an open invitation to stay at the service during the day, with some family members staying for the duration of the program. In the beginning, families were hesitant to stay, but they’ve seen mothers, aunties and grandmothers in particular stay and build confidence in being actively engaged and involved in their children’s learning and development.  Family members read and tell stories to the group, sing songs in first language and help children record their day. Family members are also active participants in the routine activities of the service, including mealtimes and health and hygiene procedures. The educators are able to speak with families as their children learn through play, allowing families to see the progress their children are making.

·         The service provides University of Melbourne Masters of Teaching students with an opportunity to complete a five to six week practicum at the service. The practicum placement provides opportunities to learn about Yolngu culture, history language and kinship relationships. Students are introduced to community Elders, and some students are ‘adopted’ by local families allowing them to experience Yolngu culture from a family’s perspective. Some practicum students have gone on to work in remote communities in the Northern Territory. 

As a leader in the sector, the Yirrkala Preschool representatives presented at the 2018 Northern Territory Leader’s Conference attended by 130 principals and Department of Education staff. The presentation outlined the service’s journey from Working Towards to Exceeding National Quality Framework in all seven Quality Areas. In the presentation, the director of the service shared the critical reflections of the educators as they developed and worked through the service’s Quality Improvement Plan. They also shared the observation and planning tools the service developed and also shared these tools with community teachers in the region. 

About the Excellent rating

Services that receive ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’ in all seven quality areas can apply for the Excellent rating. The Excellent rating is awarded for three years. After this time, services have the option to re-apply.

More information is available on the ACECQA website