1 EYLFPLP e-Newsletter No. 7 2011. Understanding cultural competence Setting the scene Unpacking cultural One of the purposes of the e-Newsletter competence series is to open up big ideas from the The EYLF (p. 16) describes cultural Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). competence as: for thoughtful reflection and discussion. This e-Newsletter focuses on cultural much more than awareness of cultural competence ' which is one of the eight differences. It is the ability to understand, key practices that the EYLF highlights as communicate with and effectively interact essential to support children's learning. with people across cultures. cultural competence encompasses: cultural competence ' is one of those expressions where we all think we know being aware of one's own world view what it means, but we might all mean something different. It's a term and a set developing positive attitudes towards of concepts we need to return to and cultural differences come to understand over time.
2 cultural gaining knowledge of different competence is underpinned by the cultural practices and world views Principles outlined in the EYLF: developing skills for communication secure, respectful and reciprocal and interaction across cultures. relationships The Educators' Guide to the EYLF (p. 21). partnerships (DEEWR, 2010) explains why respecting, high expectations and equity Understanding and including a child's culture is so very important: In the context of an Early education and respect for diversity. care setting the Guide (p. 26) stresses that Culture is the fundamental building cultural competence needs to be applied Becoming culturally competent' requires block of identity and the development of on three levels: educators to engage with the fifth Principle a strong cultural identity is essential to ongoing learning and reflective practice. children's healthy sense of who they are At the individual level where it will and where they belong.
3 Be evident in the knowledge, skills, The concepts and practices around attitudes and behaviours of each cultural competence will be revisited in educator in their relations with children, several newsletters, with examples from families and colleagues. field research that show how educators in different contexts are working with the At the service level where it will be cultures' that make up their educational evident in the policies, procedures, and wider communities. expectations and practices of the setting and the way in which the views of children, families and the community .. a strong cultural identity influence decisions. is essential to children's At the systems level where it will be healthy sense of who they evident in the way services relate to local community people and agencies are and where they belong.' and respect local protocols. 1. Taking steps to build a deep Understanding about Indigenous custodianship for our local environment can be a good place to start.
4 For example, a preschool in NSW, which has no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children enrolled at present, decided that it was very important to enrich children's Understanding and respect for Indigenous cultures. So, the educator invited a local Aboriginal Elder to spend a day talking about the surrounding area its history, foods, stories and language and how Aboriginal people had cared for the land for centuries. The children were fascinated and continued to talk about what they'd learned for ages. Karen then invited the Elder back and asked the children's families to come as well. Staff and parents said they learned an enormous amount and it What is culture? cultural competence as changed my attitudes about some things'. The Educators' Guide to the EYLF (p. 22). it relates to Aboriginal As Karen says: expands our Understanding of culture': and Torres Strait Islander It's important to move beyond tokenism.
5 A. Culture can be defined as what we create' Australians few books and posters and an hour at an beyond our biology. Not given to us, but expensive cultural performance can't have made by us (Williams, in MacNaughton, While cultural competence encompasses the same lasting effect as coming to know 2003, p. 14). a wide spectrum of difference beyond race and appreciate Aboriginal history and and ethnicity, those aspects are usually the culture through local knowledge over time Using this definition, culture incorporates first in our minds when we hear the term. and in many ways. the scope of human diversity and ways of being, such as gender, ethnicity, class, As well, because we work with young Of course, it may not always be possible religion, ability, age and sexuality. children and families, we have a special for an Early learning setting to gain the responsibility to contribute to Australia's wisdom of a local Aboriginal or Torres This means that as educators, we need to reconciliation and equity agendas in Strait Islander Elder first hand but there are think about our own values, beliefs and relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait other ways to build children's knowledge attitudes related to diversity and difference Islander children and families.
6 And respect for Australia's long Indigenous and acknowledge and address any bias habitation and history. that we may hold' (Educators' Guide p. 22). The Educators' Guide to the EYLF (p. 24) highlights our role in closing the As well as critically examining our own gap in current educational outcomes assumptions, cultural competence ' requires for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander us to take a strong approach to countering children'. As educators, we contribute racism and bias when we encounter it. to improved learning outcomes for This is a long way from a live and let live' Indigenous children directly when our attitude. It involves making a conscious educational programs reflect children's decision to promote children's cultural cultural ways of being and knowing and competence so that we can build a just when we make particular efforts to build and inclusive Australian society.
7 Strong relationships with their families, so that children grow strong in culture and As Wendy Lee, a Key Note speaker at the engage with learning. ECA conference said: We also contribute to reconciliation and Being moral includes living the principles equity in a less direct sense when we of justice. It involves making sure that ensure that all children are familiar with everyone gets a fair go and that hidden the rich and long history of Aboriginal and attitudes to race, class and difference are Torres Strait Islander cultures. made visible and challenged. 2. Building an As Anne Kennedy says (Every Child, 2009): Understanding about Respecting difference is culture'. an ethical duty.'. On the EYLF PLP Forum, Judy mentioned that we make assumptions about what Jenni Connor Early Childhood Consultant and EYLF PLP writer each of us understands about culture and cultural competence ; perhaps we should References start by sharing aspects of our own culture Connor, J.
8 (2007). Dreaming Stories: A springboard for with each other and with the children?' learning. Research in Practice Series. Canberra, ACT: Early Childhood Australia. Judy quoted Wendy Lee, the speaker from NZ at the conference: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2010). Educators One setting in South Australia, for example, If the children you teach still think you Being, Belonging and Becoming: Educators' Guide sleep at the kindergarten, how well do to the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. uses Dreaming Stories in picture books Accessed 7 March, 2011 at and film to share Indigenous values, they really know you? What does this Earlychildhood/Policy_Agenda/Quality/Doc uments/. responsibilities and spiritual beliefs say about cultural competence and with children from a range of cultural relationships? MacNaughton, G. (2003). Shaping Early childhood: backgrounds (Connor, 2007).
9 They have Educators need to talk about culture' with Learners, curriculum and contexts. England: Open found that children from very different colleagues and to ask questions such as: University Press. cultural communities can relate to the Mundine, K., and Giugni, M. (2006). Diversity and stories, unpack the meanings and make How might our views of culture affect difference: Lighting the spirit of identity. Research connections to their own family and our relationships with children and in Practice Series. Canberra, ACT: Early Childhood cultural beliefs. families? Australia. In the ACT, another setting acknowledges Might we sometimes advantage some Richardson C. (in press). Respecting diversity: each day the Indigenous peoples who children and families and disadvantage Articulating Early childhood practice. Research in have custodianship for the land on which others? Practice Series.
10 Canberra, ACT: Early Childhood Australia. the centre is located. (It is important to name the particular Aboriginal or Torres Do our interactions with families show Various authors (2009). Every Child, Vol 15, No. 2, Strait Islander group relevant to the land that we respect and value them as they Canberra, ACT: Early Childhood Australia. and its setting.) are, or as we would like them to be'? As Carmel (Richardson, in press, p. 25) says: Does our environment reflect a genuine knowledge about the cultures of the The inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in children in our care? the program is in response to the centre's commitment to equity, inclusion, social Are our representations of cultures justice and reconciliation and reflects the in books, images and artefacts deep commitment to diversity that is also contemporary and inclusive, or do they acknowledged as one of the guiding fall into stereotypes?