“Only 13 [Indigenous early childhood educators] graduated, and that was in the early ’90s. I think that gives you a fair idea”, said Michelle Hamilton, Gowrie, NSW inclusion resource manager, referring to the still tiny proportion of Indigenous educators in the sector.
Now Hamilton, a Wiradjuri woman, is aiming to attract more young, Indigenous talent to the early-learning sphere as a major contributor to the new book, Voices & Visions – Aboriginal Early Childhood Education in Australia. The Gowrie-produced book was launched on Friday by the NSW minister for early childhood education and Aboriginal affairs, Leslie Williams. It gives current Indigenous educators a voice by allowing them to share their professional and personal stories.
For Hamilton, the book is deeply personal. She’s an early-childhood educator herself and her two aunts and advocacy-inclined grandmother inspired her to teach.
While the book emphasises cultural learning for Indigenous kids, Hamilton thinks this “doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all”. She explained this further:
“I think there has to be inclusion of culture, family, and community [in a service]. Aboriginal children live in two worlds. When they step outside …they need something to connect to. But I don’t think they need to be in an [Indigenous]-identified service.”
She also highlighted the risks of pressuring Indigenous educators to be advocates. “I feel that pressure has people step back or away from the industry,” she cautioned. “I feel this should be a shared role.”
Hamilton assured that all early-childhood educators would find Voices and Visions a great read.
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