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Natasha Harris supports the Pop-up preschool at a Forbes park, learning with baby Ava and her mum Danielle Purcival. Photo: Supplied

Pop-up preschools help spread the word on reconciliation

A focus on taking preschool learning experiences out to community rather than relying on community members to come into the preschool is part of how Forbes Preschool helps spread the word on reconciliation.

“We don’t wait for a special day or a special week to talk about reconciliation, we do it every day,” said Director Amy Shine.

Through its strong focus on Aboriginal education, the preschool on Wiradjuri Country in Central West NSW has built up community trust and has increased Aboriginal child enrolments as a direct outcome of its reconciliation work. 

As Amy Shine explains, “we worked with councils, sought out community, worked with our local AECG, and employed Aboriginal staff with the premise that our staff employment should be reflective of our enrolments.

“For example, 40 per cent of our children are Aboriginal, so we should have 40 per cent of our staff being Aboriginal.”

Their work was recognised in 2019 when they won the Narragunnawali Award for their work in reconciliation in education.

It wasn’t till Forbes Preschool started filling out their Narragunawali Award application that they realised the extent of their work in reconciliation in education.

As its application time for the 2021 awards now, Amy Shine looked back on those hectic days in 2019 when they decided to put their story forward and to apply for the awards.

“We’re a preschool, we’re always busy and it’s a big application, but once we started writing we found we had so much to say” she said.

“Then we shared the application with staff so they could not only add to it but also so they could all see the big picture of what we are doing.”

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said the recently released 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia Report shows the importance of education as a driving force in the reconciliation movement.

“Education is critical to how we understand and think about the world and about reconciliation; the earlier we have these conversations the better,” said Ms Mundine.

“The Narragunnawali Awards are a chance for all of us to see the good work happening in schools and early learning services, and to be able to share and celebrate that work.

“We know 2020 was a very challenging year for everybody, with schools and early learning services being no exception. 

“In the face of all of this, schools and early learning services have remained committed to their critical role in shaping Australia’s reconciliation journey and these are the stories we will see in this year’s Narragunnawali Awards.”

Amy Shine says that when they won the award it felt like it lifted the whole community, not just the preschool.

“Everyone from the Mayor to the families at the preschool, we felt all won it together.”

Forbes Preschool accepts the 2019 Narragunnawali winners award from judge Gerald Atkinson for the early learning category. Photo: Supplied

Forbes Preschool put their $10,000 awards prize money towards buying a van which has enabled their pop-up preschool program to expand.

The Narragunnawali Reconciliation in Education Awards were established in 2017 to recognise and celebrate schools and early learning services that demonstrate exceptional commitment to reconciliation in education. They are Australia’s first and only national reconciliation in education awards for schools and early learning services.

There are two categories for schools (including primary, secondary, senior secondary and combined schools within the Government, Independent or Catholic sectors) and early learning services (including early childhood education and care, preschool, family day care and out of school hours care services).

In this year’s awards, the Narragunnawali team are looking forward to hearing stories from schools and early learning services about how they have continued to advance their reconciliation in education efforts despite the COVID challenges of 2020.

Winners in each category receive $10,000.

Apply online by 30 April 2021 at https://www.narragunnawali.org.au/awards 

Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Education program currently has approximately 25 per cent of all schools and early learning services in Australia registered on their resources website, narragunnawali.org.au.

Forbes Preschool with Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine and Narragunnawali Awards Judges Peter Buckskin, Geraldine Atkinson and Sharon Davis. Photo: Supplied

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