People often think that cultural awareness training is only for large organisations but the reality is organisations of any size can benefit from cultural awareness. This year our Butabuta facilitators have delivered our cultural awareness program to organisations with as few as 10 staff and across all sectors – private, public and not for profit. Each of these organisations had a different reason for organising training but each one was seeking to increase the knowledge of staff about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, our history and how we can all move forward and start addressing the outcome gaps our mob experience.
Over the last week I have been contacted by a couple of small businesses who are considering cultural awareness training but are unsure if they will benefit from it so I thought I would share, with their permission, about two of the small organisations that we provided training for this year - Kids Steps Speech Pathology and Tempe OOSH.
Kids Steps Speech Pathology
Kids Steps Speech Pathology is a private practice located on beautiful Gumbaynggirr Country in Coffs Harbour with services also offered at Grafton, Yamba, Macksville and into New England. The team offer a range of services to support kids who need support with speech and language disorders. The incidence of speech and language disorders is higher in Aboriginal populations and the Kids Steps Team, who work with a number of Aboriginal families, want to make sure that they can appropriately engage and support Aboriginal families in therapy to support our jarjums. The NDIS means more families can access the therapies they need and as an NDIS provider, the Kids Steps Team is well placed to support these families and it is encouraging to see non-Aboriginal businesses starting to recognise the need to modify practice in order to be culturally safe for our mob.
The team lead by Nathenya Fall, refer to their clients as friends. As a mum with a kid who has done his fair share of speech therapy, I love this approach. I know first-hand how important building a positive relationship between a child and their “speechie” is, so when Nathenya told me they were looking for opportunities to support their koori friends as best they could, I felt a rush of gratitude and excitement. The support we give kids in early years plays a huge role in shaping future outcomes for them. Having a private service that understands the importance of a culturally inclusive environment for Aboriginal people is amazing and the fact that they are willing to ask for help, acknowledging that Aboriginal people are best placed to provide advice on solutions to support our communities, is worth shouting about.
All of our cultural awareness sessions have been tailored to meet the needs of the participants and our facilitators were able to support the Kids Steps Team with a number of strategies they could introduce into their offerings that would help Aboriginal families to feel comfortable at the service. The Kids Steps Team were very keen to know how they could be more involved in the Aboriginal community so we spoke about opportunities to participate in events, community meetings and inter-agency events to connect with community outside of the Kids Steps offices. This conversation provided the Team with both the knowledge about where to connect with community as well as the confidence to join these events knowing that they were welcome. The respectful approach that Kids Steps has to working with our kids is amazing and the local community are blessed to have such a great service available. If only all small businesses were so welcoming of our mob!
Another session that really stands out for me this year is our visit to the Tempe OOSH. The team, led by Helen Pentecost, is very highly regarded by the community they service. Kids love attending and we all know how important it is knowing that our kids are safe and happy when we can’t be with them. We hadn’t had an OOSH contact us about training before and Helen’s approach is very refreshing and I hope an approach that is adopted by many OOSH providers.
Helen told me that she felt ‘Training staff in cultural competency to understand the unique history of Australia’s First Nations people provides not only enormous benefit in terms of helping them offer sensitive and appropriate care for children from Aboriginal, Torres Strait and other diverse backgrounds, but it helps everyone at our centre by deepening our connection to and understanding of the custodians of our land.’ She said ‘I believe the recognition of the vast and rich cultural heritage of Aboriginal people is a vital underpinning of all education in Australians, and helps us create safe and appropriate learning spaces for all children, of any background. For us, there was no question that this training was vital to our way of working, and how we see ourselves as educators’.
We talk a lot about creating culturally inclusive environments in schools so to have an OOSH embrace this and take steps to ensure their service is inclusive is all kinds of exciting. An approach which recognises that understanding Aboriginal people and our role as custodians of the land is important for all students and staff at the centre, for me really highlights Helen’s approach as best practice and I would love to see other OOSH providers work towards adopting this approach.
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.