Effective Partnerships

Partnerships are based on the foundations of understanding each other’s expectations and attitudes, and build on the strength of each others’ knowledge. In genuine partnerships, families and early childhood educators:

  • value each other’s knowledge of each child
  • value each other’s contributions to and roles in each child’s life
  • trust each other
  • communicate freely and respectfully with each other
  • share insights and perspectives about each child
  • engage in shared decision-making.

Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia p 13.

It is important to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Authentic engagement with families and community members is essential if you are introducing programs and/or materials for children to use in the home or community settings. Community includes mothers, fathers, family and the wider community who are part of the lives of children. Community engagement is a process which requires continual commitment. It also creates a relationship of reciprocity; that there is respect and appreciation for the time and effort and knowledge that may be imparted to you as you develop a relationship with families.

'Once you start it is ongoing, it’s every day and it’s everything you do. It’s about your ability to talk to community and have open and honest conversations' (Implementing the Stronger Smarter Approach p 48). For educators purposefully pursuing authentic engagement that goes outside the school gates this can be very important. The resource Implementing the Stronger Smarter Approach offers the following suggestions:

  • Creating opportunities for staff to meet with parents and community in environments that best suit the community.
  • Educators contacting parents and carers with positive news about their children to build relationships.
  • Specific activities might include yarn ups, cultural activity days, playgroups, school gardens, and events such as NAIDOC week, Coming of the Light Festival, and Reconciliation events.
  • Being sensitive to the impact of parents’ negative experiences of schooling, or feeling that they lack skills and knowledge to support their children.

If you are new to a community you might find this resource helpful: You’re in new Country: Advice for Non-Indigenous Early Childhood Mentors, Trainers & Teachers. Generated out of one context, it provides localised advice for early childhood educators. It is not a 'one-size fits all resource', but the reflective questions provide beginning points for cultural learning.

If you work at a preschool with somebody who speaks the same language(s) as the children, support your colleague to speak with the children in their first languages.

Indigenous world views

The 2017 Indigenous Children Growing Up Strong report (Walter, Martin & Bodkin-Andrews) explores the cultural, social and family dynamics of the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The researchers describe the subtle differences to Western perspectives on family structures and practices, and the different views on the values that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children should learn at home. 

A significant conclusion is the importance of relationships between educators, children and parents, and the fact that for greatest impact, this relationship must move beyond a homogeneous understanding of what constitutes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and their families.

Establish High-Expectations Relationships

High-Expectations Relationships have been described as an ‘authentic, two-way relationship that is both supportive and challenging’ (Implementing the Stronger Smarter Approach). These relationships need to be based on high levels of trust. Inherent in High-Expectations Relationships is having the courage to challenge yourself and your actions/attitudes that may lead to undermining the strengths that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have.

For more about this concept and ways for Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators to work closely with communities, see the Stronger Smarter Institute website and the Implementing the Stronger Smarter Approach position paper.