Call to recognise Indigenous skills of early educators

·2-min read
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Better recognition of a person's Aboriginal culture is important to encouraging and developing greater Indigenous representation in the early childhood workforce, a royal commission has been told.

South Australia's Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People April Lawrie said it was one thing for people to gain the necessary qualifications to work effectively in the sector.

But she said it was another matter to have the unique skills that come with a person's cultural background.

Ms Lawrie said it was also important those skills were specifically recognised as they had been in other areas, including health.

"It's open to anyone to get a qualification at university in early childhood education and expect that person to be equipped to work with Aboriginal children and their families," she told SA's Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and care on Monday.

"That is a lot different to an Aboriginal person who has got those qualifications in early childhood education but also has knowledge and skills about how you work with the child and with their family.

"(It's) about how you build their confidence and their learning about who they are as an Aboriginal child in the 21st century with 60,000 years of culture and history behind you."

The royal commission is examining the wider provision of early childhood education across South Australia.

In a draft report earlier this year, commissioner Julia Gillard recommended universal preschool be extended to all SA's three-year-olds.

The former prime minister urged SA to take the lead in early education through a program to begin in 2026 and be fully implemented by 2032.

Ms Gillard called for three-year-olds to be provided with 15 hours of preschool for 40 weeks a year, similar to what is offered to four-year-olds.

That could be through government schools and also through private early learning centres and long daycare facilities, depending on the model adopted.

"I do believe that as a caring state, South Australians feel that we have a moral obligation to make sure every child has the best opportunity, to grow and learn and thrive," Ms Gillard said.

"The research tells us crystal clear that intervention in the early years can make the biggest difference."

Ms Gillard's report found up to 11,130 new preschool places would need to be created at a capital cost of up to $139 million.

Extra ongoing funding to support the system once fully operational was put at between $121m and $357m, with between 1497 and 2180 more staff needed in form of teachers, educators and directors.

The commissioner will hand down her final report in August.