The Aboriginal Early Childhood Conference 21st-22nd June 2019

Building respectful reciprocal relationships with Aboriginal children, their families and communities is a central part of everyday life in your service. There are a myriad of ways that this can be done. The Aboriginal Early Childhood Conference brings together intergenerational expertise and experience of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to inspire and support you in authentic relationship building.

Key themes that will be addressed during this two day conference include:

  • Growing up Aboriginal

  • Communication with children of Aboriginal knowledges through art

  • Seeking out Aboriginal expertise and knowledge sharing – Elders and Artists

  • Guidance for non-Aboriginal people supporting Aboriginal children in mainstream settings or Aboriginal specific settings

  • Building relationships with Aboriginal families and communities

  • The critical role of early childhood settings in building relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities

  • Challenges of running Aboriginal specific services

  • Challenges of non-Aboriginal services reaching out to connect with community

  • How child protection is enacted in culturally safe ways

In a carefully designed program this conference expands its reach from pedagogy toward community-oriented curriculum design. By building in the stories and experiences of what it means to grow up Aboriginal, from artists, educators and children’s experiences, these first-hand stories open up spaces for new learning and guide relationship building.

The conference will span two days in order that connections and conversations can take place and plans can be made for ongoing collaboration. There will be a conference dinner on Friday 21st June. See below for details.

We are thrilled to announce keynote speaker Dr Anita Heiss.

Dr Anita Heiss is the author of historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, children’s novels and non-fiction. She is a regular guest at writers’ festivals and travels internationally performing her work and lecturing about Aboriginal literature. She is a Lifetime Ambassador of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central NSW.

Anita was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards for her memoir Am I Black Enough for You? And she was a finalist in the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards. Anita is a Board Member of the State Library of Queensland, and currently divides her time between writing, public speaking, performing Master of Ceremonies, managing the Epic Good Foundation and being a ‘creative disruptor’. Anita’s novel Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms was longlisted for the Dublin International Literary Award, and latest book (as editor) is entitled Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia. Growing up Aboriginal in Australia has been the inspiration for the focus of this conference. Through this exquisite edited collection Dr Heiss reminds us that stories are such a powerful way to share what is not written, or what needs to be rewritten, in order that the true history of Australia is documented by her First People.

By listening to and reflecting upon the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, artists, early childhood educators, consultants, community service and community program leaders, the opportunity to draw from and (re)build relationships will be nourished. Each speaker will bring practical strategies for you to write into your everyday practices with a view to embolden and revitalise the experiences of Aboriginal children. We know that when non-Aboriginal people listen deeply, respectfully and graciously that the experiences of all Australian children are enriched and so is their education.

In the same way, this conference will bring you practical stories of a growing community of non-Aboriginal early childhood educators who are building long term relationships with their local Aboriginal communities based on the principles in The Aboriginal Early Childhood Practice Guide (edited by Jessica Staines and Red Ruby Scarlet). The awe and wonder of witnessing the ways in which early childhood educators encourage each other to undertake this work will inspire you! The practice of sharing our own early childhood expertise under the guidance and support of Aboriginal communities is nothing less than world changing. The experiences of Aboriginal children in non-Aboriginal services is more equitable and to work for their success is central. Similarly, the learning we can all benefit from in hearing about the experiences of Aboriginal children in Aboriginal specific services who then transition to non-Aboriginal schools, is paramount to our anti-bias work.

A focus on family diversity will be featured. Aboriginal people and their cultures are diverse as are their families. Beginning to understand that Aboriginal children are born into extended families, LGBTIQA+ families, single parent families and many family configurations is vital. The ongoing struggle for family also transpires in the lives of children who are removed, and live part or all of their childhoods in out of home care. This is a shared community responsibility. We bring this focus on family diversity together in the spirit of working together, learning together and walking together to create a world where children can thrive.

The conference will be punctuated with an array of workshops, plenary sessions and panels to bring together the cultural and pedagogical pieces of the puzzle that will enable early years professionals in education, care, and community services to identify what can strengthen the design and delivery of programs and practices.

The power of the collection of people who will be bringing you their stories will build you up, give you courage and inspire you to connect with integrity, respect and love.

The way forward is together.

Tickets for the 2019 Aboriginal Early Childhood Conference can be purchase here:

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Garry's involvement with the AECC.
In 2017 Garry was approached by the organisers of the AECC, Jessica Staines from  Koori Curriculum and Dr Red Ruby Scarlet from Multiverse, who offered him the opportunity to lend his artwork Generations to the cover of their new book, The Aboriginal Early Childhood Practice Guide.
Garry quickly jumped at the opportunity to support this project.
In 2018 the first Aboriginal Early Childhood Conference was held in Sydney. Garry was a guest speaker during the opening of the event, nervously sharing his life stories and the inspiration behind his artworks with an audience of 900.
in 2019 Garry will again be participating at the conference as artist in residence and hosting two artist in residence talks where he will again share intimate details about his life and artworks and give the participants an opportunity to ask questions. You can check out the program here.
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