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The Independent Education Union early childhood education magazine

Breaking down the barriers Transformative approaches to sustainability Growing citizens for the global village PRINT POST No. PP255 003/02 117 ISSN 1326-7566

Vol 18 #1, APRIL 2013


bedrock Vol 18 #1 April, 2013

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JOHN QUESSY NSW/ACT Independent Education Union and TERRY BURKE Queensland Independent Education Union

NSW/ACT Independent Education Union GPO Box 116 Sydney 2001 Tel: (02) 8202 8900 Fax: (02) 9211 1455 Email: Website:

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14/12/12 11:31 AM

NSW news Ask Lisa



Queensland news


Breaking down the barriers


Are you a caring doormat or empowered teacher?


From test tubes to toddlers


To Facebook or not? One preschool’s experience


Transformative approaches to sustainability


Everyday coping


Working towards a positive organisational culture while staying sane


Growing citizens for the global village



Breaking down the barriers


Everyday coping


Giveaways 22 Greenover Songlines – from Wombarra to orangutans


Working towards a positive organisational culture

editorial The IEU produces Bedrock to support the professional work that early childhood teachers do every day, by providing ideas that can be used in their daily practice and discussion of wider pedagogical or industrial issues. The National Quality Framework also supports the professionalism of early childhood teachers, by quantifying the many aspects of their practice and opening up new conversations about professionalism.

John Quessy

In our story about compassion fatigue (p10), we outline why it is so important for early childhood teachers to see themselves as part of an important and recognised profession, in order to improve their status and the regard with which government and the community at large hold the profession. Joining the Union and being a proud teacher is part of that process. Our feature story (p7) explores why attendance at preschool and long day care by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families is low, and includes some suggestions as to what teachers and directors could do to address that problem at their centre or preschool. A number of stories such as Transformative Approaches to Sustainability (p14) and Growing citizens for the Global Village (p20) provide inspiration, ideas and resources that relate to various aspects of the Early Years Learning Framework. And of course we have our regular Giveaways and Greenover.

Terry Burke

We always welcome your feedback on anything that appears in Bedrock, or anything you’d like us to cover in the magazine. Email

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NSW news

Free computers up for grabs The KidSmart Young Explorer program is an annual IBM IEU initiative that provides up to 15 community-based early learning services with around $7000 worth of computer equipment, software, training and ongoing support. The program provides an opportunity for early childhood teachers to engage in and explore ICT software and equipment. In 2012 17 participants attended the two-day IEU workshop in Sydney and reported back they were “inspired and excited” to use the computer more constructively in their service. Participants also said it increased their confidence in providing young children with opportunities to learn through technology and to incorporate ICT learning experiences into their centres on a daily basis. IEU teacher members who participate in the IBM KidSmart program receive the Young Explorer Learning Centre free for their service. The package includes: • one IBM computer, monitor and printer • a Little Tikes colourful desk • the IBM Young Explorer software programs, and • two days professional learning. If you would like to be part of the 2013/14 IEU IBM KidSmart Young Explorer program, request an Expression of Interest form from Tina Smith at or Anne Lajoie at and return it by 30 June. Successful members will be notified by the beginning of Term 4, 2013.

How much to record? x4x

Teachers on the KidSmart course

Do you need to record short absences when you answer a phone call, talk to a parent or take a toilet break? No, says Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). However, an approved provider of a centre-based service must keep a record of hours educators are working directly with children to satisfy

Regulation 151. The record helps approved providers show they are meeting ratio requirements all the time. The provider can decide the best way to record the information as there is no prescribed format, so it could be recorded as part of staff rosters or timetables. Source:

NSW news

No funding flood but $30 million of old money

As Bedrock goes to press we’re still waiting (yawn, yawn, YAWN!) for the release of the Brennan review into early childhood education in NSW handed to the State Government in December 2011. While the State and Federal Governments engage in the stultifying game of who is and who is not responsible, the State Government released $30 million of state funding late last year earmarked as: fee relief for the most disadvantaged families; infrastructure support; cluster management trial; workforce development and qualifications upgrading, especially in disadvantaged areas. It also provides help with transition to school statement and support for services to move to a 15 hour per week delivery format. The tireless Gabe Connell, IEU Early Childhood Vice President and Director at Albury Preschool, has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the lack of funding for NSW preschools. ‘Like’ the campaign at www.facebook. com/FundNswPreschoolsNow Don’t forget to do the same for the teachersareteachers campaign and be an active voice in campaigning for your profession.


ear Lisa,

I’ve been told that I have to attend a staff meeting during the school holidays. I work in a preschool. Do I have to do this? Also, I work part-time but I have to attend the same number of meetings as the full-time teachers. I work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but staff meetings are held on Thursdays and I have two young children.

ASK LISA Contact Lisa on (02) 8202 8900 or email



ear Renee

The Educational Services (Teachers) Award states that full-time teachers can be required to be in attendance for 205 days per year and this is proportionate for part-time teachers. This means that if you work three days a week your days of attendance will be 123 days. You should not be required to attend meetings on days that you normally do not work (Thursdays and Fridays). Lisa

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QLD/NT news

Addressing many challenges Our sector is facing many challenges, with new reforms taking effect and professional issues overwhelming members. IEUA-QNT is working with members to advocate for and make improvements to workplace conditions. Members are concerned with issues relating to the National Quality Framework (NQF), such as the introduction of a nominated supervisor, the professional impact of delivering the Universal Access requirement of 600 hours of an education program and the potential adverse impact from the placement of new kindergartens on state school sites. Nominated supervisors The nominated supervisor has many new responsibilities in the day-to-day running of a kindergarten, with several of these specific responsibilities being problematic for employees and committees. The role of nominated supervisor now includes responsibility for many operational requirements, with failure to comply carrying the risk of fines and prosecution. These responsibilities include accountability for the proper hygiene practices and food preparation methods of all staff and a menu of food and beverages that is designed based on the developmental requirements of all children. The supervisor is also responsible for sleep and rest requirements based on developmental stages and individual needs, any medication that needs to be administered and risk assessments carried out before receiving regulatory approval to conduct an excursion.

of hours for a teacher teaching an education program is 27.5 per week. Collective agreements, such as the agreement with C&K, manages this issue and protects the working hours and conditions of employees. IEUA-QNT has also developed a model agreement which facilitates both teaching hours required by universal access and protection of conditions for teachers. Our Union is more than prepared to work with any kindergarten to ensure that a proposed agreement satisfies these fundamental requirements. This issue of increased workload and other problems associated with Universal Access has been highlighted by our Union to the Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett. IEUAQNT will continue to seek commitments from both state and federal governments to appropriately recognise our sector and its employees through adequate levels of funding. Additional kindergartens IEUA-QNT is concerned that the additional kindergartens being opened on state schools sites may have an adverse effect on attendances in already established kindergarten settings. We will continue to monitor these developments.




Our Union has recommended to committees that it is essential that all nominated supervisors are given additional release time to compensate for the considerable increase in administration tasks associated with the regulation requirements. Our Union has previously given evidence to a Parliamentary Committee identifying the unreasonable requirements imposed on the nominated supervisor. IEUA-QNT also contacted the Office of Early Childhood Education and Care to raise concerns regarding obligations imposed on ‘nominated supervisors’. It is clear that the onus is on employers to ensure that necessary indemnity insurance provisions are in place to protect employees acting as nominated supervisors. Release time should also be provided to nominated supervisors to mitigate new administration requirements. Delivering Universal Access hours Teachers in ECE settings continue to face the threat of teaching additional hours without sufficient recompense or consideration. The Universal Access requirement to provide a minimum of 600 hours of an educational program for a child in the year immediately before compulsory schooling is a problematic element of the framework. The long-standing provision of the Early Childhood Education Award (Qld) that the maximum number


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Breaking down the barriers Bedrock Journalists Sue Osborne and Fiona Stutz explore practices that encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to access preschool or long day care. The Early Years Framework recommends children have a strong sense of identity and be connected to community, but attendance rates at early childhood centres by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children are low. This contributes to 60% of Aboriginal children being developmentally behind their peers when they start school. Despite the good intentions of many children’s services, local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are not using them for their children. The feedback and research shows serious gaps in services’ local knowledge and low links with the community. It is these difficulties that Ngroo (‘being included’ in Yorta Yorta dialect) Education Inc addresses in an attempt to break down the barriers preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children accessing preschools and long day care. Ngroo Research and Development Manager Deb Mann says forging links between local elders and centres is the first step. Local Aboriginal community elders and early childhood educators work collaboratively to deliver training about creating contacts. This clearly signals to local families that they are welcome and their cultures are respected.

Ngroo has over the past three years built up contacts with 90 NSW centres and has a growing network of 17 elders who are partners in the developing strategies which make centres more welcoming to local families. The basic Ngroo program involves creating local links and providing two-day training course in cultural awareness, and appropriate programing for staff and management. This deals with questions of barriers to access as well. Deb says in an ideal world more centres would have Aboriginal staff, and therefore some built-in know how and links. However, all centres need to start with a willingness to engage with the community, and be confident enough to explore new ideas and ask even basic questions. Ngroo’s starting point was to target mainstream services in NSW where local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were not enrolling or attending.

People like to feel their knowledge and stories are known and respected. x7 x x7x

Our culture and identity is strong and that’s translated back to our families. The families chose that.

Joanne at work at Koobara

The strategy was developed in a centre in Tregear, western Sydney, when staff intentionally made contact with local communities and employed local Aboriginal workers as a way of developing the necessary trust , knowledge and goodwill to get families involved. Now centres are asking Ngroo to help improve their cultural awareness, relationships and community connections. “Apart from cost and transport, one of the biggest barriers is the attitudes of staff. Many know very little about local communities and wider cultures so become anxious that they may say the wrong thing, and then parents feel they are judged or ignored.

Building on heritage

Koobara Aboriginal and Islander Family Resource Centre in Brisbane is affiliated with the Creche and Kindergarten Association Ltd (C&K) and has been operating for around 40 years. Five of the centre’s staff are Indigenous: a director, assistant, bus driver, bus assistant and administrator. In 2012 all 44 children from 40 families who attended the centre were Indigenous.

“They are afraid they are going to ask a silly question, so avoid contact,” Deb says.

Director at the Koobara Aboriginal and Islander Family Resource Centre Joanne Claybourn believes Indigenous families choose to send their children to the centre because of the culture programs they run and because their staff are Indigenous.

“Some religious groups may think their viewpoints may not mix. We use the example of the Uniting Church to show that Aboriginal spirituality can be incorporated into a Christian perspective.”

“You can see our heritage through what we do. Although we are credited with Crèche and Kindergarten and we operate under the National Quality Framework, our Indigenous program is quite strong,” Joanne says.

Relationship building is key to circumventing these kinds of problems, and having an elder to act as a go-between if tensions arise is invaluable.

“And our culture and identity is strong and that’s translated back to our families. The families chose that,” she says.

Deb says staff talking to the community about recognising local cultures as well as what sort of activities and programs they would like to see in the centre is crucial. “People like to feel their knowledge and stories are known and respected. So basic recognition goes a long way, as does some understanding of beliefs and values. “We are often asked for practical advice such as ‘can boys and girls play with didgeridoos?’. “Aboriginal communities are not all the same, they are evolving, so again each service needs to talk with their families and elders about what they are comfortable with.” The program is proving successful, with more Aboriginal children using services with the Ngroo model than before. “More than 360 children have come through one service as a result of the community, Ngroo and the centre working together,” Deb says. Details:


Joanne says her centre differs from other centres due to their ability to introduce Indigenous programs to benefit the children. Recently the children visited a local prep class to help with their transition in to school life. While there, a local Indigenous person visited to play the didgeridoo and explained how it was used and where it comes from. An elder in the local community read a story to the children and a local artist taught them how to paint on boomerangs and throw them. All activities incorporated a cultural component to learning. “When we do things with other people our Indigenous culture comes through more,” she says. The centre also incorporates a playgroup, funded through the Department of Families Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, to meet the wider needs of families before their children attend the kindergarten. Parenting programs, toileting workshops, a play-based workshop and a parenting workshop are also offered by the centre to provide other helpful ways for parents and families to be involved.

The centre holds their own NAIDOC celebrations aimed at children. Music, artists, performers and valuable information for parents and families in the wider community is put on show.

next door at the Schools as Communities Centre and the preschoolers visit the school’s library every fortnight. The children also order their lunch from the school’s canteen every Wednesday during Term 4.

By allowing Indigenous learning programs taught by Indigenous people to Indigenous children, the centre can play to its strength: its identity.

“It gives that sense of community between the school and the preschool which helps create school readiness. The elders have made aprons, which the children use during their cooking sessions, and the children might cook something and put on morning tea for the elders.

“The children are strong, they’re proud… they know who they are. This is the only time the children will be the majority in the urban environment. Once they leave here and they go onto that bigger, wider world, they will be the minority. “Therefore we hope we build them up strong. We hope that they have better educational outcomes because they leave stronger.” Joanne says she is seeing children who once attended the centre now grown up and parents themselves choosing to send their children to the centre. “We have that next generation coming through which is good to see. I think that that is also our strength: our community. We do believe that if we give them a good start, they are more likely to have a successful educational outcome.” Collaborative partnerships Dubbo and District Preschool won this year’s HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Award for Advancing Practice for its Buninyong Preschool initiative. Louise Simpson, Dubbo Preschool Director, set up Buninyong Preschool next to Buninyong Public School in 2010 as a free service to encourage Aboriginal families to attend. The centre’s attendance has since doubled and children are showing improved school readiness when they enter the public school. “We removed the barriers of cost and distance by locating the school near where the Aboriginal families live,” Louise says. There’s a sense of partnership with the school and the community – elders visit the school, there’s a playgroup

Buninyong Preschool

“They put on a little concert and the elders are proud of what their grandchildren are learning at preschool. “We have community art projects, including making a large mosaic of our Buninyong Preschool logo, which everybody was able to get involved with. “The Committee was apprehensive at first when I suggested we start a preschool within the Aboriginal community, as they had never done it before, but now they are very supportive and proud of the partnership and the positive outcomes achieved. “We have earnt the trust and respect of the local families, which is evident in our increased enrolments, and with families now sending siblings to preschool.” Buninyong employs an Aboriginal assistant who is part of the community and respectfully communicates when there may be an issue at home. The Preschool works in partnership with speech and occupational therapists, who visit the children for assessments and therapy while the children are at preschool. The children feel secure in the preschool environment and the families don’t have to run them around for therapy after school. The Preschool also runs a social skills program, You Can Do It, covering resilience, persistence, organisation and getting on with others. “By sticking to the basic principles of respectful, collaborative partnerships with the community, the Preschool seems to be working,” Louise says.

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Are you a caring doormat or empowered teacher?

The lack of a broader culture of political engagement in early childhood means that the profession is often permissive.


hen former NSW/ACT IEU General Secretary Dick Shearman told the 2011 IEU early childhood conference that the NSW Government was getting early childhood on the cheap, it sparked a question IEU Journalist Suzanne Kowalski-Roth has been pondering ever since. Why? It’s no accident the NSW preschool funding freeze of 1989 happened around the time wages began to lose parity with those of school teachers. The empty rhetoric of support from successive governments not backed up by decisive funding goes a long way to demoralise the profession. It is really not okay to do that for decades. The lack of a broader culture of political engagement in early childhood means that the profession is often permissive and reacts to the agendas of others whose primary purpose doesn’t seem to be supporting children and families, let alone the professionals who do such amazing work.

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But how has this situation developed? Is it to do with early childhood itself? Are teachers ‘too busy’: • Too busy dealing with the major structural overhauls of recent years? • Too busy trying to make their service a quality service? • Too busy trying to make their service survive due to lack of long-term government investment especially in NSW? • Too busy running a small business without any of the support teachers in schools enjoy? • Too busy advocating for all those they work with including very poorly paid child care workers which means they don’t advocate for themselves? Are teachers ‘too stuffed’: • Too tired to do anything but get through the week in one piece?

• Too tired trying to manage everyone’s expectations – children, parents, employers, community, local, state and federal governments? • Too over it and past it to care – bring on retirement! Are teachers ‘too disillusioned’: • Teachers who have fought the big fights are now tired and disillusioned. • Many teachers have given up and left early childhood due to low pay – this is not a sustainable system! • Time for the next generation to fight the battles (unfortunately the lack of pay means teaching graduates are heading straight into schools in NSW). Are teachers ‘too accommodating’: • Teachers are unwilling to challenge the ‘nice lady who looks after children’ stereotype? (Men in early childhood are hard to find so it’s difficult to know if this is relevant to them). • Closely related is the ‘yes’ person – the one who can’t say ‘no’ to demands. • Parent committees can quickly change, flex their muscle and undermine the work of teachers and directors when it comes to engagement with big picture issues so it’s better to play it safe than take risks. Are teachers rejecting the ‘professional’ mantle through lack of support, time or awareness: • Early childhood teachers often work in isolation and professional boundaries among staff and communities can easily be compromised. • Lack of understanding about what working with others can achieve professionally. The reality is that strongly unionised professions have much better pay and conditions. • They work in toxic services and get no support so the idea of professionalism is difficult to realise. • Projection of responsibility ie. we pay the Union to work on our behalf so you do what you’re paid for and get us pay parity! This view doesn’t comprehend that the Union hasn’t got much clout if it doesn’t get active (not passive) support. I strongly believe that underneath all these reasons is one root cause that allows the others to

flourish: caring too much for others and not enough for the self. Self interest is not selfish – despite what we may have been taught. In fact it’s the opposite. Continuously working (beyond the call of duty on behalf of children, families and other staff but not for yourself) means that the true worth of the work you do is not calculated but its toll is extracted on you – on your financial future, security and opportunities - on your family life and personal health. There is always a cost. The National Quality Framework has opened up many opportunities for the professionalisation of early childhood. Here’s the chance for teachers to clearly define and communicate what a teacher does. It’s not just about caring but about education. ‘When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviours can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labelled ‘compassion fatigue’. Compassion fatigue is about caring too much, about not having proper boundaries and not looking after the self enough. Burnout is the next step. “If we don’t learn how to effectively take care of ourselves so we have mental, physical, emotional and spiritual reserves, we are going to experience stress and negativity. Burnout is sure to follow.” Details: To find the time to reflect on practice, refuel and step back into the fray reenergised and clear sighted is critical. Of course there will never be enough time. But if you don’t take the time to be self interested, who will? And, if you don’t, will things ever change? The Teachers are Teachers campaign is energising teachers to do things they’ve never done before. There are big hurdles to overcome - long term government inertia and lack of community understanding of the work you do. But there is personal and professional strength to be drawn from working with others. And if enough people commit to self interest then the irony is that NSW children, families and staff will have a sustainable, teacher based early years option well into the future. Got an opinion about this? Share it. Email or visit teachersareteachers x 11 x

People may have a passion and inspiration for this career, which is really important for society, but they are forced to leave because of the low pay.

“I was drifting in Thailand when I was young and my parents suggested I do a science degree. I enjoyed it, but I feel early childhood allows me to do something for others rather than myself.” Patrick says being a male in an early childhood centre makes life easier too.

From test tubes to toddlers S

cience graduate Wadcharapong Khuwatchanakul (Patrick) decided to forgo life as a scientist because early childhood education offered a chance to “do something for somebody else”, Bedrock Journalist Sue Osborne writes. Patrick was one of only two males among 72 people that embarked on the Bachelor of Early Childhood at the University of Western Sydney in 2011. Now only 25 are left on the course, as most have transferred to primary or secondary education, Patrick says. Coming from Thailand, Patrick was introduced to early childhood education when he volunteered through a friend at a centre in north-west Sydney. “I love to be with young children. The idea at first was for me to just go and play. “But while I was there I realised everything was a learning experience. I was overwhelmed by it and had experienced nothing like that before. I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

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“The kids’ faces light up when I walk in - all the kids, but especially the boys. They shout out my name. “They just want to play with a guy, there’s that physical activity they want to get into.” Patrick says his previous scientific study had explored brain development, and the importance of early childhood education, something that is not fully understood in Thailand. “In Thailand not many people care about the early education field. There are not many opportunities for early education, the emphasis is on tertiary education and getting a good career. “I would like to learn more about the western systems and take that back to Thailand one day, to share knowledge and experience. “Maybe I will try to change things in Thailand in the future.” Patrick was an intern for the NSW/ACT IEU in the latter part of 2012 and he says he learnt a lot about the industrial situation of early childhood teachers in NSW compared to other states. “When I graduate I may not stay in NSW. They need to raise the pay for early childhood teachers. “People may have a passion and inspiration for this career, which is really important for society, but they are forced to leave because of the low pay. “For me it’s not just about the money though. I’m prepared to stick with it because I want to do what I like.”

To Facebook or not? One preschool’s experience L

ove it or hate it, Facebook is here to stay. But outside the personal sphere how useful is it as a communication tool for an early childhood service? Bedrock Journalist Suzanne Kowalski-Roth talks to Eve Hawkes, Director of Engadine Preschool, which has a lively and engaging Facebook presence. The Preschool wanted to reach out to those time poor, working families who don’t have daily contact with the service. It also has a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) with a focus of ‘Building Technology’ in the service. They decided to kill two birds with one stone and trial Facebook to see whether it could help them towards their goal of “a real and authentic connection with families and their community”, Eve says. Although in its first year the Preschool’s Facebook site is impressive. There is a diversity of content with lots of comments. What to post? Posts include strong visuals of daily life, feedback about the day’s activities, inspiring thoughts and links to interesting videos, celebrating staff milestones, communicating events and reminding parents about policies. “We’ve only just started,” says Eve “and we’re getting really good feedback about it.“ The Preschool is using it to extend into the home environment what the children are learning during the day, Eve says, A fire drill at Preschool could inspire parents to do the same at home. One unexpected development was the interest shown by fathers. “Fathers are on Facebook and they’re keen to be involved. Fathers have a really big role in saying to their kids: ‘Oh, I saw you did this today,’“ says Eve.

Fathers are on Facebook and they’re keen to be involved

The impact on Eve’s workload has been neglible, she says. At this early stage the preschool has limited page administrators but this will change as confidence grows. Dealing with privacy and negative feedback

Eve says they did worry about negative comments but haven’t received any yet. A parent survey ensures parent concerns are heard. In a service where seething tensions exist and there is no outlet it could be a different story.

Privacy issues are key. Facebook notoriously stored deleted images on its servers for years until forced to change. Its updated privacy policy states that deleted material will be removed but it’s important to know that Facebook does “not guarantee that Facebook will always be safe, secure or error-free”. See www// To navigate this tricky territory, Eve says the committee is developing a Facebook specific policy. Eve recommends addressing privacy issues clearly. Permission must be sought for use of images and names of children and parents. Facebook offers a way for parents to engage. “I think it’s going to make it much easier for parents to be informed about the issues in early childhood education,” says Eve. Further reading: Rattler Spring 2012 ‘Share, and share a Like’ by Camille Howard

Proud of what you’re doing? Let us know. Email Eve Hawkes, Director of Engadine Preschool

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Transformative approaches to sustainability H

ow to live sustainably is a topic of local, national and international importance, Associate Professor Julie Davis, School of Early Childhood, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, writes. The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and more recently, the National Quality Framework provide impetus for early childhood teachers to explore sustainably. Unsustainable living patterns are woven into our everyday social and economic systems; climate change is a symptom not the cause of problems. Simply put, our ‘ecological footprint’ is too large – we need at least three more planets if everyone on earth lived like the average Australian (WWF). Sustainability, too, is about social justice. While some enjoy the benefits of global economic development, industrialisation and new technologies, others bear the risks and costs with the poorest nations, and the poorest within nations, most at risk (Lowe, 2006). Unless we change our ways, and soon, our children and future generations will inherit a sadly depleted earth, and their own contributions will exacerbate the problems. Children, after all, are already growing up as ‘little consumers’, many already suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ (Louv), the cumulative effect of lack of experience in, appreciation of, and care for the natural world. Young children are most at risk from unsustainability because they face greater, and longer, exposure to the worst of the consequences. Until recently, however, early education investments aimed at addressing sustainability issues have been slow to emerge. Fortunately this is changing as practitioner interest, coupled with policy initiatives and the emergence of an international coalition for Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECEfS) takes hold. The Gothenburg Recommendations on Education for Sustainable Development, for example, identifies early childhood as a “natural starting point” for all ongoing education for sustainability. While this statement seems unremarkable, it is important as it is the first international statement to explicitly identify early childhood education as contributing to education for sustainability.

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This is not ‘doom and gloom’ education where children are confronted by images of drowning polar bears.

Doing things differently

Some people think that it is inappropriate to ‘burden’ young children with sustainability issues. I agree; however, the ECEfS that I advocate is grounded in transformative approaches to learning and teaching. This is not ‘doom and gloom’ education where children are confronted by images of drowning polar bears, choked turtles and urban wastelands. Rather, it is ECEfS that builds on children’s interests and is embedded in inclusive, democratic practice. It values, encourages and supports children as problem-seekers, problemsolvers and action-takers in their own environments – it is positive and empowering early education. Young children can even lead the way in reshaping adult actions around sustainability (Davis & Gibson, Stuhmcke), helping to change adults’ knowledge and behaviours. There is evidence, too, that young children can impact on learning and actions in school settings by advocating, for example, for better recycling processes at school due to their preschool experiences.

What can you do? • Put children at the heart of sustainability. Utilise their ideas and creativity for learning and action taking around local sustainability issues • Familiarise yourself with quality area 3 and particularly Standard 3.3 of the National Quality Standard. This offers a rationale and guide for ECEfS in your service • Create natural play spaces where young children have deep engagement with the natural world • Model ‘green housekeeping’ within your service, for example, minimise waste and reduce water and energy consumption and use ‘Earth-friendly’ cleaners • Build sustainability into policy so others know where you stand, and use this to communicate with and educate your community • Create a learning community within your early childhood service to find out more about sustainability issues; this is legitimate professional development, and • Join early childhood education for sustainability networks and become campaigners and co-learners with your colleagues about ECEfS. Already, many in early childhood education are working with young children to ‘do things differently’ for themselves and for the planet. All of us need to be part of the challenge to create a better world now and into the future.

References Cooke S, Davis J, Blashki G, Best A 2011, Healthy children and a healthy planet: A role for education, invited chapter in E. Bell, B. Seidel & J. Merrick (Eds.) Climate Change and Rural Child Health, pp. 71-84, NY Nova Science Publishers. Davis J & Gibson M 2006, Embracing complexity: Creating cultural change through education for sustainability. International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, 6(2), 92-102. Louv R 2005, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. New York: Algonquin Books. Stuhmcke S 2012, Children as change agents for sustainability: an action research case study in a kindergarten. Unpublished thesis, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. WWF 2006, Living planet report 2006. downloads/living_planet_report.pdf

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Everyday coping


veryone has coping tactics - some more positive, self-nurturing or socially acceptable than others. Psychologist Erica Frydenberg tells Bedrock Journalist Tara de Boehmler how early childhood professionals are teaching kids to cope from a young age. According to Erica’s new book, Developing Everyday Coping Skills in the Early Years, co-authored with University of Melbourne Early Learning Centre Director Janice Deans, teaching coping skills develops awareness of self and others and provides young people with the resources with which to become socially and emotionally competent. Not only that, but research cited in the book links coping strategies which a focus on problem solving and positive cognitions leading to fewer emotional, behavioural and substance use problems. Meanwhile, “avoidant or non-productive coping is generally associated with poor adaptation and more mental health problems in adolescents”. Erica, a University of Melbourne Associate Professor, has for more than 30 years been researching how adults, adolescents and young children develop coping skills. She says with depression and other mental health issues being experienced at epidemic levels, there are plenty of benefits to learning to cope in the early years. And with kids spending longer than ever in early childhood settings, their teachers are already dealing with stress on a daily basis. “It’s probably never too early to start teaching coping skills,” Erica says. “My interest has been social and

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emotional but until you develop language it can be difficult to look at this.” Developing Everyday Coping Skills in the Early Years, supports early childhood professionals and families in helping to develop a shared language from which these lessons can take place. The tools the book recommends are likely to be a hit with all: drama, visual arts, language and music-based curricula. “We teach through play and by example,” Erica says. “Using a shared language we model behaviours and also think about our own coping.” Erica recommends getting the process going by working in a group to identify the age appropriate concerns for children. For a cohort of three-year-olds, their list might look like: l •

Separation from a significant adult

l •

In trouble with an adult

l •

Fear of the dark

l •

Trying something new

l •

Being left out

It’s about creating an environment where we learn coping skills in a fun, productive way.

l •

Making choices, and

l •

Breaking something important.

“They might have other concerns in other areas, and other age groups will also differ,” she says. The group might also develop a list of coping strategies including: l •

Thinking happy thoughts

l •

Thinking calm thoughts

l •

Hugging a toy

l •

Talking to an adult

l •

Saying sorry

l •

Helping others

l •

Sharing, and

l •


Non-productive strategies might include: l •

Running away

l •

Blaming others

l •

Crying, screaming or having a tantrum

l •

Keeping feelings to oneself

l •


l •

Feeling scared

l •

Complaining of pain

l •

Getting mad at oneself

l •

Getting angry, and

l •

Bottling things up.

“A fear around saying goodbye can then be linked to a coping tool, such as a singing ‘this is the way we say goodbye’ using clapping and motions,” Erica says. For older children who might be experiencing a fear of the dark, picture cards can be enable a teacher to ask the children: l •

What is happening

l •

Why are they scared

l •

Can you show me a scared face

l •

Can you show me what your body looks like when you are scared, and

l •

How does that feel?

The conversation can then turn to ways to feel safe and comforted, and how this feels. “Traditionally, this is called ‘play therapy’, but we do this in the context of normal development,” Erica says. One of the interactions described in the book involves a group of four- to five-year-olds engaged in a classroom discussion on teasing. The teacher asks the children to choose from a range of large visual cards and holds up one depicting a child being bullied. The teacher asks what they see, what they think, how they feel about it, if they have ever been in this situation and what they might do. The children’s responses include: l •

I would say don’t do it

l •

I would say I don’t like it and stop it now

l •

Please stop it and walk away

l •

I would walk away and tell the tell the teacher, and

l •

Tell my mum and dad.

The teacher reflected that the exercise enabled the children to share with each other a range of strategies. She said it also enabled the children to see they were not alone in what they felt in different situations, that many deal with similar problems and anxieties and that it’s okay. “These activities can easily be incorporated into early childhood settings, where teachers are likely to be doing a lot of this already,” Erica says. “It can be as easy as tying these ideas in with what is already happening.”

“Once the conversation is started, it can be expanded using games, drawing, craft, dance, music or acting out a situation,” Erica says.

The authors advise that educators engage with families about what is being done so they can adopt some of the language and reinforce strategies in the home through modeling and social learning.

“It’s in this environment that we might get kids to draw a situation and then talk about it. We might say ‘draw how this feels’ and get them to act it out or tell a story. They could use puppets, dolls and animals.

“Start talking with parents about what you are doing so they can incorporate these ideas into parenting,” Erica says. “We can use these concepts at home. In fact these concepts can also be useful for adults.

“Using music, the teacher might put on some emotive music to create an atmosphere and get the group talking about emotions. Sounds, such as laughing, crying or humming can also be used.

“There is a real emphasis at the moment on developing social and emotional wellbeing,” she says. “This is about creating an environment where we are learning about these things in a fun, productive way.”

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‘Working towards a positive organisational culture’ while staying sane


n her speech to the IEU’s NSW ECS Conference last year, ECS Vice President Gabrielle Connell took a light-hearted look at the National Quality Framework, and how it might impact on her home life. QA 1 Educational Program and Practise I attend every possible training course and webinar on how to be every conceivable type of supervisor possible – I used to be authorised, now I’m certified, nominated – most days I actually feel certifiable! I have begun to write observations on the dog, the neighbours and the postman and I have photos to back these observations up. Unfortunately the police are investigating. I am reflecting on my neighbours’ behaviour and trying to extend their areas of interest – they are not happy when I ask them to explore aspects of their identity through role play. They usually tell me to go away but not quite so nicely – rhymes with duck actually. I want them to belong, to be, to become, but they just won’t display awareness of and respect for my perspectives or reflect on their actions and consider the consequences for others – but I will persist when faced with challenges and when my first attempts are not successful.

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QA 2 Health and Safety Blood pressure, insomnia, panic attacks, suspicion of people arriving in cars with clipboards, paranoia – I’ve googled them all and I know how to fix them. I wonder if someone is writing my individual support plan? Is my comfort being provided for? Do I have appropriate opportunities for sleep and rest, are my food and drinks nutritious – I guess that depends how you rate a bottle of pink champagne and a bag of chips! (But I know they are ‘sometimes foods’ – so I only have them six days). QA 3 Physical Environment I spend my time at home looking for hazards, doing safety checklists and cleaning rosters, taping the garden hose down to the grass, measuring the distance between the lounge and the coffee table in case I fall off (after I’ve drunk the pink champagne). I’m increasingly worried about my flexible use of indoor and outdoor spaces and don’t even get me started on whether my appliances are suitable for their purpose or if I have enough and are they well maintained, culturally diverse and a mix of natural and man made products!

QA 4 Staffing Arrangements I sign in and out of every room so I can prove I’ve been there between certain hours and the cat was correctly supervised by the appropriately qualified person. I’m scared to go to the toilet in case something happens to him when I’m not there. I document his every movement – or should that be motion? He has a beautiful portfolio which traces his development through five learning outcomes – he’s having trouble practising inclusive ways of achieving co-existence. He will be able to look back on his portfolio and one day someone will show it at his 21st and we can all laugh at the time he collaged the mouse to the back pavers using mixed media of fur ball and vomit and reflect on his ongoing plans. I’ve reported his accidents to the appropriate bodies within 24 hours – he has his own signed copies to keep until he reaches the age of 25 in case he decides to sue me for damaging some of his nine lives.

I sign in and out of every room so I can prove I’ve been there between certain hours and the cat was correctly supervised by the appropriately qualified person.

QA 5 Relationships with Children

I forget their names, how many I’ve got, where they live and I’m too tired to talk to them. They think my laptop is another body part and they are sick of open ended questions – they just want me to ask them something they can answer with “Nah, yep or grunt.” They don’t want to contribute to their learning at all but they definitely want their own sense of agency promoted! I’m documenting their progress – they have a strong sense of wellbeing, they are not connected to my world at all. Are they effective communicators – If I had time to tweet I might know. I’m really trying to build relationships and engage with my local community but they have become a bit wary. They say I’m too intense. Can you believe that? I must write a reflection on this.

QA 6 Leadership and Management I’m making every effort to promote the continuity of my relationship with my husband but he doesn’t like my policies and procedures! He isn’t happy to follow a five-step procedure for cleaning the toilet, sign and date a form to prove he actually did it and he doesn’t want to fill in a feedback form or reflect on the job he did – I can’t understand it really. What’s wrong with the man! I give him a framework to work within and he just doesn’t appreciate it – I would say he was definitely only “working towards” not “meeting quality standards” at this point. He’s not interested in engaging in Self Assessment or in further professional development and he won’t read the QIP I developed for him! Can’t he see I am only trying to promote a positive organisational culture? I could give him a temporary waiver I suppose, but on reflection, I believe he needs to persevere and experience the satisfaction of achievement.

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Growing citizens for the global village T

he concept of educating for global citizenship is sometimes a controversial one as parents and teachers have concerns about children facing issues of social justice at an early age, writes University of Queensland Lecturer Karena Menzie. Children born in the 21st century are already part of a rapidly changing, globalised world. Increases in the movement of goods and people as well as the easy access to global information means that children are exposed from birth to all the positives and negatives of our interconnected world. It is therefore the role of teachers to assist children to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills to become active and informed members of their local and global communities (MCEETYA, 2008). These complex but fundamental global issues can be explored in an early childhood setting by putting them in the context of the children’s own experiences: name calling or leaving someone out of a game can become an exploration of discrimination; arguments or fights can be used to explore peace and conflict resolution; and protests about unfair rules are the foundation for an exploration of human rights (Fountain 1990). Knowing our rights and responsibilities As Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, under article 42, teachers have an obligation to teach for, through and about children’s rights (UNICEF, 2006). This obligation is recognised in both the Early Years Learning Framework. Early childhood educators guided by the Framework will reinforce in their daily practice the principles laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (DEEWR, 2009) and the new National Quality Framework. The National Quality Standard reflects Australia’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the obligation of all those who work with children to protect them from harm, respect their dignity and privacy and safeguard and promote every child’s wellbeing (DEEWR, 2011). So how do we take these lofty ideals and bring them into our pedagogy and the overall culture of our centres? As Fountain suggests we begin with the world of our children, their imagination, their games and their stories. Resources We are fortunate that one of the benefits of the globalised world are the resources it brings for educators in the form

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of culturally diverse picture books, informative and engaging websites and interactive games. When looking for such resources make sure you look beyond the standard educational avenues as many non-government organisations produce wonderful material for both educators and children. Oxfam is a classic example. On its educational website, you can find activities for all year levels including the under fives (Oxfam GB, 2008). Social justice and equity are explored through examining the importance of A Special Friend; self esteem and the appreciation of diversity are enhanced by examining What’s in the Shoebox?; and children have a safe way to explore peace and conflict resolution when Teddy faces many of their every day issues in Teddy’s in Trouble. Save the Children’s Finding My Magic is another example. Created by psychologist Eve Ash in conjunction with Australian Olympic champion Cathy Freeman, the resource uses engaging animations to teach children about their rights and responsibilities. For example, in Let’s Be Fair, the children in the animation explore what is fair and unfair when a new student is left out of the soccer game because of his limited skills in speaking English. The resource also contains a full Resource Kit for Teachers to enhance the use of the animations. Children’s literature, and pictures books in particular, captivate young children, and invite them to explore their own and other worlds (Browett & Ashman, 2011) as well as providing positive and effective ways of exploring controversial issues (Myhill, 2007). By examining pages 56 to 63 of A life like mine (Rayner [Ed], 2002), children can not only explore the right to play but the similarities and differences in the how children play across

About the author: Karena Menzie is a lecturer in Social Education in the School of Education at the University of Queensland. She is completing a PhD examining students’ engagement with active citizenship and its benefits for their wellbeing. Karena is also an Education Consultant with the Global Learning Centre assisting pre-service and in-service teachers to embed global perspectives through the Global Education Project.

References Browett J & Ashman G 2011, Thinking Globally: Global Perspectives in the early years classroom, Education Services Australia, Carlton South Commonwealth of Australia 2002, Global perspectives: A statement on global education for Australian schools, Carlton South, Curriculum Corporation Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2009, Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework, Commonwealth of Australia, ACT Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2011, National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care, Retrieved from: policy_agenda/quality/pages/home.aspx cultures. They can then expand their knowledge and deepen their understanding by looking on a globe or map to try and find the various countries mentioned or try out for themselves Games from around the world Browett & Ashman, 2011. The AusAID-funded Global Education Project also provides a comprehensive website examining global issues and combining extensive information with age-appropriate activities. In Basic needs and human rights (GEP, 2012), the children have the opportunity to explore something as fundamental as the right to a name. The activity asks them: •

What’s your name?

Why are you called by this name?

What does it mean?

How do you feel if your name is mispronounced?

How does it feel to be ignored by someone who doesn’t know your name?

Such activities not only enhance the children’s self esteem and sense of identity, important aspects of wellbeing, but again gives them a basic understanding of diversity and why such diversity is something to celebrate. Fulfilling obligations By shaping activities based on the type of resources outlined above, teachers are not only fulfilling their obligations under the National Quality Framework and the Early Years Learning Framework, they are also fulfilling their international obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. More importantly they are giving the children in their care the foundational knowledge, skills and values to be active and informed global citizens.

Global Education Project 2012, Basic needs and human rights, Retrieved from Fountain S 1990, Learning together: Global Education 4 to 7, Leckhampton, Centre for Global Education MCEETYA 2008, Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Melbourne: Retrieved from http://www.,25979.html. Myhill D Reading the world: using children’s literature to explore controversial issues in Claire H & Holden, C., (Eds), The Challenge of teaching controversial issues, Trentham Books Ltd, Staffordshire Oxfam 2006, Education for Global Citizenship: A guide for schools, Retrieved from education_for_global_citizenship_a_guide_for_schools.pdf Oxfam GB 2008, Global citizenship: activities for under 5s, Retrieved from global_citizenship/early_years/?19 Rayner A [Ed] 2006, A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World, produced in association with UNICEF, Dorling Kindersley, London. Sapon-Shevin M, 2010, Because we can change the world: A practical guide to building cooperative, inclusive classroom communities, Corwin, California Save the Children and Eve Ash Pty Ltd, 2011, Finding My Magic, Seven Dimension Pty Ltd. UNICEF 2006, A simplified version of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, Retrieved from http://www.

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GIVEAWAYS To enter one of these giveaways put your name, membership number and current address on the back of an envelope addressed to Bedrock Giveaway 1, 2 or 3 NSW/ACT IEU, GPO Box 116, Sydney 2001 by Friday 27 April. Envelopes not marked with the giveaway they are for will be disqualified.

Giveaway 1

Three copies

One copy

Conversations Edited by: Alma Fleet, Catherine Patterson, Janet Robertson Publisher: Pademelon Press ISBN: 978 1876 138387

This book features a number of well known authors and early childhood experts: Jan Millikan, Jill McLachlan, Margo Hobba, Miriam Guigni, Christine Stevenson, Kirsty Liljegren, Laurie Kocher and Sandra Cheeseman; and “explores the complexities of contemporary theory and critical pedagogy”. The book covers sections on “opening the conversations” to “disrupting the conversations” and is a must read for anybody wanting to be engaged robustly with professional practice.

Three copies

High Society – My Year Without Booze Author: Jill Stark Publisher: Scribe Publications ISBN: 978 1922 070227

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Giveaway 2

The Third Space: Using life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness Author: Dr Adam Fraser Publisher: Random House ISBN: 978 1742 753867 Ever wish you could get over a bad day at work and not take it out anyone? Put a personal disagreement behind you and show up for work ready to engage your team? This book comes highly recommended and explores how our mindset and emotional state gets transferred from one activity to the next. This book has strategies about how to use the transitional ‘third space’ between activities to find that elusive life balance.

Giveaway 3 Anybody who goes out on a Saturday night in a town around Australia can see the disturbing effects that alcohol has on so many. But how insidious is our dependence on alcohol? This lively memoir looks at health reporter Jill Stark’s year off the booze and how she copes with “the stresses of the newsroom sober” and “tackles the dating scene on soda water” and deals with censure from friends and colleagues who tell her that a year without booze is “a year with no mates”. Journalist Annabel Crabb says of this book: “A frank, entertaining, and at times confronting glimpse of what Australia might look like without a hangover”.


Songlines – from Wombarra to orangutans T

he small village of Wombarra on the south coast of NSW seems a million miles away from the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. But a song a child bought in to preschool one day in 2011 soon changed that and launched the preschool on a journey of child empowerment that continues to resonate, Bedrock Journalist Suzanne Kowalski-Roth writes. It also netted the preschool the 2012 Early Childhood Environmental Education Network (ECEEN) Connecting with Nature award. It all began when preschooler Eva shared her favourite song on her favourite CD Animal Friends, Debbie Leonard, IEU Member and Teacher at KU Wombarra, says. The CD collection features various animals. The children loved the songs and discussion started around all the animals. They found images of the animals in books and on the internet and discussion turned to extinction as one featured animal was the orangutan whose habitat is under threat from palm oil production.*

How to make your voice heard when you want to disagree with a practice led to discussions around the political process albeit in a very basic way.

The group invited Janelle from the World Wildlife Fund to talk to the children about orangutans and how their environment is being destroyed. Parents shared photos and experiences with endangered animals. The children decided to write to Senator Nick Xenophon and petition him for compulsory labeling of palm oil as an ingredient (currently companies are not required to list it as an ingredient). They drew pictures of the endangered animals to accompany the petition. The project couldn’t have been successful without the support of parents, Debbie says. “We’re really big on parent connection at the preschool. We bought the parents on board and gave them information about palm oil. They said that their children were regularly asking them when they were in the supermarket whether a particular product contained palm oil.” For Debbie the most rewarding part of the experience was the empowerment of children and the way it fitted in with the Early Years Learning Framework. “I think the EYLF allows such scope to explore what’s relevant to children and if it’s done well it can be so powerful”. * Palm oil is found in 40% of products in Australian supermarkets says the Palm Oil Action group

And from this humble beginning the Stand Up for Our Animal Friends project was born. “It went from talking about animals and looking at products that contain palm oil to discussion about choices and how to talk to people in charge,” Debbie says. How to make your voice heard when you want to disagree with a practice led to discussions around the political process albeit in a very basic way. “We talked about who can help and how we vote for people so we can have a say in who represents us.”

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Bedrock: April 2013  
Bedrock: April 2013  

Breaking down the barriers. Transformative approaches to sustainability. Growing citizens for the global village.