Early Years|

VAEAI’s Early Years Unit has produced two videos on best practice in Koorie-inclusive early childhood education. The videos feature four of Victoria’s Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Services (MACS), and are intended to be watched and used by early childhood educators and other staff members who work at early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. 

The videos have been organised into three modules: Modules 1 & 2 appear in the first video, and Module 3 appears in the second video. All three modules have accompanying questions and suggested answers. The module questions have been designed for educators to consider how generalist ECEC services can be Koorie-inclusive.

The modules do not necessarily have to be watched in consecutive order. Services may wish their staff to watch Modules 1 and 2 independently, before watching Module 3 as a group and discussing their impressions and responses together. Suggested answers are provided

Before you begin 

1. ‘Culture’, ‘cultural’, and ‘culturally’ are terms that are used consistently by educators throughout this video. Write down all the words you can think of that can be associated with ‘culture’, ‘cultural’ and ‘culturally’, within an ECEC context. 


Module 1 – How are Multifunctional Aboriginal Childcare Services (MACS) different to other early childhood education and care services?

1. Which MACS is situated closest to where you work?

2. What are the main differences between MACS and non-MACS?

The environment:

The staff:

Module 2 – What are some of the strategies and resources used to engage children at Multifunctional Aboriginal Childcare Services (MACS)?

1. How do the MACS educators engage children at their services?

Learning activities:


2. Which of these strategies are Koorie-specific? Which could be used with other children from different cultural backgrounds?


Module 3 – What advice do early childhood education and care staff at MACS Services have for their non-Indigenous colleagues at generalist services?
1. What general advice is suggested for non-Indigenous ECEC staff?

2. In this module, different educators name a number of Aboriginal organisations and services. Write down the names of as many as you can hear (some appear in text on screen). This can be the start of a resource list for your service (or additions to an existing resource list).

3. When talking about making connections with people in the Koorie community and asking for support, one of the educators remarks, “It’s really easy to get it wrong and it’s really easy to offend and upset people.” What do you think she might be referring to?

4. In response to a question about offering advice to non-Indigenous educators, one of the interviewees makes the following recommendation: “Celebrate Indigenous culture all the time. It’s not that hard. We celebrate white culture every day.” This statement might be thought-provoking for many people. ‘Whiteness’ – or non-Indigenous culture – is more entrenched and systemic than most of us realise, and there are invisible structures that produce and reproduce white/non-Indigenous presence and privilege. (a) Can you think of some examples of how non-Indigenous culture is regularly celebrated, promoted, or perceived of as ‘the norm’ in Australia? (b) Can you think of how to avoid perpetuating this in your ECEC service?

5. What are 5 ideas for incorporating Koorie perspectives into your service that you’ve gained from watching the video?


1. The words that MACS staff interviewed for this video associated with the terms ‘culture’, ‘cultural’, and ‘culturally’, are as follows:

Flowing through, awareness, identity, conscious, welcoming, reflective, inclusive, safe, Koorie, physical environment, supportive, connected/connection, immersed, experienced, understanding, respectful, diverse, competent, strong, relevant, resources, engaging, local, beliefs, values, dance & activities, puzzles, pictures, appropriate/inappropriate

Check your own word associations from Question 1. Are yours the same? Different? What are the ones you may have missed? Why do you think you may have missed them? How well does your service represent the list of words MACS staff used?

Module 1 – How are Multifunctional Aboriginal Childcare Services (MACS) different to other early childhood and care services?

1. (Own responses)
There are six MACS in Victoria. They are:
• Berrimba, in Echuca 
• Bung Yarnda, in Lake Tyers 
• Gunai Lidj, in Morwell
• Lulla’s, in Shepparton 
• Robinvale MACS, in Robinvale and 
• Yappera, in Thornbury

2. Parents, family, and community are welcome, included and prioritised 
Services are set up as early years’ hubs
Children’s cultural awareness and cultural identity is fostered
Relationships with the Aboriginal community are integral
Services are a meeting place for children AND families
Extra, wraparound support for children and their families (e.g. family support workers, bus service) are available
There is no judgement
A holistic approach (e.g. health checks, dental checks, immunisation program, speech therapy) is taken
The kinship system is understood and reinforced
Strong partnerships with Aboriginal organisations and services (hub model) are developed and maintained

The environment: 
There is visible and tangible Aboriginal culture throughout the services (e.g. photos of community, Koorie paintings, acknowledgement plaque, cultural posters, artefacts)
Natural resources are utilised as much as possible (including running Bush Kinder)
The atmosphere is culturally inclusive, inviting, colourful, homely, relaxed, open, friendly, comfortable, welcoming, warm, and familial
Koorie organisations and community are central
Services evolve and change to meet children’s and community’s needs,

The staff: 
There is a comprehensive induction process, involving Aboriginal history, community, and cultural perspectives 
Staff members work closely with community and families
Staff members are culturally diverse, 
Staff members are not only qualified in early childhood education and care, but also bring non-academic attributes to their workplace, such as heart and soul, nurture and support, warmth, passion, respect, pride in identity, connection to community, cultural experience, and cultural safety 
Staff members are more like family than colleagues
Staff are often personally connected to the service and many have attended as children themselves

Module 2 – What are some of the strategies and resources used to engage children at Multifunctional Aboriginal Childcare Services (MACS)?

1. Learning activities: aimed at ensuring Koorie kids feel strong in their culture, culturally relevant activities, culturally engaging activities, dancing, local Elders, bush kinder, connection to culture/country/and community, based on children’s strengths/interests/needs, responsive to family input and children’s input, scaffolded, guided, role-modelled

Resources: sensory based, outdoors, cultural, cultural dance, aboriginal activities, non-material resources (human – i.e. relationships/communication/respect/love/comfort/culture/identity), Koorie books, clap sticks, music, art, the Aboriginal flag – including the meaning of the colours, totems, kangaroo skin, natural, local, clan-related, bark, sand, rocks, dirt, water, instruments, Koorie handprint, Elders’ stories, parents, language (songs/nursery rhymes), ochre, cultural puzzles, cultural pictures (animals, totems), Koorie puppets, visual resources

2. Koorie-inclusive engagement strategies can be used whether or not there are Koorie children at your service.

Module 3 – What advice do early childhood education and care staff at Multifunctional Aboriginal Childcare Services (MACS) have for their non-Indigenous colleagues in generalist services?

1. General advice for non-Indigenous ECEC staff:

Contact and build relationships with people in the local Koorie community; contact and build relationships with the Koorie Education Workforce (KEW); don’t be afraid to ask questions (in a respectful manner); be honest, open and approachable; communicate with local Elders and local Aboriginal services; explain your intentions; be interested in incorporating Koorie resources and perspectives into your program whether or not you have any Koorie children attending your service; have a go – there are a lot of people out in the community that want to help; don’t get into the politics of things; find out who the local Elders are, what they do, and create your own list of local Aboriginal people and services who have the capacity to offer different skills and resources; have Koorie artefacts, books, paintings etc. in your room; be prepared to take time – go slowly/don’t rush; don’t be afraid to try; build trust; ask Aboriginal colleagues about what is/isn’t culturally appropriate; display Koorie cultural resources such as an Aboriginal painting in the front entrance to signify that your service is open to the idea of inclusion; learn the Aboriginal history of the area on which your service is situated

2. Aboriginal organisations and professionals named in this video include:
• VAEAI (Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated)
• VACCA (Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency)
• VAHS (Victorian Aboriginal Health Service)
• VACCHO (Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation)
• SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care)
• KESOs (Koorie Engagement Support Officers)

3. Certain cultural protocols need to be followed when engaging with Koorie people and community. Reflect on your own behaviours and how you approach situations. Communication needs to be respectful and considered. But there’s a community to go to for knowledge and support who are willing to help if a relationship is established. It may take some time, so be reasonable with your expectations.

4. (a) Government representatives, leaders of institutions (including education institutions), names of buildings/streets/suburbs, pop culture (including media and music), marketing/advertising, hair and beauty products, fashion, etc.

(b) Don’t be tokenistic, make sure to embed Koorie perspectives across the board (in program, in resources, in environment) and not just celebrate once a year (e.g. on NAIDOC Week) or infrequently. Be open to having Aboriginal culture and perspective expressed in your service all year round.

5. (Own responses)

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