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Aboriginal culture in the classroom

Kimberley Appo is a proud young Aboriginal woman who is bridging her Gooreng Gooreng family knowledge into the early childhood classroom. 

By TAFE Queensland

One of only a handful of Aboriginal early childhood educators in Bundaberg, 23-year-old Kimberley’s love of children developed from a young age after growing up as part of a big family.

“My father is one of five children; my mother is one of eight; I’m the youngest of nine; and I have 21 nieces and nephews, not to mention countless cousins,” Kimberley said.

“I live and breathe for my family. I’ve grown to become independent, assertive and confident. But I’ve always been extremely family orientated.”

“I’ve been changing nappies and bottle feeding for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched all of my nieces and nephews grow, helping them to develop into amazing little humans.”

“There’s no greater satisfaction than seeing young children grow and develop, knowing that you’ve had a hand in where they are today,” she said.

At 19 Kimberley followed her heart and found a pathway into early child care, studying a Certificate III in Early Education and Care at TAFE Queensland.

“Child care isn’t easy. It’s something you need to really want to do. It can’t be something you want to have a go at just to see if you’d be good at it,” Kimberley said.

“Working with children, parents, families and communities requires passion and patience, time and attention, and love and affection.”

“At TAFE Queensland, I gained valuable knowledge and skills and learned how to program for a child’s needs. Working with children really keeps you on your toes. Each day is so very different. Each experience requires careful thought and planning, putting ourselves in their shoes and trying to think how they would think.”

“My industry placements allowed me to get a hands-on practical feel for course content. I really enjoyed putting theory into practice,” she said.

Kimberley excelled during her placement at Bundaberg’s Eastside Little Learners Child Care Centre and was offered a full-time position. With the support and guidance of Centre Director Joanne Gleeson, Kimberley progressed her education, completing a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care. She is now implementing Aboriginal perspectives and involving Aboriginal people in classroom experiences to educate young children about culture and diversity.

“Joanne is great to work for. She’s open to the ideas I bring to the table and is accepting of all cultures. She’s embraced how important my Aboriginal culture and identity is to me and is allowing me to integrate my culture into the classroom and the children love it,” Kimberley said.

“We’ve invited local Aboriginal dancers to dance with our classes; children paint with Aboriginal artists; and the language coordinator at the Gidarjil Development Corporation has taught everyone traditional Aboriginal greetings. We even learned how to sing English songs like heads, shoulders, knees and toes in our traditional language.”

“I’m privileged to be given the opportunity to incorporate my culture into classroom experiences and give the children the chance to try new things,” she said.

By sharing her family’s history with children and child care educators, Kimberley hopes to secure a successful future for all children by breaking down barriers and promoting acceptance and inclusion of Aboriginal culture into early childhood education.

“Many Aboriginal parents feel reluctant to send their children to school. I want Aboriginal people to understand what child care is and how it can help benefit their children,” Kimberley said.

“We can help young Aboriginal children establish healthy habits, learn the importance of routines, and form valuable social and communication skills. Interaction and inclusion is incredibly important throughout early childhood, increasing a child’s sense of belonging, connectedness and wellbeing.”

“Ensuring Aboriginal children and their families feel safe in the classroom will close the gap between the life outcomes of Aboriginal people and other Australian children, guaranteeing a successful future for all,” she said.