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Encouraging deadly choices for her community

Proud Gooreng Gooreng woman Kimberley Appo is using her passion for her culture and heritage to help close the gap by promoting kindy as a deadly choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Coming from a large, close-knit family, Kimberley's passion for educating and caring for children started from a young age.

“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’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.”

But, like many students Kimberley didn't always excel in the traditional schooling system, and despite her obvious passion for the industry she was initially reluctant about returning to study.

"I guess schools have such an unrealistic curriculum that's just one-size-fits-all, rather than having a curriculum that's for individual children. And when you finish school, if you didn't do as well as you should have, there seems like there's nothing else for you," she said.

But after dipping her toe in by enrolling in the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC30113), Kimberly quickly discovered that studying at TAFE Queensland was very different to being at school.

"You're not going in just to get a piece of paper, you're going in and you're learning and you're finding your passions through TAFE," she said.

Encouraged by her teachers and her positive learning experience, Kimberley quickly continued to the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC50113) while she started working in the industry.

"I had a teacher that really believed in me and pushed for me to go and do my diploma because she saw something in me that I might have not seen in myself," she said.

Working in the industry while she completed her studies gave Kimberley a unique perspective on how to put her newfound knowledge into practice straight away.

"Working while I was studying really showed me how important play-based learning is, how to look at the whole child, how to have a holistic approach with children and families, and be a part of a community," she said.

For Kimberley, incorporating her Indigenous heritage into the classroom has been an incredibly important part of her role. 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 and care.

“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,” said Kimberley.

"I think it's really important for them to be able to experience such a beautiful culture that we have, and share that with a lot of families who may not otherwise get to experience it."

After working as an early childhood educator for a number of years, Kimberley has recently taken on a new role as an Early Childhood Officer for the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health. The role sees her pursue another area she's passionate about, promoting kindy as a deadly choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

“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,” she continued.

“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.”

While Kimberley is loving her new role, she's already making plans to continue her studies at university and is looking forward to the challenges it will bring.

"I used to think university was a bit out of my range. It wasn't until I got through my diploma, and then having the years of experience that I do, that it now seems more practical and something I can do."

"Plus, my diploma will give me a direct entry into university to study my Bachelor of Early Childhood, so that's the future plan for now," she said.

For anyone who still thinks early childhood education is just babysitting, Kimberley is quick to set them straight.

"It's really important for their development, not just academically, but to build them to be strong resilient children for the world that we have today."

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

Kimberley's passion and dedication to the industry is clear to see, and she encourages other Indigenous people to consider a career contributing to the development of the next generation.

"There are children who need us. The sector's screaming for great quality early childhood educators that are really passionate. I'd love to see more Indigenous educators who are able to provide that Indigenous perspective into children's learning," said Kimberley.

And as for where people should complete their training, it's no surprise that Kimberley recommends TAFE Queensland.

"I think TAFE Queensland is one of the best ones. It’s not just tick and flick, it’s really guiding you through your career and through your training rather than just giving you the answers and marking you off. Its making you do the work and giving you the experience that you need to understand your industry," she concluded.