Sarah Rawley’s journey with Gowrie has been long and fruitful. Eight years ago, Sarah started as a casual educator and shortly after enrolled in her Bachelor of Education.
On finishing her degree, Sarah took up a position as an early childhood teacher and worked towards achieving full registration with the Victorian Institute of Teaching, under the guidance of a Gowrie mentor.
“My mentor supported me to see that the process wasn’t so daunting, but part of my day-to-day work life,” Sarah says.
A year ago, Sarah was offered the role of Aboriginal Outreach Worker for Gowrie Broadmeadows Valley, supporting the enrolment and education of First Nations children at the service. Then, during NAIDOC Week this year, the Victorian Government announced the extension of the Koorie Assistants program, appointing Sarah the Koorie Preschool Assistant for the Hume/Moreland area.
This position sees Sarah take on her own mentoring role, supporting other services in the area to create culturally safe and inclusive environments, and collaborating with Aboriginal families and communities to work through any enrolment concerns or barriers.
What is the purpose of your new role?
The desired outcome of the KPSA role I have just taken up is to support Koorie children and families to engage in early learning services, whilst also supporting kindergartens and early learning services within Hume and Moreland to ensure their spaces are culturally safe, inclusive and welcoming for Koorie families. This is done by ensuring First Nations culture is respected and explored as teaching content within the classrooms. All children across Australia have the right to learn about the rich and strong culture of the First Nations people of Australia.
What does an ordinary day look like for you?
Each day is different, however some of my regular activities include attending local Aboriginal-led meetings with other professionals whose main focus is engaging with community. I attend local events and celebrations that are important to community, such as the local Aboriginal playgroup each week. I engage with families and children, and early childhood professionals from across the Hume Moreland LGA, to create supportive and trusting relationships and foster the development of these relationships between services and Koorie families.
What do you love most about working with Gowrie?
If I had to pinpoint one thing, it would be the inclusivity – from employees, to children, to families, everyone who enters a Gowrie service is welcomed and accepted for who they are and their individuality. I think that this is a big value of Gowrie that influences many aspects of what we all do.
What project/aspect of your role are you most excited about?
I’m most excited to get out into the community around me and meet new people, with the goal of supporting them to continue their learning journey. For Koorie children, this may be about sparking their passion for learning by supporting them to engage in kindergarten and early learning, whereas for adults and educators, this may be learning about Australia’s First Nations peoples, their histories and their cultures, because learning these things about the lands we live, work and learn on is so extremely powerful.
What are some of the ways First Nations perspectives are embedded in the program at Broadmeadows Valley?
At GBV we aim to look over all learning scenarios with a First Nations perspectives lens. We focus on children’s connection to the land and help them build knowledge of First Nations peoples, their culture and their history, in an age-appropriate way. This is done through Acknowledgement of Country, planned learning experiences, and exposure to First Nations art, books and stories, which we also display throughout our rooms to create a sense of belonging and a welcoming environment for any First Nations people entering our service. While First Nations perspectives are something that we explore throughout our everyday teaching and practice, we also ensure we emphasise on this learning and content through cultural celebrations that are significant to First Nations culture and community.