Gowrie Victoria is one of 14 funded organisations across the state to support the implementation of the Koorie Preschool Assistant Initiative.

Funded through the Koorie Outcomes Division at the Department of Education, the initiative is an outreach program designed to increase and enhance the participation of Aboriginal children in kindergarten programs, and to support kinder programs in developing a strong practice of First Nations perspectives.

Gowrie Victoria Early Learning Executive Manager Nicole Pilsworth says the funding enables fulltime outreach worker Sarah Rawley, based at Broadmeadows Valley, to work across the government areas of Hume and Merri-bek.

Last week, Sarah and Nicole attended the launch of the redesigned program and revised guidelines. “It is exciting that the Department of Education has worked with Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and local artists to redesign the program to include Aboriginal language and art,” Nicole says. “The program is now known as the bupup balak wayipungang initiative (this translates to helping/supporting the young kids). Sarah’s role is now titled wayipungitj (meaning ‘supporter’).”

Sarah’s role, which commenced in August last year, focuses on participation, practice, community and family.

Sarah says her aim is to support Koorie children and families to engage in early learning services, whilst supporting kindergartens and early learning services within Hume and Merri-bek 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,” she says.

Learn more about Sarah

Key aspects of the program include:

  • Support the participation of Koorie children in funded kindergarten programs by working collaboratively with the kindergarten sector, related services, and Aboriginal families and local communities.
  • Enable culturally inclusive and welcoming kindergarten programs for Koorie families and children.
  • Advocate for Koorie families to improve/ increase their engagement with the children’s kindergarten service and support kindergarten services to actively involve the local community in providing input into the kindergarten program.
  • Provide information to Koorie families that enhances their participation in other key early childhood services and supports their children’s transition to school.

Sarah says Gowrie is excited to be involved in such an initiative and how this can support the inclusion of Aboriginal children and families in kindergarten programs across Victoria, as well as the integration of First Nations perspectives in all early childhood and kindergarten services. “All children across Australia have the right to learn about the rich and strong culture of the First Nations people,” she says.

Image: (left to right) Michelle Andrews, EC Performance and Planning Advisor, NW Regional DE office; Sarah Rawley, Gowrie Victoria’s wayipungitj;  Nicole Pilsworth, Gowrie Victoria Early Learning Executive Manager;Laurel Johnson, Senior Project Officer, Koorie Outcomes Division; and, Janette Kennedy, Manager, Koorie Outcomes Division.