According to dad Gary Saunders, the confidence of his four-year-old son Emmanuel has skyrocketed since he began kindergarten at Yappera Children’s Service in Thornbury.
Emmanuel has shown a growing resilience and sense of identity, testimony to what attending kinder can do for a child’s development in the Victorian Government’s Koorie Kids Shine at Kindergarten program.
‘The main reasons for enrolling Emmanuel were to develop his social skills and his confidence, and to put him in a setting where he has to learn how to interact with other kids and other people,’ Mr Saunders says.
The Koorie Kids Shine program encourages all Koorie families to enrol their children in kindergarten to give them the best start in life.
'People I know who've held their kids back from kinder have found their children take longer to integrate into social settings,’ Mr Saunders says.
‘At kinder Emmanuel is involved in group activities and he has to share and work with others, which is great preparation for him to enter the school environment.’
The best start
Enrolling Koorie children in kindergarten provides a supportive environment where they can build their own sense of identity, and learn resilience and self-determination.
Research shows that children who have a stimulating, supportive and healthy start to life are more likely to do well later in life, and children who attend kinder score between 10 and 20 points higher on NAPLAN tests later on in their schooling.
The Koorie Kids Shine at Kindergarten campaign aims to give Koorie children the best start in life, and to close the gap in outcomes between Koorie and non-Koorie children. Since the campaign was launched in 2015, alongside several other initiatives supporting Koorie education through Marrung – Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026, Koorie kindergarten participation rates have reached record levels.
Koorie kindergarten participation rates in four-year-old kindergarten reached 90.5 per cent in 2016, up from 79.6 per cent in 2014. Three-year-old participation rates increased to 48.8 per cent in 2016, up from 37.1 per cent in 2014.
Earlier this year the program was expanded to include new, improved promotional materials and a focus on targeting key events like the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day and NAIDOC Week.
Early Start Kindergarten grant
All Koorie children who turn three or four years old by April 30 can attend kindergarten for 15 hours per week for free through the Early Start Kindergarten grant. It is part of the Education State Early Childhood Reform Plan, which represents a $202.1 million Victorian Government investment in early childhood including groundbreaking reforms to the kindergarten system.
Embedding Koorie culture paying cultural dividends
At Valley Brook Kindergarten in Hampton Park, embedding Koorie culture in its teaching program is paying cultural dividends. Dreamtime stories, flying the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flag, or making handprints are helping all children connect with Koorie culture at an early age.
‘We’re creating a very welcoming and culturally safe environment for our Koorie families,’ educator Diana Bellion says.
‘(For Koorie children) the benefits are that the culture is embedded within their lives at an early age,’ educator Ms Babiera says. ‘They know where they’ve come from.
‘For the non-Indigenous children, they know about the First Peoples and about the land and what they’re standing on.’
For more information about Koorie Kids Shine and to learn how you can enrol your child in kindergarten, see Koorie Kids Shine