View all news

Time to learn from Indigenous cultures


2 November 2004
A Southern Cross University research study has highlighted the need to incorporate Indigenous practices and principles into mainstream early childhood education.

Ms Marcelle Townsend Cross, Head of School of Indigenous Studies at SCU’s Gnibi College, will present the results of the report “Pipirri Wiimaku – for the Little Kids” at a twilight seminar on Thursday, November 4, from 4pm to 5.30pm.

The free seminar at SCU’s Lismore campus is open to early childhood educators, teachers and other interested members of the community.

Ms Townsend Cross said the report illustrated the need for a “both ways” approach to the design and delivery of early childhood education, where equal value and respect was placed on both Indigenous and non-Indigenous practices and principles.

“Up until recently the driving voice in education has been very mono-cultural. It’s been very much a western paradigm. Now is a time when we really should hear other voices, particularly Indigenous voices,” Ms Townsend Cross said.

“There are many good things that could be learnt from Indigenous practices.”

She said in Indigenous cultures children were perceived as young people, rather than as helpless children. There was also no such thing as “naughty” behaviour in very young children.

“In the ‘Yappa’ culture they are referred to as little uncle or my young aunty. Another thing is that children eat when they’re hungry and sleep when they’re tired, no matter where they are.

“From a western point of view this can be perceived as very disorganised or chaotic.”

Ms Townsend Cross said the report highlighted the importance of sharing different practices and principles across all cultures.

“This is not a competition between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways. This is about sharing and understanding, so we can truly be respectful of one another. I’m not suggesting we change our cultural ways as a mainstream society, but there’s a lot of mutual benefits in providing appropriate cultural eduction during the early education years.

“Early childhood education is a fairly new field and it is leaps and bounds ahead in levels of consultation. It really is quite an exciting time.”

The seminar is being chaired by Dr Kath Fisher. Members of the panel are Ms Townsend Cross, Aunty Hazel Rhodes, chair Jurjum Preschool, Pam Briggs, director Parish Centre Preschool, and Geoff Spargo, principal Coraki School.

The seminar will be held in Z181, SCU Lismore campus, on Thursday, November 4.

Media contact: Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m. 0439 680 748.