From alienation and dissolution to involvement and ownership through KindiLink – a jointly constructed supported play group for Indigenous families and their young children, held on school sites in Western Australia

Year: 2019

Author: Barratt-Pugh, Caroline, Barblett, Lennie, Knaus, Marianne, Cooper, Trudi, Hill, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The importance of partnerships between parents/carers, early childhood educators and the community has been well established in relation to improving educational outcomes for young Indigenous children. Establishing positive relationships in the early years serve as a bridge between families and schools, providing children with a sense of belonging and providing a platform for their future achievements. These connections also have the potential to increase parental confidence and capacity as their child’s first teacher and educators understanding and incorporation of Indigenous culture/s and languages/dialect into their early childhood program. However, forging these partnerships may be difficult given the disconnect between some Indigenous families and school, often created by the power inequities and levels of disenchantment in families. A number of programs have emerged as a means of supporting Indigenous families and schools to overcome this disconnect and increase positive outcomes for children, while simultaneously improving parents’/carers’ social and cultural capital.

KindiLink is an example of such a program initiated by the Department of Education in Western Australia, for three-year-old Aboriginal children, who attend with a family member. KindiLink is a play-and-learn initiative, held on school sites, implemented by an Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer (AIEO) and early childhood educator. Based on an interpretative paradigm, using a mixed method approach, families, AIEOs, teachers and principals were invited to take part in an evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of KindiLink on 37 school sites. Data collection included pre-and post-program surveys, case studies, yarning and reflective journals collected across a year. Educators and families worked together to create a jointly constructed, inclusive, mutually respectful and safe learning environment. By sharing their literacy practices and languages/dialects, families began to see themselves as valued experts. The power balance shifted very slightly as families became more confident and comfortable at KindiLink. Families began to take the initiative in demonstrating their skills and understandings, providing and leading activities, and becoming partners in their child’s learning. This had a ripple effect as families began to engage with the wider school community, taking on school roles and supporting their older children to attend school, while enrolling their younger child/children in kindergarten. KindiLink changed the story of some families from one of alienation and dissolution to one of ownership and involvement. Ultimately, time will tell if the gains through participation in KindiLink, can be sustained into the future and extended beyond KindiLink.