Spotlight On – Discovery Early Learning, Tasmania
Narragunnawali had the pleasure of chatting with Una Lalagavesi, Director of Discovery Early Learning Centres (ELC) in Dominic and Illara, Tasmania. We discussed their reconciliation journey and initiatives of the early learning centres and their communities.
Una has managed the Dominic and Illara ELCs for nine years and has enjoyed supporting these centres in working with local Elders and communities to build up knowledge and awareness of local Aboriginal peoples, histories, cultures and languages.
Among the programs they have been incorporating is a Bush Camp initiative, where local Elders share knowledge and stories of traditional bush medicines and foods, as well as how to care for the land and the importance of doing so.
“We are using the Dominic and Illara centres as ‘learning cases’ of what reconciliation looks like for Discovery ELC. We will then share our learnings with all of the other Discovery ELCs in Tasmania and demonstrate what reconciliation can look and feel like for our communities,” Una explained.
In discussing the importance of integrating reconciliation into everyday learning, Una described, “the biggest journey that we’ve had is with embedding Aboriginal perspectives and practices about caring for natural environments – moving it beyond tokenistic, to being as part of regular practice. It’s important that these young ones grow up in understanding what and who has come before them, what’s been there forever, and the importance of caring for the natural environment so it doesn’t disappear.”
In 2017, Discovery ELC’s Dominic and Illara Centres started working with the Reconciliation Council of Tasmania as part of their reconciliation journey. 2017 represented the first year that the state of Tasmania had an established Reconciliation Council, and Discovery ELC celebrated the significance of its launch by sponsoring a five-metre long banner on which all launch attendees placed their hand print. In addition, all of the Discovery ELCs across Tasmania simultaneously made their own hand-printed banners with all of the children in their services. Each banner was displayed on the Reconciliation Council warehouse walls, and the families of all of the children involved were asked to join the early learning centres in seeing the banners pinned up.
“The young ones were able to see that their handprints had an impact, and that they were a part of a shared journey towards reconciliation. There was a wonderful sense of community involvement with everyone coming together for reconciliation. They were involved in the whole day of the Reconciliation Council of Tasmania’s launch and, from there, continued conversations and commitments to reconciliation action flowed.”
In the Illara service, a “Friendship Tree” was created to represent a continuation of the handprints banner. “The Friendship Tree uses paper handprints that children paint themselves, to visually highlight the beauty and strength in everyone’s differences, in being together at the centre and building that respect amongst each other.”
Discovery ELC Dominic and Illara have both prioritised the building of relationships with their local and wider communities, including relationships with Leprena Aboriginal Community, the local Aboriginal Council and various Elders who have been involved with their programs and upcoming events, and vice versa.
As Una concludes, “we want to work together with the communities. All communities. That’s what reconciliation is for me, and for us.”