297 – Being Aboriginal: Australian Aboriginal children’s voices during the early years of school

Presentation - ECV2022-297

Being Aboriginal: Australian Aboriginal children’s voices during the early years of school

Lysa Dealtry, Charles Sturt University, Australia (ldealtry@csu.edu.au)

Background: Educational settings promote a positive transition to school for Australian Aboriginal children when they acknowledge and value children’s cultural identities. How young Aboriginal children express their cultural identities is important to understand. The term Aboriginal is used to refer to the participant children to reflect local preferences in the research site.

Aim: To explore children’s ways of being, knowing, and doing as they started and progressed through their first years of primary school.

Method: Participants were identified from children participating in the Gudaga Goes to School (Gudaga-GtS) study, a longitudinal study that explored the health, development, and early educational experiences of Aboriginal children in an urban setting in NSW. Data were drawn from interviews conducted by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members of the research team. Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and Western ways of knowing were employed by a non-Aboriginal doctoral student to re-present the key narratives expressed by seventeen children.

Results: Children talked about positive and negative influences on their cultural identities and shared complex insights about their experiences of being Aboriginal. As children start school, their cultural identities are multifaceted and mediated by relationships with people and aspects of the school environment.

Conclusions: With positive sense of self as a marker, almost all the children experienced a successful start to school. However, some experiences during this transition have the potential to diminish children’s sense of self.

Implications for children and families: Aboriginal children construct their sense of self through connections to family and community contexts. How children express these connections and the diverse ways in which they understand their Aboriginality are shared in this presentation.

Implications for practitioners: Children’s cultural identities are nuanced and located in particular sets of social and cultural arrangements. Awareness of these will expand your capacity to respond in culturally responsive ways to children’s cultural strengths and needs.

Funding: This doctoral study formed part of a project funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP120100828) awarded to and administered by the University of New South Wales 

Key words: children’s voices, Indigenous voices

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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