Transitioning ‘not racist’ to ‘anti-racist’ frameworks in early childhood education

Ryan Al-Natour, Charles Sturt University, Australia (

Background: A recent study highlighted how negative stereotypes of minorities are affirmed through Australian early childhood texts, exhibiting the need to develop racial literacy among early childhood educators. The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Building Belonging Toolkit features several activities, posters and guides that aim to equip educators with tools to address racism in early childhood settings. This paper unpacks how anti-racist frameworks can enrich these initiatives in teaching diversity and difference.

Aim: To unpack how shifting ‘not racist’ initiatives to ‘anti-racist’ frameworks can enrich teaching diversity and difference in early childhood settings. 

Method: Literature review that evaluates the Building Belonging Toolkit, KooriCurriculum resources for early childhood educators, a study that identified how a majority of early childhood texts used in Australian child care centres perpetuated stereotypes of minorities, and Anti-racist baby by Dr Ibram X. Kendi.

Results: The efforts to normalise difference and diversity tend to focus on skin tone and cultural differences (cuisine and clothing), often framing racism as merely ‘bullying’. These efforts typically present teaching diversity with a focus on how to be ‘not racist’. While this is important, there is potential to enrich anti-racist education with more substance that is relevant in terms of seeing early childhood education as the building blocks for developing lifelong racial literacy learning.

Conclusion: Developing lifelong racial literacy among educators involves reconceptualising teaching diversity and difference in line with anti-racist initiatives. This paper unpacks how this transition from ‘not racist’ to ‘anti-racist’ can occur within early childhood settings.

Implications for children: Do you notice that we might look a bit different from our family and friends? Some of our friends might eat different foods and wear different clothes. There is more to the story and educators love talking to you about it.

Implications for families: It is important to teach your child that antiracism is not only about bullying and being a ‘good person’.

Implications for practitioners: It is important for you to develop racial literacy that enriches your confidence in teaching diversity and difference.

Key words: social Justice, racial literacy, anti-racism, review, Indigenous voices, wellbeing, vulnerable communities.

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