Listening to white children’s understandings about identity

Kathy Gelding, Western Sydney University, Australia ( )

Background: Mainstream early childhood education programs and practice are often dominated by models of inclusion that are based on white knowledge. These white models of inclusion undermine positive and authentic understandings of Australian Indigenous people.

Aim: Using Post-colonial and Critical Whiteness Theories, I examined early childhood educators’ and children’s understandings of identity.

Method: The methods used were qualitative research including interviews with ten Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators, three focus groups with young children aged four to five, and observations.

Results: The children demonstrated a confident self-identity and a deep respect for Australian Indigenous people. They were competent and capable in understanding their own white identities and the effects of whiteness on Indigenous people. They also demonstrated higher-order thinking about complex, dynamic and diverse Indigenous identities. By developing their knowledge about identity and history, the children learnt to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people.

Implications for children: You can make lives matter. You can develop positive and respectful relationships with Indigenous Australians.

Implications for families: Your children will develop into fair and socially just individuals who contribute positively to communities.

Implications for practitioners: You can develop the confidence, skills and knowledge to facilitate children’s deep respect for Australian Indigenous people. 

Key words: children’s voices, educators’ voices, Indigenous voices, inclusion, qualitative methods, qualitative methods, theory

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