Collaborators in the project are developing essential resources to support educators as they upgrade their professional skills and work towards the government’s commitment to ensure every child in Australia has access to quality childcare.
“This has been a significant project,” explains project leader and Associate Dean of Charles Sturt University’s Faculty of Education, Professor Sue Dockett. “It has been three years of hard work and commitment from our collaborators, the trainees, their mentors and their communities.”
Funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Work Place Relations under the Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund for Equity and Access in December 2008, the ECEWC Project commenced in 2009 with Charles Sturt University (CSU) as the senior institutional partner. CSU has worked in close collaboration with TAFE NSW Riverina Institute (RIT), TAFE NSW Western Institute (WIT) and the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Education (BIITE) to develop and deliver these resources.
A project community stakeholder and Director of Parkes Early Childhood Centre (PECC), Ms Lindy Farrant was happy with the success of the collaborative effort within her centre resulting in two staff members studying through the project and upgrading their professional skills.
“Everyone involved in this project is acutely aware of the urgent need for more highly qualified professionals in regional and remote Australia,” said Ms Farrant. “Many rural communities have enormous difficulty accessing professionals of any kind. Parkes Early Childhood Centre is a good example of this situation.
“We have been advertising for an additional early childhood teacher for the past two years without success. In the new year, we require two early childhood teachers. We have advertised extensively, including direct communication with universities stating our situation, in an attempt to secure appropriately qualified teachers. To date, we have been unable to find anyone willing to move to Parkes for the roles. Hopefully, with the help of these resources, we can look forward to having local graduates who will be available to work in our rural services.”
The project aimed to build workforce capacity in early childhood education through enhancing existing expertise and building the workforce, particularly in inland and Indigenous areas in NSW and the Northern Territory. The project developed training pathways that are accessible and locally supported, with a particular emphasis on the development of appropriate programs that match the needs and strengths of communities. From here, the resources developed will be made available to all early learning educators in training.
Northern Territory project pilot leader Associate Professor Lyn Fasoli from Northern Territory’s Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) was impressed with the strong collaboration between the institutions.
“Higher education is a competitive environment,” Dr Fasoli said. “Add to this the cultural differences, regional versus urban locations of the collaborators, and the Indigenous and non-Indigenous variables, it’s made things challenging but we’ve managed to work together with a common goal. I think it helps that we all started out with the right attitude.
“I’ve been doing collaborative work for a while and it hasn’t always worked out so well. Some want to use, not collaborate. As my Indigenous colleague Alison Wunungmurra says, there are two types of collaboration, Tsunami versus raindrop collaboration. Tsunami collaboration wipes away all the local ideas and leaves people and organisations devastated. Rain drops cause ripples in the water so the existing and new ideas can gather up, creating something better for everyone. I believe this project has taken the raindrop approach, which is wonderful.
“In the final analysis, each of the pilots has produced resources and new ways of thinking that should give the education profession access to something valuable and productive.”
The resources created from this project will be available to teaching students, their mentors and communities after the launch on Wednesday 26 October at midday at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Charles Sturt University, 15 Blackall Street, Barton, ACT, 2600.
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