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

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


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 of the children had 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.

Online presentation

Online presentationEarly Childhood Voices Conference 2022
OtherThe Early Childhood Voices Conference 2022 (ECV2022) is a multidisciplinary international conference providing a platform to share research about innovative methods, theories and partnerships with children, families and practitioners that supports social justice during early childhood and within the early childhood sector. ECV2022 was organised by the Charles Sturt University Early Childhood Interdisciplinary Research Group as an opportunity to present research in a virtual online space.

Researchers and post-graduate students were invited to submit abstracts to share their work on innovations to improve the lives of children, families and practitioners during early childhood (generally birth-8 years) and within the early childhood sector. Papers employing qualitative and/or quantitative methods, reviews (e.g., scoping and systematic reviews) and scholarly theoretical papers were welcomed. All abstracts were peer reviewed by the ECV2022 Scientific Committee and authors of accepted abstracts submitted online presentations.

ECV2022 is online and asynchronous. There is no registration fee and no fees to present or view the presentations due to Charles Sturt University’s motto “For the public good”. The conference was held from 5th to 9th December 2022. Presentations will remain online via YouTube. The presentations are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License to indicate that adaptations or commercial use of the presentations are not allowed.
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