Respectful, reciprocal relationship key to Fitzroy Crossing secondment success
An educator from Goodstart Early Learning Drysdale has drawn on her experiences of growing up in a Maori community in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty to deepen her understanding of the needs of a remote community in Fitzroy Crossing, four hours from Broome, in Western Australia.
Mrs Louise Perrott is posted at the Baya Gawiy Buga yani Jandu yani u Centre, which provides care to about 35 families with children ranging from four months to four years of age. She was initially part of a secondment program whereby Goodstart educators spend three months in the community, however she is so committed to furthering her learning and relationships in the community that she has extended her secondment period to stay until December 2019, after being appointed Early Learning Centre coordinator.
A program which enables Goodstart educators to make “a deep and genuine connection with Indigenous culture, broaden their experience and develop their profession in a unique environment” is responsible for the secondment, with Mrs Perrott deciding to take on the challenge after realising her background growing up as an indigenous New Zealander may offer her a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by Indigenous Australians.
“While my situation is quite different to that of the people I have met here, it’s helped me to build connections,” Mrs Perrott said. “A lot of the situations here remind me of my culture 50 years ago when I was struggling with my background.”
Since joining the community, Mrs Perrott has signed up for netball, tennis and touch footy with local teams and heads to Broome once a month to pick up supplies for the week ahead. She has visited local areas including Leopold Station, visiting rock paintings and gathering medicinal and food plants. She has learnt how to cook kangaroo tail and visited Danguu Gorge.
“Connecting to the land allows you to become more connected to the children, families and community,” she said. “It also gives you a greater understanding of the environment in which we are living and teaching.”
Speaking about the main issues within the community, in terms of building relationships in her role as an educator, and now coordinator, Mrs Perrott said trust was critical.
“Local people have seen so many people come and go over the years and families get suspicious,” Mrs Perrott said. “For me, part of my role is in building relationships with the Indigenous women who are always talking to me about my Maori culture.
“I talk to them about the importance of loving their families and always trying to put your family first. We don’t talk about non-indigenous things such as what’s on the TV.”
With two grown up children, aged 27 and 24, and a husband back at home in Melbourne, Mrs Perrott heads home every three months for a catch up but is determined to meet her goals by December.
“We are also working towards getting our assessment and rating and I’m working towards an exceeding. I hope I can achieve that before I leave here.”
Emily Carter, CEO of Marninwanrtikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre runs the Bay Gawiy childcare centre and said it offers the highest quality of education while integrating into the learning ethos a respect for local Indigenous knowledge.
The Baya Gawiy partnership is part of Goodstart’s social purpose commitment to ensure that all children have the learning, development and wellbeing outcomes they need for school and life.
More information about Goodstart’s social promise commitment can be found here.