Shoalhaven children live out Reconciliation Week theme by study of shared language
As Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) services participate in National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June), a group of young children in New South Wales’ Shoalhaven district are living the theme of “in this together” by participating in the Sounds, Words, Aboriginal language and Yarning (SWAY) program.
SWAY targets preschool-aged children in areas with a high First Nations population, and children from Noah’s Inclusion Services have been involved in the program which uses a First Nations framework and Dharrawal language to help children to develop their language skills before they move to primary school.
Originally developed by the Royal Far West School in Sydney, and designed for use by Aboriginal children living in remote communities, the program was adapted for use by the Noah’s centres, Aboriginal Programs Manager Marg Sutherland told local news source South Coast Register.
As part of the program, a small group of children work alongside a speech pathologist and a preschool educator work to identify different language ‘building blocks’ such as sounds, symbols and adjectives, which are then incorporated into the curriculum of the service.
As a speech pathologist, Erin Smart implements the SWAY program in the Shoalhaven district., She spoke about the culturally responsive nature of the program.
“All of the units are based on a culturally-specific yarn,” she said, noting that all the learning experiences children have through that unit are connected back to the yarn and have specific goals that are culturally relevant to the children’s learning.
Materials, language and experiences are all specific to the children’s learning and the yarns, which is a key component of the evidenced based SWAY program.
“We’re really trying to help children acquire robust language skills, because we know they are the foundations for literacy development and we know that literacy is very closely correlated to outcomes later in life,” Ms Smart told South Coast Register.
Parents and members of the community are encouraged to take part in the program through take-home activities, videos and community meetings.