AMIGA Montessori brings Reconciliation to life with uniform change
The Sector > Provider > General News > AMIGA Montessori brings Reconciliation to life with uniform change

AMIGA Montessori brings Reconciliation to life with uniform change

by Freya Lucas

July 01, 2024

Educators and leaders across the AMIGA Montessori network are sporting a fresh new look, with uniforms featuring custom designed artwork from Merindah-Gunya,  a proud Kirrae and Peek Wurrong female artist from the Gundjitmara nation in South-West Victoria.


The new uniforms incorporate an artwork which was commissioned by AMIGA Montessori in 2022, as a symbol of its commitment to Reconciliation and its fulfilment of certain Child safe Standards.


From the themes through to the colours and shapes chosen, the artwork communicates the shared vision and values of children, families and educators from across the network, which were gathered through an extensive consultation process. 


At the conclusion of the consultation, several key elements emerged, which have been incorporated into both the artwork and the uniform design: 


  • Leaders / Superheros 
  • Teachers
  • Love 
  • Community
  • Bright colours 
  • Family
  • Children’s experience at the centre 
  • Development


Merindah-Gunya took these themes, ideas and aspects into consideration, producing a piece which demonstrates one key story – the children’s journey from the beginning of care, to eventually leaving AMIGA, and the growth they achieve through the love and dedication provided by the centre’s community.


The large ‘meeting place’ (represented by the concentric circles) symbolises the AMIGA centres, and the horseshoe shapes closest to the centre represent the diligent leaders (educators) of the centre. 


The next level represents the loving families from whence the children come, and the next level represents the broader community, created through the centres over the years.


Children are represented by yellow and purple tracks, and can be seen moving in and out of the meeting places. On close examination, it becomes clear that the children enter smaller and emerge larger, symbolising not only their physical growth during their time with AMIGA, but also their holistic development and the impact of their broader support system. 


The diversity of the AMIGA community, both in terms of staff working in and supporting services, but also in terms of the journey of AMIGA’s founding family from South Africa to Australia, is represented and reflected in the design with two circles connected with wavy lines, symbolising two bodies connected by water, symbolic of the lived experience of many of those connected to AMIGA. 


“Our artwork, and being able to have it on display, particularly through these new uniforms is something which is deeply important to me,” AMIGA Montessori CEO Max Bergh said. 


“The founding family of AMIGA Montessori came to Australia in 2001, and quickly realised the profound importance of Country to the First Nations people of Australia,” she continued. 


“It’s been wonderful to work with Merindah-Gunya, to see her interpretations of who we are as an organisation, and to continue to walk the steps towards a reconciled Australia by taking meaningful measures to showcase the profound importance of First Nations knowledge and connection.” 


Once the uniform samples were ready, Ms Bergh and her team consulted with centre based staff about how they could be refined to better meet their needs. While the initial vision was that educators would have polos, and management level staff would have blouses, the team soon learnt that many female educators preferred a more ‘professional look’ and the silky feel of the blouses. 


“As such, we decided to invest into the more costly blouse option across the group, so that our educators could love wearing their uniform, and would feel and look like the professionals they are,” Ms Bergh explained.  


“While there can be a perception in the community that the complexity of early childhood education and care (ECEC) can be reduced to just ‘babysitting’ nothing could be further from the truth,” she continued. 


“Our educators are not babysitters, they are amazing professionals who work incredibly hard, and we’re so happy to invest and give them a uniform that reflects their professionalism and excellence.”


Male educators provided feedback noting that their preferred option of polo shirts felt a little too bright, and the AMIGA team responded by ‘toning down’ the colours and using a black base to incorporate their feedback. 


Heading into the cooler months, AMIGA has also elected to add a ‘hoodie’ to the range of uniform, which will be provided free of charge to the team to ensure they are warm while still sharing the AMIGA story through their uniform. 


About the artist


Merindah-Gunya is a First Nations name meaning “Beautiful Spirit” in Peek Wurrong language, and was gifted to the artist through ceremony by her parents and Elders.


Born on Country, Merindah-Gunya began doing Aboriginal art at the age of 5, learning from my Elders at the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in the Grampians. 


She had a particular interest and talent in art and continued to learn through the guidance and encouragement of her Elders. Creating stories using sacred symbols is something she has always had a strong connection with.


Merindah-Gunya’s Aunty Ros, a Butchulla woman from Queensland taught her how to use art to tell stories of her own family’s experiences.


“My particular interest in dot art stemmed from a family trip to Alice Springs where I sat with a group of old women who showed me how they told a story through dot painting,” the artist explained. 


“We would go back everyday to see them and they would show me how they painted the stories of their Elders. I have never felt such pride as I did learning from these old women, who also granted me permission to use these techniques in my paintings. I was absolutely fascinated by it and am so grateful for this experience and their permission.”

Learn more about AMIGA Montessori here. Merindah-Gunya’s work is available here.

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