How early childhood education impacts young Indigenous lives

Kinderling News & Features

Making sure that Indigenous children have access to quality early learning is a key aim in providing positive educational outcomes. 

Deb Mann runs the Walking Together program and is a development officer at Ngroo Education, where she works closely with indigenous families to ensure they have better access to early childhood education. She shares her thoughts on how early childhood education can impact young Indigenous lives. 

Listen to Deb’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:

Early childhood education prepares children and families for ongoing learning 

Deb believes strongly that all children benefit from having access to good quality early learning. She says centres with strong relationships with Aboriginal families provide “a good space for families to understand what systems look like, what education systems look like; it prepares families as well as children for ongoing learning.” 

These benefits are increased when services are committed to enhancing cultural connections. 

“If the service has strong relationships and respect for Aboriginal culture and keeps culture strong, then children and families can feel more comfortable with the institutions,” Ms Mann said. “I think there’s buy-in later that supports children with ongoing learning.”

Bicultural learning supports community involvement 

By learning in a supportive environment, Deb says that children can begin to navigate their world, both in non-Aboriginal learning spaces and by maintaining home culture, language and community obligations. It’s important for children to learn concepts in both their home culture and language and in the mainstream space. They can also begin relationships with other children and develop skills supporting their emotional and intellectual needs at the same time. 

“It also gives a sense of safety and connection for children and families,” says Deb. 

“If children stay, and are safe and strong in culture, and families are comfortable with the educational setting, then I think children can grow to do whatever they want to.” 

All kids can learn from indigenous culture 

It’s important to recognise different ways that young minds can grow without it being solely about literacy or numeracy. In this way, Deb believes there’s a lot to learn s a lot of learnings from Indigenous culture that we can teach all children. “It’s a strength, the connection to mother earth, land, water, sky, nature, animals, all of that is so interesting for young children… and adults too,” she says. 

“It’s a strong, cultural way of teaching and learning that embeds all the concepts – science, maths, communication, literacy… I think it’s the love of learning we want in all children, which early childhood education is well placed to start. If children leave early childhood with a love of learning, and go right through school with a love of learning, then they will be successful in whatever they choose to do.” 

This interview is brought to you by the NSW Department of Education. For more information, head to