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An Adeona Family Podcast: An Early Childhood Journey

Episode 07: Cultural Inclusion

On this episode of the Adeona Family Podcast: An Early Childhood Journey, we’re joined by Cecelia Wright from Cultural Inclusions. We discuss why it’s important to prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in our day-to-day lives and how families can incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in a meaningful way at home.

Topics covered on this episode:

  • Importance of cultural inclusion in education
  • Practical strategies for fostering diversity in education environments
  • Benefits of embracing cultural diversity for students and educators
  • Challenges and barriers to achieving cultural inclusion
  • Impact of cultural inclusion on student engagement and learning outcomes

It can be difficult to know how and where to start, which is why we wanted to include some useful insights and tips to get you started. For example:

The most important thing is consistency. Consistency between Early childhood Education settings and home allows for a deeper and more authentic learning experience.

Resources Mentioned

Thank You

We’d love to hear from you! If you have any feedback, suggestions or questions about anything we discussed today, please feel free to reach out –

Our early childhood education centres:

Coorparoo | Mitchelton | Noosaville | Mackay



Podcast Transcription

Zoe (00:11):
Thank you for joining us today on an early childhood journey. My name is Zoe, and today I’m so excited to be joined by a very honoured guest, Cecelia Wright from Cultural Inclusions. Good morning Cecelia.

Cecelia (00:22):
Good morning Zoey. Good morning listeners.

Zoe (00:25):
So Cecelia before we get too far down the path today of our conversation, I would really love today to hand over our acknowledgment of country to you. And the reason for doing that will become more evident as our conversation goes along.

Cecelia (00:37):
Thank you. Right in the Torres Strait, we actually start our acknowledgment with a little prayer. So if you don’t mind closing your eyes for a moment. Name of the father, son, Holy Spirit. Amen. Everything we have for everything we will achieve in our lifetime. We say […] to our traditional owners and the spirits that guide us. May they look after us, keep us safe during this time. And a […] everyone for tuning in today. Amen. And the father, son, Holy Spirit. Amen. Thank you.

Zoe (01:08):
Thank you so much. So that was beautiful. So before we get really into the crux of what we want to come here today to meet and chat about, I thought it would be really lovely for people to know a little bit about who you are, and where you come from in your story.

Cecelia (01:25):
Thanks, Zoe. So my name Cecilia Right. I’m actually a part of the […] family on Thursday Island or the TI in the Torres Straits. And TI’s traditional name is Waiben, and it’s a part of the Kaurareg Nation people. So I always say, even though I live and work in Brisbane, my heart is in Kaurareg nation people country and my community is the Torres Straits. So I was actually, born and bred there, all my family still there. And I think about them every single day. And, and my heart is still in the tropics, so. So, I’m really from the Torres Strait. I’ve grown up there as an educator, worked in community with children and families in the health sector, in the early childhood sector, training, and for me, I guess that’s where my journey began in community. And even though I’ve travelled all around Australia as an educator, I started to realize that we needed to do more for inclusion for our children. We needed to more to do more around, including Torres Strait Islander children, families, educators and the community. And I needed to to lead some of that work. So I started my business Cultural Inclusions quite a little while ago now. As I travelled around Australia, I started going back home to the islands and, and, talking to elders, talking to community, talking to my family about what else I could do to share Torres Strait Island culture, children and community with others all over Australia.

Zoe (02:59):
What a lovely story Cecelia.

Cecelia (03:01):
Thank you.

Zoe (03:02):
At, here at Adeona we have obviously been delving into the idea of embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into a lot of our practice, and as part of that journey, what we discovered is, is that it’s much more important to understand who people are rather than what they do, particularly. So I that’s something I’ve really tried to take on board in my own life. And my own practice is understanding who someone is rather than just their job title.

Cecelia (03:28):
I love that.

Zoe (03:29):
Yeah. So I think it’s really nice to understand the roots of where people come from.

Cecelia (03:34):
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a part of identity as well that each and every one of us have our own stories and our own, our own ancestors, our own passions. And, you know, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, that’s really the crux of who we are. and you know, that’s how I’ve really come into all of this and doing my own consultancy and work now, because I wanted to share more of who I am and how we can all create an inclusive world.

Zoe (04:03):
Absolutely. And for me and, I’ve also worked with Janice, Auntie Janice Roca, who I know, you know as well. And she’s a lovely, wonderful, wise woman. And a conversation that I had to her was about how when we start to look at a lot of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices and trying to embed them into our everyday lives, sometimes we tend to head down this path, especially with young children of the kind of othering I guess is the best way I can describe it, as in that sometimes they people view indigenous cultures. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as something that happened in another time or another place, and people forget to look at the contemporary manifestation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. And I think having a conversation with someone helps to start breaking that down.

Cecelia (04:53):
Oh, absolutely. And beautiful Aunty Janice. She’s incredible. We’ve been doing some beautiful workshops and educator support sessions together and it’s been just a wonderful, wonderful journey. You know, even for myself to come together as two different Aboriginal Torres Strait Island perspectives, to walk into a centre and to be with children from both places and those educators together from both, First Nation perspectives as well. It’s just been incredible and a great learning for me, too. But absolutely. exactly what you’re saying, that, you know, the ways of being and belonging around Torres Strait Islander inclusion, it’s really, you know, I say to children, we’re actually this is a part of Australia, you know, and even starting off the very first conversation about our flags, you know, I say to the children that these are Australian flags, you know, and who lives in Australia. And they all put their hands up, you know, and I say, that’s right, we’re all in Australia and everything I’m teaching you about the sea creatures, about the land, about living off the ocean. This is all a part of Australia. And so we’re all here together, which is a really great, great perspective to take on because the Torres Straits are a part of Australia, we use English as one of our languages and, that, you know, I’m not teaching anything new. I’m not teaching anything different. I’m not teaching you a foreign language, you know that. Yeah. This is all Australian languages. And when so lucky to be diverse and so multicultural that, that, you know, when we’re teaching even the conversation about, you know, in the olden days, this is how Torres Strait Islanders used to hunt and fish, you know, and all those types of conversations they great to have as a starting point. But you’ve got to remember, we still do those things today. We still literally live off the land in the ocean today. And and, you know, it’s really the urban centers, the big cities where some of that culture just changes ever so slightly. And, and I’m actually traveling back to Thursday Island very soon for a little while. And, you know, my children will be exposed to all of that again. You know, we’re not taking electronics. We’re taking, you know, all our swimming gear and all our stuff to go out camping out bush. You know, we’re really looking forward to going back to that type of lifestyle for a little while. And, you know, and that’s the lifestyle we can bring into our centres, into our schools, into our everyday lives and conversation here now.

Zoe (07:25):
Yeah. That’s fantastic. And, I think it’s also really wonderful to explain to children, how rich and deep the culture is. And, you know, to do that, it’s about connecting. And so, that is about understanding the past and the present.

Cecelia (07:43):
Yeah. Yeah, that’s exactly right. And, and that, you know, it’s a really a great conversation that, you know, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people are still alive today and doing these things and, you know, and bringing culture back, bringing language back. And these are the things we can do in our setting so that children understand that, you know, the culture is still alive and well, you know, yeah, whether you have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children in your care or not, you know, these are beautiful conversations to have because we’re creating a shift and creating a change. I always say, you know, we’re creating a more inclusive world.

Zoe (08:17):
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. So part of the conversation I wanted to have with you today, Cecilia is, at Adeona, we understand that embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander into our practice is a priority. And we try to prioritize that every day in everything we do, because in some settings it can kind of get pushed to the second thing you do, rather than the first thing you do. And so we’re really trying to make that shift in our practice to make sure it is the first thing we think of and included in all the things that we do. But for families, and as for anyone setting out on that journey, sometimes the idea of starting to include cultural practices or understandings in what you are doing, or having conversations with children or with your family about it, can be really overwhelming. And people are often afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Do you have any advice for families?

Cecelia (09:11):
That’s wonderful. Thank you for asking. Yeah, absolutely. So for me, you know, I think about every family has their own culture and their own diverse background, especially in Australia. We’re all very, very multicultural. And all of our little habits and, you know, little tiny things that we do every day that’s really, a multicultural way of looking at the world. And if you’re talking to children about that, you know, they they automatically have a beautiful wide view of the world. So when you introduce something like, my floral Friday, for example, every Friday in the Torres Straits, everyone wears floral. The chemists, the doctors, nurses, the children. It’s accepted uniform. Anyone at work. We all turn up in floral wherever we go. And, and it’s my little challenge to educators and to families and, you know, workplaces to celebrate Floral Friday. Because it’s a little connection between us down here and in the islands. It’s a connection to Melanesian people, not just Torres Strait Islander, but to Cook Islands to, you know, beautiful Maori families, to, Papua New Guinea families, connection to all of those diverse cultures that we have in Australia. And, and there’s this beautiful example. When I did a floral Friday celebration at one of the services I visited, I did six different workshops in the centre. And on the very last workshop, it was Floral Friday, and we invited the families in and the families were all dressed up in their floral shirts and flowers, in their hair and leis, and it was just the most amazing opportunity for those families. I say, dig out your ugly floral shirts, you know, pop them on. Come on in and celebrate culture with us.

Zoe (11:06):

Cecelia (11:07):
And, yeah. And for this whole day, you know, the families came in, the children sang songs in language. They read a Torres Strait story book that I wrote. And then a parent actually taught the children Auslan to go with that story. So they were able to show off all this unique culture. And when it was finished, the parents actually stayed and spoke to me. And they said that the more the children learned, the more they brought it home. And they had these great conversations at home about the islands, about the flags that children were drawing in Torres Strait Island cultures at home, and were talking to their families about the islands. And, and so, you know, I always think about it’s just that one tiny step you can take to help your children understand so much more about the world. And it’s not just in our centres, it’s in at home as well. And when those children were going on holidays, they were talking to their families about, you know, the artwork that they saw. And if they saw the flag around the place, you know, so there’s another little tiny way for families to really, you know, start that journey with their children as well. Yeah. Driving around, you know, when you go to art galleries or museums or wherever it is. Hey, Kmart, Kmart has our plaque at the front. There’s many, many opportunities.

Zoe (12:33):
Yeah. And I think with any kind of inclusion, what it’s about is A. The relationship and B. The connection not in that order particularly, but that’s what makes the journey easier and, and it makes it more authentic.

Cecelia (12:46):
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s more, you know, ingrained in our, in our DNA you know. And when you, when you talk to children about that, they get it immediately. They understand how important it is to be inclusive. And you know, and looking after Australia and the First Nations people.

Zoe (13:04):
Yeah, that’s something that the children really respond quite well to. that whole idea because children love being outdoors. And so the connection to nature is a really easy leap for them to make.

Cecelia (13:15):
Yeah, absolutely.

Zoe (13:16):
And along that line, something that, we always chat about at Adeona as well is, connection between sustainability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and how much we can actually learn from those perspectives.

Cecelia (13:31):
Oh, absolutely. Yes. Sustainability, looking after the land, you know, even when I did this little workshop with sea creatures with children, and we talk about fish and chips, you know, who loves fish and chips. Everyone puts their hands up. Yeah or calamari and chips and, you know, and then we start talking about the sea creatures and how we have to look after them. And. And in the Torres Straits, you know what we catch we take to eat. And if we catch a lot, then we share with our family members. And, you know, it even leads into the discussion about, you know, traditional hunting turtle and dugong, that one animal is that it’s taken is actually shared between, you know, 100 family members. Because everything that we take, we must give back. That’s one of our, one of the things we say in the Torres Strait. So for everything, you know, that we take, we have to give back to other people. We have to share what we have. And that’s really a big driving force for me, that, you know, everything that I’ve taken, you know, learning through early childhood and from my community that I have to give back to educators and to children. So I love going into services and talking with teachers and talking with educators about, you know, what else they can do, because that’s me giving back, giving back to my community.

Zoe (14:46):
Yeah, and what beautiful social learning for children as well.

Cecelia (14:48):
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. They they love it. They and you know, they really understand. yeah. Looking after family, looking after community. And when I, when I use language, you know, the children just love, love, you know, repeating it back and and using the island words and that’s actually another little tip too. A beautiful centre I’ve been working at. They have word of the day. And this word of the day, they put on the back of the door as you walk into the classroom. And so when the door shuts, you see these two examples of using the word. And for example, when I was there last week, the word of the week, word of the day was Kai Kai, everyone’s going to practice saying that at home, Kai Kai and Kai Kai means food or eat. So they had two sentences to go with it. And it was, you know, what have you got to Kai Kai today or what did you Kai Kai last night? Just a few little sentences to remind the educators to be using that word to remind the children when they see it as well. But it’s also for the families so that families are then engaged and and saying, you know, oh, what does that word mean? Where is it from? And then they start using the same word at home as well. So that’s my favourite word of the day.

Zoe (16:02):
Yeah. And that’s a good one because obviously the more that things are, cohesive across, an education setting in a home setting, the more children are going to take it on board as well.

Cecelia (16:13):
Yeah, that’s right. And it opens conversations up to, you know, the parents.

Zoe (16:18):
Yeah, yeah.

Cecelia (16:18):
What words do they know in other languages? You know, where are we going to go to find information. Yeah. So it opens up again creating that inclusive world and inclusive worldview as well.

Zoe (16:30):
Another thing that parents, might also be interested in is seeking resources to have in their space at home, adding to their, you know, the bountiful toy collection, no doubt. And my perspective on that, Cecilia, is often that to try and get resources that are authentic in that perhaps they are supporting an indigenous shop or they, are made by indigenous people. Even better.

Cecelia (16:58):
Yeah, absolutely. That’s such a good question. So that’s actually how I started my business. I started going home, to the islands and started talking to other creatives and artists about what else we could create for children and what else you know, could I be making smaller versions of to bring down to share culture with and, and yeah, we’ve got the most beautiful items that have never been made before. We’ve got, you know, tiny call up shakers, which is our traditional instrument for boys and girls made, for young children and little tiny island mats. You know, sometimes people travel to Fiji and they bring back a little fan or, you know, whatever it is, or we have similar products to that, but all made in the Torres Strait Islands and CDs and, you know, beautiful little beaded earrings from elders and even some of my Aboriginal Torres Strait puppets. Their clothes are all made in the islands, too. And what I say to educators is that I’m a terrible salesperson, but you know, the items that I have are all from the community, and money all goes back to community from every single item sold. Some of them are even from my my own kindergarten teacher, you know. So, when you, you know, purchase from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait business, you are absolutely putting money back into community. And I always say that, you know, the money is going directly back into my own community. If you purchase from cultural inclusions and, and everyone knows the resources I buy, you know, are from many different educators in the islands, they’re from elders, they’re from community members that we actually, visit once a year when we go up to Thursday Island and I offer to take educators and teachers up on a study visit as well, to the islands. And we actually spend time with all of those people. So you hear and you see where those items have come from, and you hear the stories behind them as well, which is beautiful. You know, that’s that’s why we should be buying more from Aboriginal and Torres Strait businesses, because there’s a story with every single item, you know.

Zoe (19:02):
Yeah. And I think children can actually tell, when a resource has had that passion and love and it comes from somewhere meaningful when it’s made rather than just pumped out of a factory somewhere.

Cecelia (19:16):
I know, I know, and, you know, as a businessperson too, you have the opportunity to actually create change as well. And that’s why, you know, that’s why I love to buy stuff from the islands and, you know, talk to more people about creating smaller items because, you know, this is for our children to create change into the future, for them to understanding all those stories and, and be giving back to your own community. Like there’s so much power in that alone.

Zoe (19:47):
Yeah, absolutely. Cecilia, this is an ongoing conversation obviously, and there’s always many more things to be said and done. But from your perspective, do you have any information on things that you were up to that parents or educators could be involved in, or anything in the community that you know of that’s coming up?

Cecelia (20:07):
Oh you’re so lovely. Good advertising Zoe. I’ve actually, recently joined a partnership with Jacqui Bennett, who’s from the Glasshouse Mountains, and she’s a beautiful, beautiful Aboriginal woman who has been working in our sector for a very long time. And we’ve joined up to provide quite a few different professional conversations. And in those professional conversations, we, each one is being sit with a different elder or educational community member, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And we’re having these conversations around, you know, an elder perspective, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait elders. We’re having conversations around what else can you do to embed Aboriginal, perspectives or Torres Strait Island perspectives for Bush Tucker Gardens. For music. We’re also doing a little couple of series of reconciliation action plan workshops. So, you know, having that reflective conversation of what is reconciliation, you know, what does that actually mean to us individually, and how do we come together as a collective to design a wrap? So they’ve been incredible. Those workshops have actually sold out really, really quickly because, you know, a lot, a lot of the times we just need to go back to basics and have that conversation to work out, you know, why are we doing this and who is passionate about this? And how do we take that forward into our work. And they’ve been the most beautiful workshops we’ve had, teachers and educators from all over Australia. Even one of the UN, United Nations Voices for children attended last night, you know, and just talking about the passions behind why we do this work and, you know, finding those educators and and even capturing the children’s voices as well to, to why we should be doing this and how do we move forward? They’ve just been incredible, so inspiring, so eye opening for a lot of people and every single one, you know, we all go on a unique journey and we like to capture everyone’s voices in those workshops as well. So they’ve just been so beautiful. Yeah. The the reconciliation work. And let’s talk collaboration. That’s the other great series we’re doing about, you know, working together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, how do we do that? Who are they? Where are they? You know, those those conversations. So yeah. So if you jump on cultural inclusions, on the Facebook page, you’ll see those series. Jackie’s business is called Connecting to Culture. So we’re working together with those two businesses. And we’re just about in the middle of launching a online early years cultural platform, which is something very, very new to Australia, where we’re coming together as an Aboriginal perspective, Torres Strait perspective, and an early years perspective to create an online training platform for teachers and for children. So this is something really, really, you know, so deadly. We’re really excited to do it because you’re going to have access to cultural awareness training, books to story time to make and share sessions, you know, unpacking all of that stuff in a whole nether virtual platform, which is where we’re moving. We’re all moving that way at the moment. So yeah, keep an eye out for all that stuff popping up on Facebook and Instagram and, and soon our cultural platform.

Zoe (23:43):
Excellent. And we’ll share links too with our notes that we always put out with our podcasts as well.

Cecelia (23:48):
Awesome. Oh I have got a freebie for everybody as well. This is my favorite one, because I feel like educators can use this little booklet as a tool, not just for them, in their centres, in their rooms, but also to send home to families that families can try the traditional recipes. You can try some little Torres Strait Island weaving, you know, that you guys can actually download it off my website and use it as a tool to jump on this journey as well. Yeah, I love doing that. I actually have a little story book and a little weaving activity on my YouTube channel for families as well to try. Yeah, while they’re at home.

Zoe (24:30):
Fantastic. Cecilia. Well, I think that’s about all the questions I had. Is there anything else you wanted to share before we wrap it up?

Cecelia (24:38):
I guess my number one quote of the week that I’ve been saying to everyone is really, at the end of the day, it’s a quote from Brené Brown, and it says, you know, we’re here to get it right, not to be right. So everything that we do, yeah, is a learning, you know, and and every time someone says that’s not right or, you know, that’s not how I do it, I always say, you know, use it as an opportunity to say, can you please show me, show me how you would do it, or, you know, tell me what else I could do or change to create a better way for the children. Yeah.

Zoe (25:14):
Beautiful. And in the spirit of your love of teaching language to everyone, could you leave us with a word that we can all learn?

Cecelia (25:23):
You get two words today!

Zoe (25:25):
Oh, fantastic.

Cecelia (25:27):
The word I love to teach everyone, because this is common Torres Strait Island Creole language that we use everywhere all over Australia. The word I used in my very beginning with my prayer was Eso. So practice saying it at home, Eso, EE – ES – OH. Which means “Thank you”. So I want to say a really big Eso to everyone for listening today. Eso for your time, Zoe. And the last word is Yawo, which means goodbye. Yawo.

Zoe (25:54):
Well Eso to you too, Cecilia, for joining us today. I know you’re a very busy lady, so thank you so much. And it’s been such a pleasure to have a chat with you today.

Cecelia (26:05):
Yeah. Thanks, Zoe. Take care everyone. And if you want any more information, you know, just send me a message. I love to yarn to everybody.

Zoe (26:13):
Thanks, Cecilia.

Cecelia (26:14):
No worries.

Zoe (26:14):