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9 Aug 2016

Spotlight On – Kindergarten Services, Wyndham City Council, Victoria

Great things happen when individuals translate their passion and commitment into supporting and inspiring others. 

Kim Knersch is the Quality and Educational Leader at the Kindergarten Services department within Wyndham City Council (the Council) in Victoria. A respected educator herself, Kim’s role is to build the capacity of the 200 educators that provide education and care services to 2500 children in the 23 kindergartens owned and operated by the Council. 

After an eye-opening journey coming to terms with gaps in her own knowledge of Australia’s First Peoples, Kim says the energy she invests in her job “is personal”. She dedicates a large proportion of her time to facilitating opportunities for educators to connect personally to the concept of reconciliation. Kim then supports educators to integrate reconciliation confidently into their teaching practice and “lean in to the discomfort of reconciliation”, as she puts it. 

Under Kim’s leadership, Kindergarten Services facilitate professional learning opportunities for educators at conferences, workshops, networking events and area meetings. Over the last few years, reconciliation has become a big part of the agenda. “We want to let everyone know that we take reconciliation action planning seriously, but also that it will never be a top down, mandated approach for our kindergartens. Progressing reconciliation must be a bottom-up, community-led movement, rather than something imposed upon people from above,” says Kim. 

The three key themes built into professional learning opportunities are highlighting the potential for education to drive reconciliation, dealing with racism, and how to facilitate learning around empathy. “Children are not colour-blind,” says Kim. “We must find the courage to address the issues of race, prejudice and racial inequality with very young children in an age appropriate way.” 

There has been a groundswell of interest in the professional learning opportunities facilitated by Kindergarten Services over the last few years, and educators are increasingly committing to reconciliation action in both personal and professional capacities. “What we can see now is an absolute shift in not only the mindset of our educators, but in their resolve to take action in their services and be the facilitators of change,” says Kim. 

In 2015, Kindergarten Services sponsored several educators to attend the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Reconciliation Symposium in Adelaide. Upon return, the educators relayed their learnings about Narragunnawali, as a way for services to formalise commitments to reconciliation. A working group was quickly formed to establish the best way to roll out Narragunnawali to all 23 services. These collective efforts have resulted in the registration of 14 services with Narragunnawali and each service is drafting a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Kindergarten Services’ goal is to have all 23 centres connected to Narragunnawali by the end of the year. 

The impact of the work of Kindergarten Services has not gone unnoticed, with Kim and her team often approached by individuals and organisations in the Wyndham community to share learnings from their own journey. On the back of the work of Kindergarten Services, Wyndham City Council is currently looking at how they can formalise a council-wide commitment to reconciliation through the development of a RAP.