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7 Dec 2018

Teacher Feature – Aunty Rona, QLD


In October 2018, Esma and Zoe represented the Narragunnawali team at the Early Childhood Australia (Queensland Branch) symposiums in Brisbane and Bundaberg, and had the wonderful opportunity to meet a number of educators, Elders and community members. One of which, was Aunty Rona. Zoe got to sit down with Aunty Rona and ask a few questions about how she got into the early learning and education space.

Aunty Rona Scherer is a MaMu-Yalanji woman from Far North Queensland, currently living and working on the Sunshine Coast as a Project Officer in the Cultural Appreciation team at UnitingCare. Her work involves supporting services to meet RAP commitments, and provide cultural competence training. Aunty Rona does this through bringing about awareness of the impact that each early learning service can have when they respectfully teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content and perspectives.

Zoe: How did you become involved in this kind of work, and how long have you been in this space?

Rona: When you become a parent, you can’t help but step into that early learning space. But as my children got older, I started working with my kids’ school. And that’s really when it started. One of the things I did with the school was help fundraise for a festival with the local community that included an exhibition I curated with local artists. From there, I painted a mural at my children’s school and worked with staff and students on a voluntary basis, as a cultural advisor, sharing and teaching content about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and some of our histories. 

Doing this made me feel really warm. I didn’t know the term cultural safety at the time, but after working with the school, I learned that was what I was looking for. I recognised when there was safety in the space – whether it was Aboriginal artefacts or the flags, I recognised that there were safe spaces and positive energies around bringing my culture and Aboriginality to the school. It was really important when I was bringing my kids there for me to have that.

Zoe: At both the ECA Brisbane and Bundaberg symposiums, we were lucky enough to hear some of your life story. One of the parts of your story that really resonated with me as a Bundjalung woman, was your strong sense of belonging you grew up with. How important is it for our young ones to grow up with a sense of belonging? 

Rona: I think that sense of belonging is paramount for young people. No matter where they are from. It is so vital that they have the sense of having the right to be there. I didn’t hesitate until I got older. That was when I became aware of the exclusion being an Aboriginal person. And it’s sad that some of the young people have that sense where they are being questioned and judged. Where they are looked at differently. It’s a work in progress.
Zoe: Do you think programs like Narragunnawali, and the work you are doing with UnitingCare can have an impact on breaking down stereotypes and racism?
Rona: Absolutely. It gives that support to educators in a really practical way. Educators are busy people, so it helps that it’s there. It helps educate educators who are so used up with other time commitments, that the only way they get knowledge about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is through the media, so they get the political angles only, which takes up their whole headspace. I think Narragunnawali poses it in that positive way, so people don’t have to be daunted or scared. Programs like Narragunnawali break down the fear and is done brilliantly.
People are scared because they don’t know what it’s going to cost. Don’t know what it’s going to feel like. But then they see and realise that it doesn’t cost anything. Including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and perspectives only enriches the workplaces.
Zoe: How do you think platforms and programs like Narragunnawali might support communities?

Rona: I really do think it can help communities. I mean, most communities will have a fete or events going on, and parents will be getting involved. The way Narragunnawali can help, is getting that involvement with families in schools. Creating that holistic, safe environment that goes from the classroom to home.