Aboriginal families have embraced a new child care centre and kindergarten built to support the city's growing indigenous community and break down barriers they have faced in getting equal access to early childhood education and day care.
The new Yirram Burron Early Learning Centre, whose name means Morning Child, was officially opened this week during National Reconciliation Week.
Run by Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative, Yirram Burron offers 16 long day care places which are already full, and funded three and four year old kindergarten sessions.
"Demand is high and it's timely for us to be doing this because we need to ensure that our Aboriginal children get early support in education. That's really important because it gives them a good grounding before they get to primary school," said BADAC chief executive Karen Heap.
Centre manager Casey Brown said Yirram Burron's curriculum followed the Australian framework but also embedded the Aboriginal 8 Ways of Learning principles to ensure the program was culturally safe and relevant.
"Every single decision made in the service, whether it's a picture to hang on the wall, a cushion purchase or learning opportunity ... is made with an Aboriginal perspective or lens with all our decision-making led via our cultural team about what is appropriate and respectful," Ms Brown said.
The $1.3 million centre not only provides high quality early education and cultural education for the children, but is important in helping families feel comfortable within the early childhood education system.
"We create a culturally safe, warm and embracing environment where the Aboriginal community feels comfortable, where they do not feel judged, where there are similar families or even other family members attending, and builds a tight-knit community which makes our Aboriginal community members feel much more comfortable and secure," Ms Brown said.
They can also offer more flexibility around enrolments, orientation and other family needs.
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"Every family in Australia, not just Indigenous, all work differently. No two families do things the same but having an Aboriginal service who is more aware and more comfortable with Aboriginal child rearing strategies and ways of learning helps our families feel more secure."
Ms Brown said demand would continue to grow with more than 100 babies born within Ballarat's Aboriginal community last year alone.
"Like everywhere, everything is expanding as numbers grow. This centre is definitely needed on the cultural side of things, which at the same time is a bit upsetting that Aboriginal families are not feeling safe, welcomed and secure in other services," she said.
"This is not about separation or exclusion, but about feeling safe, supported, secure and welcome and giving every Aboriginal child the best possible start we can."
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