Celebrating respectfully: A guide to Easter, ANZAC Day and everything in between
April is a highly anticipated month for many children, bringing Easter, ANZAC Day and for some, more time with older siblings as they enjoy a break from a rigorous first term at school.
For early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals the April public holidays offer an opportunity to reflect on the cultural importance of these celebrations in Australia, to consider more deeply what they mean, and to reflect on how, or if, these special days should be acknowledged in an ECEC context.
Understanding the complexities
When considering celebrating, marking or acknowledging any “special” day in your ECEC service, it is important to consider the diversity of the children, families and educators within the service, and reflect on what these days mean to them.
ANZAC Day, for example, is likely to have one set of meaning for families involved with the Australian Defence Forces, or for families who are direct descendants of those who fought at Gallipoli. ANZAC Day may have little meaning for families who have recently made their home in Australia.
Other families may object to discussions of war and battle, or of glamorising conflict, while for some children who have experienced conflict in their home, or who have endured time in refugee camps, ANZAC Day and its associated imagery may evoke feelings of discomfort, fear or confusion.
Planning open-ended activities and experiences has the potential to support children to be involved learners and further develop their creativity and problem solving skills, while leaving scope for children to choose to be involved, or to select different options for play and learning.
Educators should consider the context of their service, and the cultures, beliefs and values of the children, their families and the educators at the service when making decisions about what to celebrate, when and how.
This resource, by renowned early childhood advocate Anne Stonehouse, provides guidance on how to engage with special occasions in a way which recognises, respects and strengthens children’s appreciation of diversity and difference.
Cultural competence at the heart
When educators are able to authentically embed many different cultural perspectives into the learning environment, practices and programs of their ECEC service, they are working towards being culturally competent.
Cultural competence, in the approved learning frameworks, is more than just being aware of different cultures, it is the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.
For a framework to support ongoing reflection with educators and to guide in the development of celebrations and acknowledgements which are relevant for the children, families and communities of the service, this Cultural Connections Booklet can support.
Practical strategies to support
There are a number of practical ways to embed meaningful cultural competence into an ECEC service setting. As well as actively seeking input from children and families, as well as the broader community about what occasions are meaningful for them, services may:
- Review and reflect on their current ways of acknowledging celebrations and special occasions, posing these against policies and philosophy, and using contemporary theorists and resources for additional insights
- Connect with other examples of practice from services similar to theirs, and also those which acknowledge differently
- Seek outside perspectives from academic journals or inclusion support providers
The approved learning frameworks offer a number of reflective questions which would make great discussion starters in the context of celebrations and other acknowledgements.
Questions such as “Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is disadvantaged? (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 13 / Framework for School Age Care, p. 12)” can offer a powerful opportunity to dig deeper on celebrations and consider how, or if at all, they work for the members of your service.
For more information on respectful celebrations please see the resource list below.
Respectful celebrations resource list: