Entry by Hayley Smith

14 years ago I went to a remote Aboriginal community for the first time in my life, on a school trip. (Hi to anyone who went on the St Stephens Lou Morrison Kimberley trip).

Little did I know that in my first year of university, there would be a guest lecturer, Marie Yuncken, who volunteers in this same remote community (located 2.5 hours inland from Broome). That the following years I’d join the volunteer trips and fall in love with the community. I’d be a guest on Back to Country camping trips with families in the school holidays. Be taught how to fish using a hand line, change tyres, have kids make sure I was safe when climbing rocks, and adults keep an eye on the water where we were swimming to keep us safe from crocodiles.

I’ve cried when a child I had sang ABCs with, passed away from treatable condition.

I’ve shaken my head in despair when government changes resulted in suicide prevention funding being changed to suicide response funding (yes – counselling services provided only after someone has committed suicide, rather than trying to prevent this from happening in the first place).…

In 2015 I was privileged to be allowed by the phenomenal teacher, Gail Cresswell, of an early learning program for 0-3 year olds in the community, and by the community members, for me to complete my honours thesis there. I interviewed caregivers about their perspectives on the early learning program.

My Occupational Therapist brain assumed the benefits of the early learning program would have been child development and school-readiness. There was so much more.

If I hadn’t of listened to the voices of First Nations people, I likely would have missed the value in the early learning centre providing respite for grandparents who are the primary carers of their grandchildren. I likely would have missed that the breakfast club provided meals, and the op shop provided clothes if needed.…

[Hayley C. Smith, Rachel Batten, Helen McDonald & Myra F. Taylor (2018) Caregivers and service providers’ perspectives on a Western Australian aboriginal community’s 0–3 years, early learning programme, Early Child Development and Care, 188:10, 1431-1441, DOI: 10.1080/03004430.2016.1263946]