Melbourne is home to people from more than 200 countries who follow different beliefs and ways of life. The families at our centres reflect this rich cultural diversity, and we’re privileged to connect with and learn from them, every day. 

Building strong connections with families is critical to Monmia Kindergarten educators Jennifer and Melissa. Earlier this year, the dynamic team of two decided they needed help finding better ways to understand and work with their community, in a deeper and more meaningful way. 

 “Cultural experience is completely individual, and our families come from many different faiths and backgrounds. This can present challenges that sometimes we don’t see” says Jennifer.
With the support of Practice Coach Emma Forsyth, the team signed up for Cross Cultural training with the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. What they learnt was life changing. 

“It’s re-set everything” says Jennifer. “The visuals in the room, the conversations we have with the children, how we look at families and even each other, have changed.” 

And critical reflections are key to their everyday work. “One example, the Muslim families at our centre felt uncomfortable buying Hot Cross buns that the local baker was donating as a fundraiser. So, after reflection, Melissa and I asked him to bake a batch without crosses that we re-named ‘fruit bread’. The baker was more than happy to do it, and the uptake was fantastic!” 

Changing language at the centre has also worked. “We acknowledge rather than celebrate” Melissa explains. “This has taken the pressure off, because we don’t try to celebrate every important cultural occasion. In the past, this meant some children were excluded. Now we can expose children to new knowledge without them having to ‘celebrate’ it.” 

Jennifer and Melissa passionately believe that every educator should do Cross Cultural training. “It has opened our eyes to identity; what’s on a family’s paperwork shouldn’t pigeonhole them. Wherever we’re from, we’re all the sum total of many parts.” 

About us:  Monmia is a single room 3- and 4-year-old Kindergarten in the rapidly expanding outer north-west suburb, Keilor Downs.