It’s a full room. The buzz of conversation is one part anticipation, one part excitement, and two parts joyful educators connecting with like-minded people. This was the scene at the start of the Workforce Council’s ‘Educator Unchained’ event in Brisbane City on Wednesday 4th May. Attendees had much to look forward to, from the accomplished and inspiring line-up of speakers to rich discussion and a dash of entertainment.
ECEC consultant, trainer and presenter, Penny Gordon, was the MC for the day. Attendees were welcomed to the event by the CEO of The Workforce Council, Doug Evans. He addressed the funding changes that will come into effect at the end of the financial year, and affirmed The Workforce Council’s commitment to continuing to be the ‘go to’ organisation in professional development for the ECEC sector. Uncle Des Sandy then took the stage to do a Welcome to Country, and he painted a vivid and entertaining picture for the audience of the Jagera people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which the event was taking place.
A deep understanding and passion for early childhood education and educators was clear from the speech given by Gabrielle Sinclair, Deputy Director-General – Early Childhood Education and Care. Ms Sinclair instilled in the audience her determination to represent the voices of early childhood educators and of children, and acknowledged the fact that attendees are not only wonderful educators of children, but also of families. She then explained her six R’s:
- Respect – for parents and for all sectors of children’s education and care
- Return on Investment – investment in educators and the staff that work with children
- Responsibility – to meet the needs of educators
- Relationship – a key factor in quality education. The relationship between the educator, each child and the child’s family
- Resources – how we make sure that government resources the work and professionalism of educators
- Remuneration – though it’s a Commonwealth matter, continuing to lobby on behalf of educators
The next presentation was a keynote from author and well-known advocate for women and children, Tara Moss. Tara gave a very personal presentation, sharing stories from her lower-middle class childhood in British Columbia, Canada, where the love and connection with her family gave her the safety to explore scary themes in her early writing. While she was still quite young, she started being told, even by strangers, that she should be a model. Upon losing her mother to cancer after a brave fight, Tara wanted to achieve success worthy of her mother’s fight, so she pursued that career that seemed to be the one she was destined for – modelling. Working internationally in the fashion world gave Tara personal experience in being painfully thin, and though she eventually found modelling work that valued her in her healthy physique, she soon returned to writing, which was her first love. She has subsequently written many novels, though her career in modelling made people doubt her ability to write books; the assumption being that you can’t be beautiful and intelligent. Tara even agreed to take a polygraph test to prove that she was the author of her books, and though happy to prove herself, she couldn’t help but wonder if it would have been necessary for a man in her position to prove himself in that way.
Tara is a proud feminist, and her presentation showed us that in 2016, women are still substantially underrepresented in the media, entertainment, and even when it comes to women being depicted as public statues. She demonstrated the importance of having outspoken advocates for gender equality, and reminded everyone present about the importance of looking after themselves to be able to care for others. We look forward to reading our signed copies of ‘The Fictional Woman’, as well as the launch of her upcoming new book, ‘Speaking out: a 21st century handbook for women’s rights’.
After a brief break to digest the morning’s lessons, attendees returned to listen to the powerhouse presenter that is Dr Red Ruby Scarlet. Educator, academic, author, and activist, Red made the attendees flex their minds and question their ways of thinking about fact and fiction. Red began by discussing the term ‘badass’. Many educators who advocate, collaborate, and agitate identify with the term, and Red opened up possibilities for people to not just agree and disagree with certain terms, but to consider a thought path beyond the popular narrative. Terms like ‘babysitter’ and ‘professional educator’ were analysed, and Red helped attendees understand the power of language to create bias and meaning.
With the vast potential of this first provocation still fresh, Red led the room down a second path. Towards elephants. From ‘the elephant in the room’ to ‘the elephant in the womb’, this second provocation again allowed a deep reflection around the language associated with ECEC.
Rhonda Livingstone (National Educational Leader, ACECQA) then poke about the role of the educational leader. She spoke about educators themselves having agency in their everyday work and she drew on the National Quality Framework to highlight the need for strong professional identity amongst educators.
The afternoon panel was entitled “Passion, Love and Care is Enough!” and Rhonda Livingstone (National Educational Leader, ACECQA), Karen Broomfield (Director of Tugulawa Early Education) and Dr Red Ruby Scarlet shared their thoughts on the topic. The panel discussed the current issues facing the workforce including a pay gap correlated with a highly feminized workforce, and teased out the motivation of attracting more male educators to the sector.
Penny Gordon summed up the day with eight F’s:
6. Furiously articulate
All up, Educator Unchained was a wonderful success. It elicited deep reflection and enquiry in the attending educators and provided inspiring perspectives to assist explorations and guide curiosity. We would like to thank everyone who presented and attended, and hope that the day left participants motivated to collaborate, research, and advocate for their field.