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Spotlight on Western Australia: Indigenous kids and parents go ‘back to school’ together!

Over 150 local children and parents of the Perth communities of Kwinana and Rockingham have just embarked on an exciting new program that will pioneer a new educational approach. The program supports Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander parents and communities to reconnect to schools and education providers to partner with them with the aim of enhancing their children’s educational outcomes.

Following the extaordinary success of The Song Room’s CAIPE (Creative Arts Indigenous Parents Engagement) program in Queensland last year, support has been received from the Australian Government to replicate these outcomes in a new playgroup and early literacy project in W.A. The Song Room’s Reading Bug program will encourage early engagement of Indigenous parents with their children’s learning and will develop reading habits at home to ensure their young children are school ready.

Reading Bug involves a strong community-driven, consultative approach with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Elders, individuals and community groups; all who have expressed their positive support for the program in the target regions of Kwinana (Medina) and Peel (Rockingham).

When commenting on the CAIPE program last year,which Reading Bug is modeled upon, Gina Archer, Chairperson of the Queensland Indigenous Education Consultative Committee said that “we cannot underestimate the importance of programs like these to break down intergenerational disengagement from school for our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait students. Through programs like CAIPE, we are helping parents and caregivers of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander kids engage with their children’s education which will ultimately allow these youth to explore further education, training and employment options, launching them towards long term employment”.

The Song Room’s Teaching Artist, Wendy Hanks, who will be working with the kids and parents in Perth also commented on the importance of parents connecting to their child’s learning and development: “I see this program connecting with parents who wouldn’t naturally turn to books and songs to engage with their young child. Mums and Dads will love that this great bonding experience is also great for their child’s language development. The children will get the exposure they need to literature, rhyme and song, to prepare them for school; and best of all, they won’t even be aware that they are learning!”

The Song Room works with approximately 3000 Indigenous children across Australia each year. The Western Australian Reading Bug program will be an essential building block to the ‘Closing the Gap’ aims to address Indigenous disadvantage across urban, rural and remote areas.

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