Language initiatives at KU are geared toward nurturing children’s sense of belonging not just to their immediate environments, but to their communities and society itself as well.

All throughout 2021, KU developed resources and implemented a variety of programs that ultimately empower children to be seen and ensure their voices are heard, in any language.

Provoking Minds

For most children, language skills develop rapidly during the first five years and is one of the key developmental milestones of early childhood.

Provoking Minds, a popular podcast produced by KU’s Learning and Development team, revealed insights into this complex topic in an episode featuring KU Starting Points Macarthur Speech Pathologist, Vickie Ren.

The episode, which has been downloaded 600 times with listeners from 25 countries, explored how language develops in young children and provided practical tips on what early childhood educators should look out for.

Nurturing language and communication

KU’s Sector Capacity Building Program facilitated face to face professional learning for early childhood educators to help children to communicate where their language skills are not developing as expected.

Nurturing Language and Communication training was available to preschool teachers in the Illawarra, Sydney Inner West and East and Penrith regions.

To support educators’ professional learning, a board game was created called Share and Show including a set of cards to stimulate reflection along with an informative guidebook.

So successful was this innovative training program that it has further evolved into two more guidebooks
and reflective card sets to aid language development; Emotional Regulation and Sensory Processing.

Exploring local languages

KU recognises we can play a role in the stewardship of the many traditional languages across our nation. Our services provide opportunities for all children to engage with and listen to local peoples and language speakers, and with their permissions, learn traditional and local languages.

Two KU services in NSW are privileged to be part of the revival of the local traditional language. The implementation of the Dharawal Language Program evolved from engagement between KU and the Gujaga Foundation, a peak organisation leading language, cultural and research activities within the La Perouse Aboriginal community and expanding into southern Sydney and the entire Dharawal Country.

The program was piloted at KU Heathcote and KU Sutherland between lockdowns, with support through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs Team. With additional funding it could be extended and rolled out across other services on Dharawal Lands.

Colette Heslehurst, Director of KU Sutherland said she was thrilled that a language “on the brink of extinction” was being brought back by the KU community.

Inclusion Support Queensland continued their journey to build the capacity of early educators to explore and encourage the inclusion of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and languages in their service models with the knowledge and support of local peoples. By facilitating a range of professional conversations and networking opportunities during the year, the team were able to foster genuine connections between educators and the local communities.

Social stories

KU’s Sector Capacity Building Program (Disability) used special NSW Department of Education COVID-19 funding to develop a range of practical resources to support educators to include children with disabilities and additional needs on the same basis as their peers.

One resource created was Social Stories. Originally pioneered by Carol Grey, a consultant in the field of autism, these narrative stories are an example of an effective inclusive strategy that can benefit all children.

To date, Social Stories developed by the KU Sector Capacity Building Program have explained restrictions brought about by the pandemic such as wearing masks and staying at home. These have also been translated into a range of community languages by KU’s Adult Migrant English Program team to improve access to educators, children and families from linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Supported playgroups

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and as the Delta strain of COVID-19 swept through NSW, KU applied for and was successful in receiving a one-off grant from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice to support families within the twelve local government areas of concern.

As many of the families in these regions were from diverse cultural backgrounds, KU proposed and developed bilingual online play sessions operating for ten weeks in the nominated twelve local government areas. Information for families was presented in both English and different community languages and multilingual resources were provided to support parents’ understanding of the value of play and how to engage with children safely at home.