Natural disasters on home soil coupled with the global pandemic brought the psychological vulnerability of children to the fore. KU is actively responding to this concerning trend.

Years of practice at KU has proven that the relationships families have with their service are central to supporting them through their experiences.

Having observed the impact on children of the unusual events that were occurring around the country, a concerted evaluation on current practice was key to determining what would be needed in a future where perceived stability was scant.

In 2021, all staff played an important role in responding to the needs of children and families; whether at a service level, through Inclusion Agencies or via KU’s Sector Capacity Building Program.

Innovation through reflection

To varying degrees, every child, in the context of their family and community has had first-hand experience of recent stressful events. KU preschools and long day care services have remained a consistent and stable support for all enrolled children through these challenging times.

From this reflection has come new and innovative initiatives to support children, families and educators. Remote supports have made it possible to stay connected and educators in services along with Central Office teams adapted quickly to technology.

That level of connectivity enabled the Autism Support and Guided Practice teams to be instituted, and a Circle of Security Classroom pilot and program framework were also put in motion.

Those three undertakings are set to support the ongoing provision of quality early childhood education as well as strong family relationships across KU services now and well into the future.

Access to funding

Inclusion Agencies (IA) are part of the Commonwealth Government’s Inclusion Support Program (ISP) which aims to build the capacity and capability of educators to address participation barriers for all children through implementing quality inclusive practices.

KU is the lead Inclusion Agency in Queensland and was instrumental in assisting thirteen services during the past financial year to gain access to Inclusion Support Subsidy funding that has helped develop projects specifically in response to inclusion barriers and impacts of COVID-19 and trauma.

Rachael Hellicar, Director of Bella Grace Aroona on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast was grateful for the support to access the funds and said the coaching provided by the Inclusion Support team empowered the early learning service’s educators.

“It has given them skills, knowledge and confidence they previously thought was lacking and has had a massive impact on the improvement of their own wellbeing as well as that of all the children in our care.”
- Rachael Hellicar, Early Childhood Educator

Building resilience

The NSW/ACT Inclusion Agency Building Resilience Project began in 2021. The aim of the project is to increase the capacity of educators to include all children through their response to, and supporting recovery from, traumatic events in young lives, families and communities. An online resource titled Responding to Big Situations will be launched in 2022 and is designed to facilitate educator access to a variety of reliable and relevant resources to help them find information and support when they are preparing for and responding to the impact of natural disasters, pandemics and other traumatic events.

Tailored professional development

In response to needs identified across NSW and the ACT, Bronwen Elliott, a social worker with extensive experience in the area of trauma, was contracted to provide professional development across two KU programs.

Firstly, through NSW Department of Education funding, KU’s Sector Capacity Building Program facilitated a two-part webinar series for educators titled Trauma and Development. This professional development was delivered to preschools that KU is contracted to support as part of the program in the Illawarra, Sydney Inner West and East, and Penrith regions.

Then, through the Commonwealth funded NSW/ACT Inclusion Agency, Bronwen was engaged to provide an online course for Inclusion Professionals that included large and small group sessions relating to trauma-informed practice to guide them in their work with educators in early childhood education and care services across the state and territory.

An evaluation survey conducted after the training for Inclusion Professionals revealed 94% of respondents agreed with the statement, “I have an increased understanding of trauma-informed practice that will help me to engage in reflective conversations with educators, without feeling that I need to be an expert on trauma.”