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What do we do about Mothers ‘Day and Fathers’ Day?
I don’t have a definitive answer. A lot of researchers and really progressive thinkers feel it’s an outdated and limited celebration and is unnecessary. If it was up to me, I probably wouldn’t celebrate it - but mothering and fathering is also complex, as are these identities. It’s more complex than just not celebrating it. So let’s start small, and then broaden our ambition to a whole new way of celebrating family, and love. Perhaps it’s possible to do it all. As you go, keep coming back to the purpose, the audience and the message – why are you celebrating a particular day? What’s the purpose? Is this still relevant? Is this relevant to the whole community? If no, does this matter? Do we remove altogether, or do we add something else? What’s our broader philosophy on celebrations anyway? If it’s expected that Mothers Day and Fathers Day is celebrated, and the community isn’t ready to give it up, try having a timeline that you commit to to slowly phase it out. While you’re phasing it out ask your LGBTIQA+ families, families with gender non-conforming parents, or children without a mother or a father for another reason, explicitly how they would like you to handle the May and September celebrations. Listen to their suggestions and remain open minded and flexible, doing your best to accommodate them completely, and always negotiating the solution until you’re all satisfied with the way forward. This should be a collaboration. Ask these families what other ways they celebrate their family, and how this could be brought into the service. It could be Mardi Gras, Midsumma, Wear it Purple Day, Marriage Equality Day, Families Week. Find a way to make everyone included. Ask what the celebration and ritual looks like in their family and collaborate on how it could be brought into the service so it’s as significant as Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. One parent I spoke to insists on the service celebrating Non-Binary Parent Day as well as Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. If your service can be a little more progressive, perhaps offer a broad art experience for children to explore in May and September (plus every other day) and invite children to take their work home to share with people in their family. Let their parents label it as a mothers or Fathers’ Day gift if that’s important to them. As I said, be particularly sensitive if there is a gender non-conforming parent. When will their special day be? Ask them what they would like. Once again, ask LGBTIQA+ families what other ways they celebrate their family, and how this could be brought into the service as before. When you’re ready, tumble all the celebrations into one, perhaps like a service a colleague of mine works with, that celebrates Love is Love Day on marriage equality day. It’s a day of hearts and rainbows and everyone just celebrates everything they love – people, trees, chickens, worms, strawberries. Or perhaps a “Kindness for Carers Day” to celebrate everyone who supports the child – including nannies, grandparents, siblings, parent’s partners etc.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Kirra Niner (she/her/they/them) is a multimedia artist studying at VCA and based in Naarm/Melbourne. Her work discusses notions of childhood, spirituality, and inner/outer worlds, aiming to create imaginative spaces for viewers to learn, play and reflect.
"Rabbit Whole", 2023, Acrylic on Canvas.
This painting talks to exploring the inner parts of one's self. Through the use of biological iconography, and nostalgic symbols, this painting attempts to reflect on our own inner worlds.
From Rainy Days to Rainbow Ticks
Rachel Flottman and Kerri Smith
The team at Prospect Community Early Education and Care Children’s Centre in Adelaide’s inner North embarked on a rainy day project one strange day in lockdown, and it evolved into a two year long, remarkable journey to more deeply and authentically embed LGBTIQA+ culture into their service. It all began when some members of the educational team had a rare moment of spare capacity and asked the question: What’s in our library? What’s our hidden curriculum? They followed this question with an audit of EVERY book in the service. Once they’d catalogued EVERY book, the classified them by the kind of people, families, abilities, capacities, ages, languages, cultures – everything you could think of – that they explored and represented. They analysed this, and realised that they have a HEAP of books that explore diversity, but most of them sit on shelves, rather than being actively read and used in the programs. It got them thinking: we promote inclusion and diversity, but it’s not visible. How can we fix this? They read through all the requirements and documents and then created a resource lists for areas that we didn’t think were visible enough: abilities, capacities and inclusion, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander perspectives and truth telling, cultural diversity, language diversity, religious diversity, different celebrations, gender roles, family types – the list went on! The team became particularly excited by including and celebrating family diversity in the service in a way that reflects the broader community that the service operates within. So they decided to embark upon a long project to achieve Rainbow Tick Accreditation through Rainbow Health Australia – and in March this year were announced as the first early childhood education and care service in Australia to achieve Rainbow Tick approval status through this organisation. I spoke to Kerri, the Director at Prospect Community Early Education and Care and asked about what the team did to get the service ready for Accreditation. Kerri told me that the first thing they did was create a resource list and budget line for LGBTIQA+ resources (and they didn’t stop there, they created a budget line for a large variety of diversity that reflected their particular Prospect Community Early Education and Care community, but that they felt was important in any Australian children’s service). Once they had the resources they needed, they spoke to families and found out that families wanted to feel included in the service “without exclusion or focus”. This was really interesting, families wanted to be seen and see their family represented but they also didn’t want to be seen as ‘special’ or to stand out because of their diversity status. To do this, the service made some subtle symbol and sign decisions, such as adding a rainbow door mat at the entrance to each classroom, in addition to the local Kaurna Land doormat at the entrance. They made posters for inside the staff room to celebrate diversity, and enabled features on IT systems so that staff could state their preferred pronouns and also bought pronoun, ally and LGBTIQA+ pins for staff to wear. They reviewed documentation and made sure they used inclusive language such as “family” and “parent” or “caregiver” rather than ‘Mother’ or ‘Father’. They slowly and gently removed references to children’s pronouns in observations and other documentation to read “’Rachel’ showed an act of self compassion today when finding the weighted blanket and wrapping them self up in it”, rather than ‘she’, ‘her’ etc. The idea behind this was that while children may or may not experience gender dysphoria now, they will keep these pieces of documentation and may review them as teenagers or adults and may experience gender dysphoria then – so they decided to be sensitive to these children in the future too. A number of changes they made were done with very little cost, including: •reviewing uniform policies, and made sure these allowed all team members to dress in the way they feel reflects their gender identity •creating a LGBTQIA+ risk assessment for specific risks for the community and what needed to be addressed •Target of 80% (required) and 100% (desired) training on LGBTQIA+ inclusion and •Diversity and inclusion statement for LGBTQIA+ •LGBTQIA+ staffing Policy •LGBTQIA+ inclusion Policy If you’re interested in how your service can promote LGBTIQA+ inclusion, follow us on Instagram @ethical_interactions, visit www.rainbowfamilies.com.au and keep your eye on the ECA social media and website for a new and free training program that’s coming out to support LGBTIQA+ inclusion.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rajith Vidanaarachchi (he/him) is a Melbourne-based Sri Lankan artist and urban sketcher. He documents his travels and day-to-day experiences in expressive watercolour sketches. He also paints portraits and the human body from life.
“Pride at GGG”, Watercolour and Ink on Paper
This is an urban sketch of the first-ever publicly celebrated Colombo Pride, which took place in June 2022. Urban Sketching is a practice where artists capture live moments in their paintings. Thus, this sketch was painted while I marched in Colombo Pride on the streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has historically not been very accepting of Queer communities, but last year (2022) witnessed a wave of socio-political change in the country, empowering Sri Lankans to organise a Pride event in the main streets of Colombo with the support of the masses. However, Sri Lankans are still fighting for legal protections for queer people.
Welcoming Diverse Families: What LGBTQIA+ folk have told us they want from their ECEC service
“An ally is when a person uses their position in society to counter discrimination of marginalised groups” (University of Melbourne, 2022) About 4% of the Australian community identifies as LGBTQIA+ and family diversity is becoming more visible with changes to the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act (2013), easier access to assisted reproductive technologies, and general evolution in culture and society. There has been a 5-fold increase in the number of families that identify as having members with diverse genders or sexualities since 2010 (ABS, 2021). Over the past few months, we’ve been speaking to LGBTQIA+ families to learn more about how early childhood services can offer more of does what work for their family, and less of what doesn’t. We’ve also been talking to early childhood professionals so we can support them to be a strong ally for LGBTIQA+ families and their children in their service, and advocate for change. Families used words such as ‘respected’, ‘represented’, ‘welcome’, ‘included’ and ‘safe’ to describe how they wanted to feel at their child’s service. One family even told us they wanted to feel ‘safely hidden and invisible’. This encouraged us to look a little deeper and see if families always disclose their sexuality or gender identity to their child’s service, or if some kept it private. To our surprise, only 60% of families we spoke to did disclose their gender identity and sexuality to all of their children’s services! This means that for every 3 LGBTIQA+ families in your service that you know about, there’s 2 more that you don’t! Or for every 3 services that know they have a LGBTQIA+ family, there’s 2 services that doesn’t! What this means is we need to make LGBTQIA+ families feel respected, represented, welcome, included and safe whether we know they are there or not! Chances are, with 4 folk in 100 being LGBTIQA+ (and this is conservative), there’ll be two parents in each group of 25 children who are; and 1 child who is, even if they’re not exploring gender or sexuality yet. So, how do we help families feel respected, represented, welcome, included and safe? They told us there’s a bunch of things you can do: Be an ally – use your voice: intervene when other families or professionals use homophobic or transphobic language, comments or behaviour inside the service (or even in the community) knowing the unique ways each child refers to their parent(s) within each family (mamma, mummy, pa, dada, daddy, ZZ – whatever it is – this goes for all children!) having a good selection of books, posters and other displays representing family diversity (ECA and Rainbow Families have recently released a package of children’s books that share family diversity) review all policies, procedures, forms and their philosophy to promote inclusion and use gender neutral language and that which doesn’t assume family structure consulting with them on celebrations for Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day (and making sure to include non-binary parents in these celebrations) asking broad questions such as “What are your goals for your child?” “How do you want your child and your family to feel at the service”, “How can we make sure this happens?” “Is there anything you’d like me to know about you, your child and your family”. (really – this should go for each child and family, not just those in different family structures) If you do all these things, it is then fabulous if you fly a rainbow flag, wear pronoun and ally pins and have all the symbols that you’re a safe space.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Sharon Stow (she/her) is a late blooming artist residing and working on the unceded lands of the Bunurong people. She refers to herself as the Âûrtisan as she is also late discovered autistic/adhd.
Sharon primarily works in Watercolour and photography, although her practice is ever evolving and new mediums are frequently attempted.
“Space Float”, Watercolour on paper