Interactions between people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds enrich our lives and our society but also create unique challenges for early childhood practitioners in Australia. Practitioners in the early childhood education and care sector can value diversity of languages, cultures, religions and ethnicities by promoting participation of all families within their services. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that "all children have the right to an education that lays the foundation for the rest of their lives, maximises their abilities and respects their family, culture, identity and languages".
Communication and participation plays a vital role in providing a sense of belonging for children, families and practitioners in the early childhood education and care sector. This is communicated through two guiding documents in Australia:
1) The National Quality Framework (NQF) and 2) The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).
So, what is the best way for educators to respond to children and families when the main language spoken by that family is not the dominant language? All available evidence would indicate that engaging accredited interpreters to facilitate effective communication with people from diverse linguistic backgrounds is part of an organisation's commitment to ensuring equitable access to their service.
Please note: In this training course the term 'accredited' interpreter is used to provide consistency with the NQF and EYLF documents. The word 'credentialed' interpreter could also be used interchangeably.
Cultural and linguistic diversity in Queensland
Information about the families in your local community is available in ABS census data and can be useful for service planning and awareness raising to attract families to the benefits of early childhood education and care offered by your service. The data on Queensland according to the 2011 census is:
- 1:5 Queenslanders are born overseas.
- 203,000 persons are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
- Queenslanders speak more than 220 languages
- One in 10 speaks a language other than English.
- In 2013-2014, Queensland received 10,610 permanent settlers from countries where English is a second language.
- From 2011 to June 2014, almost 7000 new humanitarian entrants have settled in the state.