Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Policies and Practices That Create Multicultural Contexts in Child Care

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Policies and Practices That Create Multicultural Contexts in Child Care

Article excerpt


Australia is a multicultural society, and the Federal Government's policy platform of 1996 affirmed a commitment to maintain and enhance Australia's unique cultural diversity within the framework of national unity. Through the Department of Education, Training and Employment, the South Australian State Government's policies reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of our society. Both Federal and State Governments support child care policies that are inclusive of non-English speaking background (NESB) families in our society. The Federal Government funds Supplementary Services (SUPS) to help integrate children from NESB, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children, and children with a disability into mainstream children's services. However, despite concerted efforts of governments for access and equity policies, people from a non-English speaking background share common elements in the access and equity issues affecting them: they are not represented; their voices are not heard; and their needs are not considered in policies, reports, and recommendations (Germanos-Koutsounadis, 1990; Fakhri, D'Mello, 1991; Giglio, 1997).

In 1996, of the total number there were 130 000 children in child care in South Australia but only 5.92 per cent were from non-English speaking background (NESB) families (ABS, 1997). Questions about the cultural and linguistic appropriateness of existing services have been raised in a number of reports commissioned by governments over the years (Prasad, 1997). Most earlier studies investigating the use of child care services by multicultural communities concluded that cost and different cultural value systems contribute to different rates of use. (Ebbeck & Glover, 1998; Prasad, 1997; Cloher & Cloher, 1990; Yeatman, 1988). Many of these earlier studies did not yield sufficient information about reasons for the variations in use by multicultural communities. The report Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) Report, 1996) aimed to ensure that Australian government services meet the particular needs of users, irrespective of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, in order to achieve intended outcomes.

The study

This study aimed to identify the:

* opinions of directors of child care centres in relation to the use of the centres by NESB families; and

* policies and practices of some child care service providers and how well they fit in with principles of best practice for NESB families.

Terms used in the study

`Best practice involves determining the most efficient way of doing things and adopting (and where necessary adapting) the practice.' (Lewis, Morkel & Hubbard, 1993).

NESB: Children from non-English speaking ethnic background. (Includes children where one or both parents have a first language other than English.) Since NESB families are not a homogeneous group, it is important that `best practice' models respond to differences within and between cultural groups.

The sample

The sampling design for the investigation of child care services was formulated with assistance from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The sample included district coordinators of all 24 family day care schemes in South Australia and the directors of 33 centre-based long day care centres (CBLDC) which represented 16.2 per cent of total centres in South Australia. In addition, the sample included coordinators of 29 outside school hours services (OSHC) which represented 6.72 per cent of services in South Australia. For family day care, district coordinators of all the family day care schemes in South Australia were surveyed, as it was convenient to approach 24 services, but for CBLDC and OSHC the services that had enrolments of children from NESB were identified and then selected randomly to have a representative sample. …

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