What a fascinating task to be set! I had undertaken to review and comment on a subset of the articles from the Australian Pre-School Quarterly (APQ) and the Australian Journal of Early Childhood (AJEC) on the themes of political coverage and multiculturalism. I received from the Australian Early Childhood Association (AECA) a thick package containing some 60 articles--approximately 300 pages. I wondered how well the selection might represent and coincide with the major political and multicultural issues of the past four decades, and to what extent it would be apparent that the issues which impinge on the wellbeing of Australian children are perennial or particular to a time and place. I wondered also whether it would be possible to notice clear shifts in values across the 40 years.
The researcher who had selected and photocopied the articles for me had kindly provided a contents list. It began with The White House Conference on Children and Youth by Frances Hamilton (1960), and concluded with Making the political pedagogical in early childhood by Sheralyn Campbell (1999). This seemed to be an interesting span: there was a suggestion that we were traversing an arc from cultural cringe towards the United States to post-structuralism--how satisfying, I thought. I also noted from the contents list that 16 of the 60 articles, or just over a quarter, were about Aboriginal children and early childhood education. Their titles ranged from Pre-school education for Aboriginal children by Joyce Gilbert (1962), to Quality early childhood practice for young Aboriginal children by Butterworth and Candy (1998).
The three other prominent themes were to do with the policies of the Commonwealth Government and the Opposition on the provision and funding of children's services; secondly, intercultural communication; and thirdly, aspects of racism. All of these four themes are of current interest and they continue to be written about in AJEC, though it is noteworthy that there appears to be much less coverage of election policy statements by the political parties in the journal in recent years. This may be because we now have the magazine, Every Child, which is perhaps better suited to this type of article.
Apart from the four prominent themes, there were a dozen or so articles covering single topics. These included a 1965 article entitled Anthropology and the kindergarten teacher (Marwick, 1965, p.4); a 1982 article on the legal status of children; one on family support services; coverage of OMEP conferences; two on child care reform and the employment of women; and an article on the bicultural curriculum from New Zealand.
The 60 plus articles I received were clipped into four sections--each one covering a decade. There were 11 articles from the 60s, 12 from the 70s, 20 from the 80s and 17 from the 90s. This in itself might suggest something about how political we were in the different decades, and perhaps how very motivated we were in the 80s? As I read through the decades I noted any overall trends and shifts in mood and tone. One notable shift across the decades was the changes in the use of language and an accompanying expansion of values from monoculturalism to multiculturalism. It is notable that Aborigine was often spelt with a lower case `A' until the 90s. There is a subtle sense of different values evident in the different decades. The articles from the 1960s have a subtle subtext of innocence, worthiness, and optimism which can almost seem patronising.
The 1970s articles have a radical feel to them; there is a sense of immense turmoil and change. Almost as soon as it was suggested by Gough Whitlam's Minister for Education, the Hon Kim Beazley, senior, that `all Australian children are to be given an opportunity to undertake a year of pre-school education' (Beazley, 1973, p.16), it was rejected for the more radical demand of 24-hour child care for some and long day care for all who needed it. …