An early childhood program centred around culture, community and connection to Country has been praised for its improved educational outcomes and community impacts.

Indi Kindi is a positive impact early years initiative delivered to 80 per cent of Indigenous children in the remote Aboriginal communities of Borroloola and Robinson River along the Gulf of Carpentaria.

It brings together education, health, wellbeing and community development for teachings to children under five-years-old.

The program was co-designed and co-developed by the Moriarty Foundation and the local community, and came about due to requests from senior lore women.

The recently released Barhava Report, undertaken by Knowledge Mobilisation and organisational culture expert, Dr Galia Barhava-Monteith, Boston Consulting Group’s Margot Tong, Minter Ellison and the Social Impact Hub, had nothing but praise for Indi Kindi.

In a glowing review, the report outlined that Indi Kindi delivers:

  • Improved educational outcomes
  • Increased access to health care
  • Local employment opportunities to local mothers
  • Professional development and training opportunities
  • Cultural and community impacts such as promotion of language, pride in culture and increased physical connection to Country.
Indi Kindi educators with Indi Kindi mentor. Photo Supplied.

Garrawa woman and Borroloola resident Deandra McDinny is an Indi Kindi educator.

“Kids learn how to share and work together, to be around each other. It builds their confidence being around other children,” McDinny said.

“We encourage them to learn their language, my colleagues, we’re all from here, and we talk cultural way and we speak in language, so the kids do too.

“The kids feel safe with us, they know who we are and even their parents know who we are.”

A mother to three boys, McDinny strives to be a role model for her family and her community.

“I was afraid, but my job has helped me build confidence around other people. I was ashamed sitting around … but I went to school, I dropped out at a young age. I didn’t finish properly, but I said to myself I needed to find a job to support my family and help the community,” she said.

“I want to be a role model for the community, I have boys and I want to inspire them so when they’re older they can get fine jobs and … do something with their lives.”

Dr Barhava-Monteith said the success of the program relied heavily upon co-development with the community.

“The co-creation element says, you respect the knowledge and the culture and the history of the people which you want to support. If you don’t do that you disrespect them from the beginning and you’re not going to change anything,” she said.

“It is crucial that the communities understand that they are valued. They have to be at the table, otherwise it is basically recolonisation.

“The assumption that we have all the answers, we have all the know-how, is a recolonisation — which is a devastating emotional experience.

“For the children to see that the Elders are valued, that they are partners, that is a crucial part of the experience.”

Indi Kindi walking-learning classroom traditional turtle hunt. Photo Supplied.

Dr Barhava-Monteith noted the importance of prioritising Indigenous knowledge when working to find solutions to modern issues.

“It is such an ancient land, with such ancient people, 65,000 years of knowledge that has been passed from generation to generation. Utterly ignoring it is mind-boggling. It is arrogant and it is short-sighted,” she said.

“It is at the detriment. The complex problems we face now … if we keep doing what we’ve always done we won’t find the answers.”

Dr Barhava-Monteith also said while Indi Kindi has the potential to be delivered in other communities, it must be developed based upon the needs of that specific community.

By Rachael Knowles