For proud Gooreng Gooreng woman Belinda Johnson, sharing her cultural heritage and ensuring the community’s youngest generation have an equal opportunity to succeed is part of what drew her to pursue a career in early childhood education and care.
“It’s so important to find out where we come from and to pass on our knowledge to children, and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing,” Belinda said.
“Indigenous culture and our history cannot be forgotten and we need to do everything we can to keep it alive.”
After working as a medical receptionist for over 10 years, the 32-year-old mother-of-two dreamt of doing something she was truly passionate about.
Belinda took an online quiz that recommended she undertake a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC50113), and having enjoyed participating in playgroups with her daughters and finding educational programs to enhance their learning she decided to give it a go.
“When my first daughter was younger, I used early learning activities similar to the early years learning framework and I remember being so excited because the activities worked. I started thinking about it then, but the thought of studying again was daunting,” Belinda said.
“I have loved my time with TAFE Queensland though. It’s the best course and the teachers are so supportive,” she said.
“When you receive support and encouragement like that, it really empowers you to keep studying and push for more. My mum was a strong single mother to eight children and she taught me that too, which is another reason why I want to educate children – so I can give them that same nurturing environment.”
After landing a job at a childcare centre, Belinda knew straight away that she had found her calling.
“On my first day I was really nervous and I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but once I got there it all came naturally to me,” she said.
“I remember how rewarded I felt when I finished my shift. I had hated the feeling I kept getting when I got home from my old job, so when I came home with a smile on my face, I knew it was the right fit for me."
“I love helping children learn and seeing them grow. You’re not just looking after them, you’re teaching them constantly, which is a really great feeling.”
Throughout her practical placements, Belinda has incorporated aspects of her Gooreng Gooreng heritage in lessons, singing Indigenous songs and sharing stories. But Belinda said her presence alone has a positive impact.
“Having Indigenous culture in childcare is a great idea as it exposes children to our history. I’ve had children ask me why I’m brown – why I’m different – and their natural curiosity starts the conversation at an early age and encourages greater understanding when they’re older,” Belinda said.
“I think for a lot of people, if they don’t know or understand what they are talking about, they would rather not talk about it at all, but our culture and our history is important – it needs to be shared.”
Qualified early childhood education and care workers are in high demand with around 184,000 Australian child care job openings predicted to come online by 2023.