Richmond Kindergarten

Denise Rundle deserves this award from Neita because her philosophy and her practice are so clear, compassionate and closely judged. Denise acknowledges and understands how uncertain of your abilities you can become when touching on and affecting the lives of refugees. We can all lose our moorings. It’s too often effective teaching is more about learning and listening than instructing.

But Denise has had to persuade nervous parents from tough cultures, that finger painting and playing in school is not a waste of time. Denise has obviously agonized about our Western “researched” improved approach to child-rearing and all of its assumptions. She’s aware of how the methods have in some cases fallen very short of the wishes and expectations of the parents who have come here in order to spare their children the harshness of the lives they’ve left. Confusions must occur, but Denise has found the bridge.

When any parent brings their child to kindergarten they’re saying good-bye permanently to something in that child. It’s already a mixed and emotional experience.

Then we look at the isolated refugee parents, who have in large part sacrificed all of their material and physical comfort, for the sake of what – their children. Can you blame them for finding this new form of relinquishment difficult. They must abandon their kids to a system and a culture they don’t yet know and they don’t yet trust.

Teachers dealing with parents like these must be as kind to them as they are to their little off-springs. The parents must endure the bitter-sweet experience of watching their children flourish and grow whilst the authority and influence of the former culture begins to become a memory.

Denise has sensitively assisted those parents by valorizing their stories and experience of helping the whole family to recognize the amazing uniqueness and adventure that they have survived.

Unless schools do this, they won’t inspire confidence and trust in this country which through its policies has done so little to deserve it. The State Government has quietly helped this. Teachers also need a little validation thoughtfulness with which they do such challenging and creative work.