In Chapter 4 of Diversity and difference in early childhood education : Issues for theory and practice by Robinson & Jones (2005), the authors provide a critical perspective of how multiculturalism and constructions of “whiteness” inform and shape early childhood education.

First mapping out the Australian multicultural landscape, the chapter uses an early childhood lens to discuss issues such as liberal pluralism, cultural identity, whiteness and its origins and prevalence in curricula. The chapter highlights the implications of these issues and suggests as educator we need to more than just “celebrate” culture with learners, but support them to take up positions in discourses in order to fully appreciate the complexities and conflicting positions of other children.

Going further, the authors suggest that as educators we must continue be aware and proactive when dealing with issues in this space by adopting “reflexive and critical stance towards their work” (p. 80). This approach will hopefully prevent practices which normalize privilege and white dominance. While I believe that teachers have an awareness of the importance of addressing the cultural complexities in their classroom, I am interested in exploring the accountability mechanisms currently in place which support them to do this.

Staying within the context of Australia, I decided to look at the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and the Early Years Framework, the how and the what.

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers are made up of three key areas, Professional Knowledge, Practice and Engagement. It didn’t take me long to find which area related directly to multicultural practices.

  • Professional Knowledge
    • Standard 1: Know students and how they learn it does include
      • Focus area 1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds

This area promotes responsive learning strategies that address the needs and strengths of  learners of diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Interestingly there is one other focus area that more accurately promotes the reflexive practice suggested in Robinson & Jones (2005), thus being the development of knowledge and understanding of the impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background on the education. However, this focus area 1.4 Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students only refers to two specific groups.

So that is How teachers should be teaching but what about What they should be teaching. I then decided to look at the Australian Early Years Framework by the Department of Education and Training (2019), and very quickly saw outcomes which encouraged children to engage in discourses in order to build an understanding of not just their own cultural identity but that of others, as suggested by Robinson & Jones (2005).

For example.

  • Children develop knowledgeable and confident self identities
    • explore different identities and points of view in dramatic play
    • share aspects of their culture with the other children and educators
    • use their home language to construct meaning
    • develop strong foundations in both the culture and language/s of their family and of the broader community without compromising their cultural identities
    • develop their social and cultural heritage through engagement with Elders and community members (Department of Education and Training, 2019. p. 26)

From my experience, theory doesn’t always easily translate into practice in education, and I am sure there is a whole body of work exploring this idea so I won’t dwell on it. But from reviewing the two governing documents that guide early years education in Australia, being the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers the Early Years Framework I can confidently say that the issues raised by Robinson & Jones (2005) are identified and being addressed.



AITSL. (n.d.) Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved on 28th of April 2020 from

Department of Education and Training. (2019). BELONGING, BEING & BECOMING: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from

Robinson,  & Jones Diaz, C. (2006). “It’s more than black dolls and brown paint”. Critical multiculturalism, whiteness and early childhood education. In Diversity and difference in early childhood education, pp. 63-81.