Ngroo Education Walking Together Aboriginal Training Model for non-Aboriginal early childhood staff
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

This program educates non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood educators to understand the relevance of culture and incorporate it into their daily teaching routine. Ultimately this may also translate to the broader community and thereby has the capacity to contribute to the healing process through a shared understanding.

Delivered by

Ngroo Education Incorporated: A not-for-profit community based organisation.

The information provided for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by the Executive Officer of Ngroo Education.

Service type

The program delivers training for non-Aboriginal service staff to assist them in their work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities. The course is delivered by Aboriginal trainers and Elders and includes a focus on Aboriginal cultural practices and Aboriginal ways of communicating. Post-training and mentoring packages are included to ensure the training has been effective and that culturally appropriate service practice is applied.

The primary clients of the training packages are early childhood services and preschools with a growing interest from a range of agencies working in the community management sector.


Delivered state-wide across NSW.


The aims of the program are to:

  • develop the awareness and skills of mainstream early childhood workers so they engage respectfully and effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, children and staff;
  • prevent long-term harm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by supporting their successful participation in inclusive and culturally appropriate early childhood education;
  • facilitate social change in Australia by ending the cycle of abuse, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, self-harm and disconnection that occurs when a person cannot access a sustainable and inclusive education;
  • identify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families through the network of local Elders, honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways and empowering the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to drive the activities of the association; and,
  • introduce the significance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through the employment and training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in each preschool.

The need for the program was identified collectively by Ngroo staff (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal), local community Elders, family and community members who report dissatisfaction with the marginalisation of Aboriginal children in mainstream early childhood education. Research and anecdotal stories from these people also suggest that services with strong Aboriginal relationships and involvement, community governance and cultural knowledge will ensure access to services to deliver sustained enrolments, improved educational outcomes and community well-being. In addition, many families do not trust or access specialist services that do not engage appropriately with the community.

The program works towards producing the following outcomes:

  • cultural training for all non-Aboriginal early educators;
  • improved knowledge of universal services that support Aboriginal children and families;
  • educators who are culturally aware and willing to listen and learn from Aboriginal people;
  • Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal partnerships that develop programs;
  • self-determination and buy-in from local Aboriginal families;
  • improved educational outcomes as children move through various learning settings; and,
  • strength based approaches to working with Aboriginal children.

The program was initiated by a philanthropic donation to establish and implement a model of best practice, with an understanding that Federal and State Government would be approached for additional funding. Resources are also sourced from program partners, and as the program moves beyond the pilot phase other income is starting to be generated from training and consultancies.


MOST promising aspect

Ngroo's model of education and training is a response to existing measures and approaches that have, over many years been limited in their capacity to improve upon poor levels of attendance, low retention rates, and literacy and numeracy outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth in comparison to other groups within Australian society.

The Ngroo model reflects what is already known about what works to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people. First, learning content needs to be engaging, accessible and culturally responsive with a school culture that supports and builds on high expectations for all students. Second, Aboriginal students need to be to empowered, supported and engaged to enhance their learning capacity, while also building and sustaining teacher capacity. Third, coherent and localised approaches need to focus on evidence-based literacy and numeracy teaching. Finally, services need a profound understanding of the importance of school-community partnerships.

Other promising aspects

This program is innovative because it is neither a standard training service or consultancy program. It has been developed as a holistic change agency model that incorporates both traditional teaching and learning models where yarning presentations mix with new technology to engage early childhood staff in learning processes that are culturally relevant to content. The processes of using local communities and Elders as part of the learning and relationship development process are effective as well as modelling alternative engagement processes. The development of confidence amongst the staff and the sense of safety being reported by parents suggests the model is working.

Evidence base and opportunities

This program demonstrates how self-determination and mentoring by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can result in improved outcomes and well-being for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The improved capacity of non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to understand the relevance of culture and incorporate it into their education and/or early childhood settings impoves the likelihood of producing positive outcomes for children in language and literacy.

The mentoring component of the program also helps to provide non-Aboriginal teachers/staff with the skills and knowledge required to establish improved relationships with their Aboriginal students/clients and thereby build trust. Such trust is acknowledged to be a key ingredient in program effectiveness and further enables other children in educational settings to adopt a more positive view towards their education. As a result, children are more likely to take ownership of their own learning processes and improved attendance and educational outcomes will result. This can then be translated into the capacity of the community to help care for and protect their children in future generations.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Cultural awareness is central to the training model and is a prerequisite for linking non-Aboriginal services with Elders and Aboriginal families. The program is delivered through a collaborative process that is led by the Aboriginal staff and 17 community Elders from across NSW. Elders and Aboriginal staff assess services that want to particpate in the training and particpants then receive individual mentoring for a period of twelve months after completing the program.


Evaluation status

The program is currently being evaluated through an internal evaluation. Stage one of the evaluation process included a pilot evaluation that included written evaluations following client participation in the program and the effects of the program on participants by pre-test and post-test comparison.

A feedback survey was adopted as part of stage one of Ngroo's internal evaluation process and the findings are available from Ngroo's website. The feedback process involved contacting parents and schools to provide feedback about the program and its impact on enrolled children.

Academics are being consulted about stage two of the evaluation. However, it is expected that all interviews and questionaires will be developed with Aboriginal staff and local community Elders. Interviews with Aboriginal participants will be conducted by trained Aboriginal survey researchers and the design of the assessment tools will primarily be developed by Aboriginal Elders. Culturally approved methodologies that meet wider "good practice" in research will also be adopted.


Demonstrated outcomes

Major findings from feedback provided in stage one of the evaluation showed:

  • increased confidence in working with Aboriginal families;
  • increased confidence in Aboriginal families relating to non- Aboriginal workers;
  • increased access by 358 Aboriginal children and their families; and
  • improved cultural awareness in 300 early childhood staff.

The training program was also effective in:

  • engaging 400 staff across 90 early childhood services;
  • providing services to 375 Aboriginal children and their families;
  • being governed and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in partnership with non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • being driven and supported by 17 Aboriginal Elders across NSW, and employing six Aboriginal trainees to promote relationships with services;
  • delivering culturally appropriate services that adopt a strength-based approach to training and development;
  • drawing on and contributing to the evidence base;
  • its capacity to be applied across other locations or for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups; and,
  • being innovative by adopting new methods of service delivery, program content or ways to establish partnerships.
Other evidence

The 2012 Social Justice report highlighted Ngroo as "an excellent example of culturally legitimate, contemporary Indigenous governance an organisation designed to put this community knowledge front and centre and the results speak for themselves. With its strong focus on building the cultural competence of pre-schools and its structural design ensuring full participation of each community, Ngroo reflects a human rights based approach to getting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to preschool. With this model of community governance, combined with sound corporate governance structures and outstanding leadership, both non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, NGROO offers lessons to all organisations looking to deliver services to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander peoples."


There is considerable interest from services that are unlikely to attract Aboriginal families because of locations and disconnections with the local Aboriginal community. One peak organisation is seeking a collaborative program to expand the mentoring role of Elders in their early childhood services. Other community programs are also seeking to work with this model, including family day care programs and early childhood facilities and the State Government Department of Education and Communities.


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