Orienting Rights

REAIE recently made a public statement in response to the global call for respectful relationships. This declaration was cognizant that education requires a political commitment and was collaboratively developed as an expression of democracy, to ‘stand in solidarity with Australia’s First Peoples’ and advocate to uphold human rights for all citizens’ (REAIE, 2020).

Peter Moss in 2010 wrote an article entitled, ‘We cannot continue as we are’.  He wrote, “I want to argue that, we, humankind,  are in a period of such crisis and peril, Edgar Morin’s ‘number one vital problem’, that we must review fundamentally the purposes of education and therefore the values, qualities and practices needed of all educators” (Moss, 2010). Has 2020, through a global pandemic and call for respectful relationships, as a result of the death of George Floyd in the US, highlighted the chasm of privilege and disadvantage, prejudice and discrimination and therefore a need for critical reflection and change to diversity and rights in educational systems in Australia?

We lean into our relationship with Deb Mann, Wakka Wakka woman born in Queensland, currently living and working on Gadigal land.  Deb was a co-recipient of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholarship to Reggio Emilia in 2018.  From a rights perspective, she was keen to ‘listen, learn and consider how the principles and values of Reggio Emilia might align with Aboriginal community ways of teaching and rearing children’ (Mann, 2020).

The first webinar in REAIE’s upcoming social justice series begins with a lens on human rights for all citizens.  The webinar draws on Loris Malaguzzi’s manifesto, Una Carta per tre Diritti, a Charter of Three Rights; a declaration that articulates the rights of children, teachers and parents in the context of the Reggio Emilia. This “framework” (Moss cited in Cagliari et al. 2016), proposes that the rights of children, teachers and families are inextricably woven together. In our upcoming webinar series, we draw on Deb Mann’s perspectives concerning Aboriginal children’s rights in Australia.  (The views expressed by Deb are her personal thoughts and do not represent any organisation or all Aboriginal peoples).

Deb ‘struggles with the reality of what a rights framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children looks like in Australia’.  She acknowledges that ‘reflecting on the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the middle of a global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter revolution is challenging. Trying to articulate the emotions and truths of this concept for Black children in Australia seems absurd.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s rights are entwined with their parents, family, and community rights, positioned within the context of Australian social, political, and economic systems’. She says that, ‘since time immemorial, Aboriginal rights in Australia have been nonexistent, hence the ongoing and systematic removal of children and their consequent enslavement.  This is exacerbated by their ongoing exclusion from educational systems, the low expectations of teachers, and an ongoing perception that Aboriginal children are ‘vulnerable’ and in need of intervention from the dominant mainstream education systems’.

She believes that ‘many well-meaning educators, do not understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children do not learn in isolation from their social and cultural relationships. And most educators do not have solid relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities. They often operate within a socialised understanding that one way of teaching suits us all, a premise that sidelines and ignores our diversity and has failed to make a significant educational difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’.

These words may be confronting for some: Ask yourself:

  • Does this perspective make me feel uncomfortable? Why?
  • Am I a courageous advocate for social justice in my educational setting?
  • What are the commitments embedded in the ECA Code of Ethics that might assist my reflection?
  • What are the principles, values and beliefs from Reggio Emilia that I can draw from?

Deb said, ‘that going to Reggio Emilia stirred a fire in her belly for a revolution in early education’.  She adds that the ‘historical and ongoing success of the educational project in Reggio Emilia, is in part because it was founded on a rights platform, that was and still is revolutionary.  I believe Australian early childhood needs a revolution to challenge the status quo and make way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to design, determine and implement early education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children” (Mann, 2020).

Perhaps these perspectives will disrupt your thinking and can be, as Malaguzzi suggested, ‘one of the many itineraries for orienting our walking together” (Cagliari et al., 2016, p.106).


Cagliari, P., Castegnetti, M., Giudici, C., Rinaldi, C., Vecchi, V., Moss, P. (2016). Loris Malaguzzi and the schools of Reggio Emilia: A selection of his writings and speeches 1945-1993. London, England: Routledge.

Moss, P. (2010). We Cannot Continue as We Are: the educator in an education for survival. Sage Journals. Retrieved 25 June 2020, from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2304/ciec.2010.11.1.8.

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