History of Yappera Children’s Service
In 1978, members of the Aboriginal Community came together with a shared vision that an early childhood service be established for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to have access to high quality early childhood education programs and the opportunity to learn within the context of their strong Aboriginal culture, history and identity as the foundations for their learning. It was the aim that Yappera have a variety of Services incorporated for children and families to cater to children and families health, development and family support needs.
In 1979, the management committee lodged its first submission with the Office of Childcare-Children’s Services Program through the Department of Social Security to secure funding to create the vision for children and families. The application was successful and the centre began operation in December 1980 in Argyle Street, Fitzroy.
The aims and objectives developed by the Committee/founding members of Yappera Children’s Service is that the Service be established, governed and operated as a Multifunctional care service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families incorporating long day care, kindergarten, before and after school care, vacation care, family support programs and services, integration services, maternal health programs, specialist children’s services and respite care.
The philosophy developed by the founding members of Yappera aligned very closely to the National Aboriginal Health philosophy of Aboriginal Health which included emphasis on a holistic approach to servicing the needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander – Koori Community.
Historically, Koori children were going into formal schooling with challenges which impacted on their learning capabilities. These challenges included poor general health, poor hearing due to chronic ear infections and poor oral health. These issues would impact on their langrage and learning capabilities in the early years. There was concern that the primary school system was not culturally sensitive or appropriate to the needs of koori children and families and these factors contributed to low self-esteem and poor learning outcomes. These indicators are what motivated the founding members and Committee’s at Yappera children’s service.
Yappera not only provided early childhood care but introduced regular health checks in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service who would visit the Service on a weekly basis to monitor children’s health care needs.
With the provision of culturally relevant programs and learning within an Aboriginal children’s Service, that maintained strong connections to the local Aboriginal Community and it’s Services, children’s self-esteem, confidence and learning outcomes improved and the transition process for early childhood to school was far more successful.
Yappera provided a sense of family and Community for the child away from the home environment. Yappera is a very special part of the Aboriginal Community and Community members and families value the Service that assists in supporting children’s learning and development in collaboration with families.
Yappera is also one of the founding member Organisations of the Victorian Aboriginal Early Childhood Group.
In 1986, Yappers was successful in securing capital funding from a number of funding bodies and Local Council’s to build a new Service and re-locate from Fitzroy to Thornbury. In 1992, Yappera opened the new purpose-built site with the provision of 35 licensed long day care places and 25 4-5 year old kindergarten places per day. The service were able to capacitate 60 placements per day which was a large increase based upon the 15 placements per day offered at the Argyle street.
Yappera’s links with the extended Aboriginal Community and it’s services is one of the reason’s for it’s success in Aboriginal enrolments and cultural curriculum. Yappera was established based an identified Community needs the ongoing support of the Community to survive and ensure the philosophy, vision and purpose remain the guiding principles and practices of the Service.
Yappera in it’s role as the carer for koori children also played another role – the role of providing a holistic support base to families on issues/challenges they may be facing. Yappera was a model service provider for families who were finding it hard coping with everyday challenges including trying to provide for their families. Families were encouraged to participate in support programs and the everyday operations of Yappera thus creating a strong sense of family involvement. From there, a sense of Community ownership within the Organisation. As with all Community controlled Organisations, it is crucial that Yappera remain controlled/governed by an Aboriginal board of management, has a strong Aboriginal membership base, be manager by an Aboriginal manager and has a high percentage of Aboriginal educators.
In 2006, Yappera Children’s Service celebrated 25 years o9f achievement which included a photograph exhibition during NAIDOC week and a celebration dinner where many Community members were acknowledged including founding members, past and present board members, past and present staff as well as past and present children that have attended Yappera.
This event showcased the history of Yappera, accomplishments and challenges, how the Service has grown and evolved over the 25 years and the future visions and directions of Yappera.