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CHILDREN as young as three are being taught anti-racism lessons as part of the first State Government-funded program designed to stamp out bigotry from a young age.
The program will be rolled out at a preschool in western NSW and youngsters will be given regular lessons in tolerance and multiculturalism.
The move comes as NSW councils investigate implementing a similar program across all council-funded daycare centres across the state.
The Menindee Children’s Centre, a preschool in far western NSW, has just received a $4000 grant to launch the first State Government-funded program of its kind.
The focus on racism follows the 2005 Cronulla Riots and a recent Australian Government survey which found more than 40 per cent of migrants surveyed had come across “some” or “a lot” of racism in Australia.
Claims of racism also blew up recently in the Sydney Test between India and Australia.
NSW preschool’s director Hayley D’Ettorre said the centre would use the funding to launch the program, which was to include guest speakers and lessons on international music as well as foods and books.
But she said the centrepiece of the program would be regular discussions about racism.
“It is the biggest part of the program, it will be about teaching tolerance and positive diversity every day,” she said.
Premier Morris Iemma said it was necessary to teach our youngest about tolerance.
“It is important for our children to learn acceptance of different cultures at an early age,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“If we set our children up with the right messages we will ultimately enjoy a more tolerant, accepting and peaceful society.”
Local Government Association of NSW president Genia McCaffery said they would study the anti-racism program of one western Sydney daycare centre with a view to rolling out a simular curriculum across the state.
While the Australian national anthem is sung regularly and with gusto at the Auburn Long Day Care Centre — children are also taught how to sing national anthems of Russia, Japan, China and Greece and celebrate Chinese New year as well as Muslim holidays.
Children Services Co-ordinator Gerard Moon said race-fuelled events such as the Cronulla Riots and international incidents were discussed with the children, who range from newborns to school age.
“Children understand what is going on in the news and they want to talk about it so we will use it and discuss it in a way that is non-threatening.”
Aliya Caraman, mother of three-year-old Aidan who welcomed the move.
“I like the diversity and for my child to know all sorts of rituals and traditions and celebrations,” she said.
Ms McCaffery said the LGSA would investigate launching a similar program in all council run daycare centres but would lobby the State Government for funds to run the program.
(Posted on January 25, 2008)