Monash University
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Encounters between new migrant families and early childhood professionals in EC services in Australia : a sociocultural and poststructural analyses

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posted on 2017-05-26, 07:19 authored by Rivalland, Corine Marie Patricia
The overall aim of this sociocultural and poststructural study was to investigate and describe how new migrant families and Australian early childhood professionals (ECPs) reached cultural understanding on the education and care of children during transition times in childcare. Transition time was defined as a) the processes involved in selecting and gaining access to a childcare institution after resettlement, and b) the discourses in which families and early childhood professionals engaged in cultural negotiation, while transferring the responsibility of care of their child/children from the families to the early childhood professionals, and vice versa, at the beginning and end of childcare sessions. This interpretive case study spanned a one-year period and was located in two low socio economic status suburbs in Victoria, Australia. Seven early childhood professionals, four Centre Directors (CDRs), one social worker and five new migrant families participated in the study. Centre observations, home visits and interviews were conducted with these participants. Data was analysed using Rogoff’s (2003) three foci of analysis, the personal, the interpersonal and the institutional. Additionally, a Foucauldian Discourse analysis was used to analyse discourses from which participants where drawing their subjectivities and which were present at the time of cultural negotiations during their participation in transition times in childcare. This meant the analysis paid attention to power as a dimension of institutional practices, in addition to the intersubjective aspects of home/centre relationships. As a result, this thesis argued that the sociocultural and poststructural theoretical framing and analyses of the study provided a complementary approach, which allowed the identification of the mutually constituting relationships between institutions, discourses and the everyday practice of transition times in childcare. Data analysis revealed that the three small for-profit centres that participated in this study had developed into compartimentalised and hierarchical communities with their owners acting as Centre Directors of close but tightly knit communities with well defined roles which saw early childhood professionals working with ‘the child’ and Centre Directors with families. Further, this thesis demonstrated the existence of a complex and mediated communication system between Centre Directors and resettlement organisations. This communication system, it is argued, acted as cultural buffers between new migrant families and early childhood professionals thus limiting the opportunities of direct meaningful cultural contacts, which may have led to cultural negotiation on the education and care of new migrant children attending these institutions. It was also found that visa status and English proficiency levels of new migrant families played a central role in shaping the transitions experiences of families participating in this study. Furthermore, racial tensions and media portrayal of the ‘dangerous and problematic’ Black African migrants in Australia filtered down and warped the early childhood professionals’ image of who was considered a ‘migrant’ in childcare institutions. This image of the ‘problematic’ Black African migrant led to a discursive shift which the author argued have silenced many migrant families accessing childcare institutions whilst reinforcing the hegemonic and assimilationist institutional power of the centres. It is argued that the situation is likely to continue until: a) racial tension subsides, and b) early childhood professionals are provided with high quality training and professional support throughout their career. A case is also made for further research into the important role played by resettlement organisations and Centre Directors in the transition experiences of migrant families with low English proficiency levels.


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Jocelyn Grace Nuttall

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Education

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