Samantha Redfern is on a mission to “close the gap”.
The Gamilaroi woman is the new Aboriginal Transition to School Worker for the region and is focused on getting more Indigenous children into school readiness and pre-school programs.
Mrs Redfern is employed by Pathfinders, which will receive two years of Commonwealth funding from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the transition program.
She has been in the job for less than two weeks but has already been hitting the road to meet service providers in Gunnedah, Quirindi, Narrabri, Wee Waa and surrounding villages.
“I'm going out to communities and making myself known and getting to know the services,” she said.
Mrs Redfern is on the look-out for families that may need help connecting children aged 2-6 to service providers “so we’re not missing anyone”.
She is no stranger to child care centres, having previously worked as an early childhood educator at Li’l Achievers, Gunnedah Preschool and Winanga-li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre.
“That’s what I’m excited about – putting my education background into this position as much as possible,” she said.
“I’ve just got a passion for early childhood education and ensuring Aboriginal children are accessing appropriate high quality care… I want them to get the best start at life.
“This program gets me out there, engaging families and getting kids into centres.”
Mrs Redfern said there is “always that gap” between Aboriginal children and non-Aboriginal children, with finances and transport two of the key barriers to accessing early childhood education.
Her goal is see Aboriginal children attending school readiness or pre-school programs for a minimum of two days a week. By term four of the year before they go to school, she said she wants to see them attending four days a week to enable a “smooth transition to school”. The support continues for two to three months after they start school.
I’ve just got a passion for early childhood education and ensuring Aboriginal children are accessing appropriate high quality care.Samantha Redfern, Pathfinders
For families that find it difficult to connect to a service, Mrs Redfern said she has the training to work one-on-one with families and even run mini school readiness sessions to give them a taste of what to expect.
The Pathfinders employee said has two children of her own in pre-school and Year 1 who have benefited from early childhood education.
“My eldest is more confident. It’s not just the education part – it’s the socialisation, the communication skills, the self-help skills. She was very clingy with me and it gave her more confidence,” she said.
“My five-year-old has come along amazingly since going to pre-school. She’s already doing addition.”
Samantha Redfern is working out of the Gunnedah Family Support home base office and can phoned on 0459 098 289 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org