Like many others, I am now recovering from this year’s wonderful ECA Conference. As usual, Storypark took a team to the conference and this year I gave my very own presentation–a somewhat scary but exciting experience! From powerful keynote speakers to engaging sessions and meaningful conversations, this conference left a lasting impression. In this blog post, I will document my highlights and takeaways from the event, as well as share some personal experiences.

Day 1: An Emotional Start

The first day began on a heartfelt note with Aunty Suzanne Russell’s Welcome to Country, setting the stage for what was a recurring theme of reconciliation that would resonate throughout the event. The powerful keynote address by Karen Mundine, the CEO of Reconciliation Australia, brought tears to many eyes including my own, as she highlighted the importance of the upcoming referendum to include First Nations Peoples in our constitution.

Throughout the first day, the presence of First Nations delegates and the focus on reconciliation were prominent in breakout sessions. The Australian Girls’ Choir’s rendition of “You’re the Voice” added an emotional touch to the opening event, emphasising the need for unity and change.

My presentation

Presenting at the ECA Conference was both an exhilarating and insightful experience. I was assigned to a massive hall capable of accommodating over 300 people. The grand setup included a giant screen and a laser pointer, making me feel very fancy! It was lovely to see many familiar faces in the audience, including people from KU Children’s Services, and my ITANA colleagues Sara and Fiona.

My presentation itself went smoothly. The content I presented encompassed a range of topics, from the backgrounds of notable figures like Dr. Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber (RIE) to discussions on Circle of Security, Relational Pedagogy, Care as curriculum, and our ECEC guiding documents, as well as lots of documentation examples. It was encouraging to receive so much positive feedback after the presentation. It seemed like people really appreciated the practical suggestions and ideas for documentation I shared. This was so good to hear as it’s something I enjoy doing each day in my work as a member of the Storypark Professional Learning and Development team. The PLD team and I offer so many great resources to support educators — from free webinars, to more individualised training options — and we continually work on improving and creating new resources to support educators in creating quality documentation, including story types, practice guides, and planning templates.

Popular topics and themes

  • Reconciliation was a prominent theme throughout the conference, with many concurrent sessions sharing First Nations ideas, practices, and pedagogies.
  • There was a significant increase from last year in infant and toddler focused sessions and they were well attended.
  • Nature based pedagogy was also a clear theme with many sessions focused on this, and supported by Richard Louv’s keynote on humanity’s essential need for time in nature.
  • Jools Page was a stand out speaker for me! Amazing having one of the international keynotes being an academic focussed on infants and toddlers. Jools  speaking about her concept of Professional Love provoked a lot of conversation amongst the delegates – ‘love’ in education in Australia is a controversial topic. Her whole presentation left me feeling very affirmed as a teacher working with infants and toddlers. 
  • Our ducks were popular amongst the exhibitors this year, with our blue duck pins in particular in high demand!

Final thoughts

The team had such a great time catching up with old acquaintances, connecting with customers, making new friends, and sharing our passion for Storypark. We had so many people come by our stand to share feedback about how much Storypark meant to them, but we also received many valuable suggestions which I am glad to be able to bring back with me to share with the wider Storypark team. I’m already looking forward to next year, but for now I think I’m going to go and have a nap!

About the author

Nellie Hodda works for Storypark as an Australia Professional Development Trainer. She grew up on Dharawal Country in Thirroul and went to Balls Paddock Children’s Centre. She is an Early Childhood Teacher with several years experience working with Storypark in early childhood services in Sydney. Nellie has a focus on relational pedagogy and is an advocate for respectful practice with infants and toddlers in group care settings. She is a RIE® Associate and is on the board of the Infant and Toddler Advocacy Network Australia (ITANA).

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