Building belonging and respect in early childhood settings


Building belonging and respect in early childhood settings

We know that children begin to notice the ways they are the same, as well as the ways they are different, from a young age (KidsMatter, 2016). This can include differences in appearance and gender for example. As a multicultural country, the diversity of Australia’s population is a large aspect of community life and many early childhood settings.

Respect for diversity and the development of cultural competency is deeply embedded into the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Educators have an obligation to provide settings where children belong and learn about different cultures, and experience respectful friendships with children from various backgrounds in the early years (EYLF, 2009). Being able to acknowledge, understand and respect difference is an essential relationship skill. There is no ‘one way’ to teach positive relationship skills to children, and so the Australian Human Rights Commission’s toolkit, Building Belonging, is yet another avenue to explore positive, respectful relationships.

Building Belonging looks at differences and how educators can work with young children when questions about appearance, culture, and language surface among groups of young children. It covers how educators can encourage positive and respectful relationships among children and foster a positive sense of self-identity.

While it is not strictly a toolkit on family relationships, the Building Belonging toolkit tackles many familiar issues. The toolkit is a free resource pitched at educators in early childhood settings and its specific resources have wider relevance, for example, information on tackling tricky questions about difference and fostering skills for positive relationships. The toolkit consists of a free eBook, songs, educator guide, posters and lesson plans, all focused on encouraging respect for cultural diversity and difference in the early years.

For more information about the Building Belonging toolkit, click here.

Start Early free online modules look at developing respectful relationships in the early years, available online until March 2017. To register, click here.


  1. Australian Human Rights Commission, (2016), Building belonging: A toolkit for early childhood educators on cultural diversity and responding to prejudice, retrieved from
  2. Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments [DEEWR]. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia, Retrieved from
  3. KidsMatter Primary—Department of Health and Ageing, (2012 – 13), Cultural Diversity and children’s wellbeing, retrieved from