There are approximately 40 Steiner/Waldorf schools throughout the states and territories of Australia. The first school was opened in 1957. Each organisation is independent. There are also new initiatives that are working towards establishing themselves into schools as populations grow in the outer regions. Many of these start from grass roots up with the beginnings of playgroups. Most of our Steiner communities are found along the coastlines of Australia.
Our early childhood association has 31 kindergarten members as well as many individual members. Most of these kindergartens are attached to schools.There are also a number of playgroups, as well as outdoor playgroups, preschools, and home- based care initiatives, clustered around the localities of the schools, particularly in the bigger cities.
Working together. There are annual opportunities for regions to come together for support and professional development. Every two years one of the states organizes our Early Childhood Association “Vital Years“ conference. These conferences have become pivotal for many new teachers. As Australia is so far away geographically from accessing the wealth of the northern hemisphere pedagogy expertise, we have endeavored to invite international speakers as well as our own experts, to deepen our work and to feel more connected to the world picture of Waldorf/Steiner early childhood.
Our most successful resource that was borne out of our Vital Years Conferences, is our newsletter Star Weavings. Even though it is temporarily out of print, it is greatly appreciated both nationally and internationally.
Cultural diversity. Australia is a multicultural country, with a dominant culture rooted in British and European traditions. Increasingly, Asian cultures are influencing the languages taught in our schools and Indigenous perspectives are influencing our approach to conservation of the environment, awareness and respect for the land, the water and native animals and the inclusion of dreamtime stories in kindergartens.
Training and Mentoring. There are presently three training centers where courses are mostly offered part- time or as intensives during the school holidays. These are in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
The Association will be starting a mentoring program in 2017.
Birth to Three.The Association is at present working on establishing a training course.
- The compulsory governmental imposition of vaccinations as an entry point for pre-school children.
- The increased mainstream curriculum workload for assessing Class One readiness.
Heather van Zyl is a Steiner kindergarten teacher and educator. She is the Australian representative on the IASWECE Council.