The Apiary Fellowship Chronicles - November 2023 Convening Recap

For the final Apiary Convening of 2023, the Fellows came together in Cronulla on Dharawal land, where they were able to reflect on the year that was while looking at 2024, and everything it has to offer. 

The 2023 cohort experienced an enlightening Welcome to Country by Uncle Lloyd Walker from the  Gujaga Foundation, where Fellows also learned about the complex and fraught history of the Kurnell and Botany Bay area. Owing to the informed and insightful contributions of the Gujaga Foundation, 2023 Fellows gained a more holistic understanding of history and culture specific to the Kamay Botany Bay National Park area that transcended the theoretical and delved into the visceral. 

Upon reflection, many Fellows remarked that the on-Country experience was deeply moving and would take much time to process. Overall, it formed a significant part of the 2023 cohort’s ongoing cultural learning journey.

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Following shared reflections, the cohort rounded-off their year-long, action-learning journey with presentations from all three Action Learning Groups (ALGs) and collective decision-making. The three ALGs in the 2023 cohort, each with distinct focuses – changing mindsets around the value of 0-3 years, vision holding for cultural safety in early learning and changing narratives and mindsets on cultural harm, and supporting best practices for integrated hubs respectively – presented their insights from their year-long action-learning cycle to the rest of the cohort. Two of the three ALGs successfully passed the first gateway of decision-making, propelling them into the next stage of refinement, development, and scaling within the Impact Community.

By the end of the Convening, the entire Impact Community collectively agreed to an inspiring trifold purpose: to elevate children’s voices and perspectives; to promote equity for all children and families, and to support cultural learning in and across the early childhood system to promote cultural safety and prevent further cultural harm.

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In the latter half of the Convening, the 2023 cohort was joined by Fellows from previous cohorts from 2019, 2020, and 2022 respectively. After some fun ice-breaker activities, all Fellows deepened existing connections and forged new ones as they took stock of the current state of the early childhood system, uncovering old and new challenges and opportunities. The room echoed shared sentiments of optimism and frustration, reflecting the diverse landscape of experiences and expectations, especially considering the highly anticipated Productivity Commission (PC) Report.

Together, they dove into collaborative action by engaging in shared dialogue and sensemaking around funding models for the future early learning system. 

Apiary Fellows were joined by critical friends from SNAICC, the Parkville Institute, and the Centre for Policy Development (CPD) for a sensemaking workshop around early learning system funding models. Divided into four groups, each assigned a hypothetical funding model - subsidy-based funding; reasonable cost of provision funding; block funding; and outcomes-based funding – fellows explored potential consequences on diverse systems stakeholders and brainstormed pathways to enhance positive impacts and mitigate negatives. The Apiary Fellows agreed to embrace the specific roles – such as spokesperson, orchestrator, impact assessor, connector/bridge, elevator and champion - and first steps to enact this purpose.

On the final day Fellows embarked upon a spirited exploration of current system reforms and grappled with recent publications including the PC Report. Amid this, Fellows were able to map what children, families and the workforce need from the Apiary Impact Community at present in response to these changes. Fellows subsequently built alignment around shared purpose for the Impact Community and actionable first steps to meet these goals.

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As the curtain fell on the November Convening, we bid farewell to the wonderful Jane Hunt as she is stepping down from her role as CEO of the Front Project in the new year. We know that new and exciting adventures await her, and the Apiary fellows left with their cups full. The Impact Community emerged stronger, armed with a unified vision and a commitment to generate positive, sustainable systems change. With invigorated spirits and a sense of shared accomplishment, the fellows bid farewell to 2023, ready to embrace new horizons in the coming year!

In the new year, fellows will be jumping into action within their identified roles and groups. Each will explore, share, and create solutions to fill system gaps. With lots of exciting developments coming in 2024, stay tuned via the Apiary newsletters and The Front Project website!

Does the Apiary sound like an initiative that you or someone you know would be interested in joining? If so, you’re in luck! Our expression of interest campaign for our next annual intake of fellows in 2024 is now live! Please click here to find out more and to register your interest in joining the 2024 cohort. Applications close 31st December 2023.