Early childhood in South Australia, including times prior to the establishment of the colony, has a remarkable history. Now seems an appropriate time to create an overview of this history so that the public and those who currently work in the sector, or who are entering the early childhood profession, become aware of that history and the work of those in whose footsteps they follow.

To track this history is it necessary to look in many places, in academic references, in buildings and of course most of all, in people.

This is a history essentially of women who understood and fought for the right of children to have an education, believing education to be a critical element in the creation of a democratic South Australian society. The central role of women is foregrounded, including Lillian de Lissa, Lucy Morice and Alitja Rigney, and many others, who worked on this early years educational democratizing project.

The history spans pre colonization until the present day and acknowledges that prior to European invasion Aboriginal First Nations educated their young children to enable them to be successful members of their communities. The history is not all about successes. It reminds the viewer of laws which attempted to divide Aboriginal children from their families, culture and language, and also of the exclusion of Aboriginal children from formal education.

This project has been two years in the making. We would like to acknowledge the support of the University of South Australia’s library, the South Australian Department for Education and the South Australian History Trust, without whose fiscal and in kind support the project would not have been possible. Key people include Professor Kay Whitehead, Pauline Bradford, Sarah Manatakis, Eliza Brown, Irene Doskatsch and Professor Lester Irabinna Rigney.

We would like to express our profound thanks to all who contributed, and welcome viewers to the History of Early Childhood in South Australia. We hope you will find it as rich and fascinating as we have.

Associate Professor Victoria Whitington, Professor Kay Whitehead and Trevor Feder

Timeline reference list