Indigenous perspectives are embedded into our daily practices at Concord West Rhodes Preschool as meaningful, holistic, child directed experiences. Reconciliation week this year was an opportunity to look beyond ourselves and to collectively join hands and ‘take the next steps’ together – an opportunity to link with our community, to acknowledge, experience and ultimately inform. Our Community, within and beyond our gates, includes our children, families, staff, neighbourhood, friends, other professionals and thanks to social media and other agencies…way beyond!
Some of the ways this happened follow.
Anthony, from Wildlife Displays brought us some up close experiences with local native fauna- a frog, blue tongue lizard, possum, tawny frogmouth and a python. In their daily Acknowledgement to Country the children advocate taking care of the animals, plants, water, land and people. For this to happen, we believe they require authentic experiences with these to help them develop interest, care and respect.
The following day, we held our Yarn Time. An opportunity for our families to come together and to share stories and learn together. This event occurs each term and includes a book swap activity. Children delighted in bringing a pre- loved book to preschool and swapping it with one from the collection. A gold coin donation was sought for Reconciliation Week, to be donated to The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Our friend Shannon Foster, a Dharawal knowledge keeper, joined us for a morning of Culture, sharing stories, music and dance, language and artefacts. To support the children’s recent investigation of Autumn, possum, kangaroo and wallaby skins were shown, as the season of Bana’murra’yung was a time for the local Indigenous people to make coats and prepare for the cooler weather. We then ventured out to our local riverscape, learning a water healing song and dance, just as the Dharawal people would sing on the coast line to bring safe passage to the whales. Parents and Carers were able to join the Yarning, sharing and reading stories all culminating with a shared morning tea.
Information about Reconciliation Week and what it is was posted around the service and in newsletters.
We use the symbol of hands regularly in our preschool to represent friendship, care and respect, so it was only natural that this symbol be used throughout our Reconciliation Week activities.
Part of our Acknowledgement to country includes using our hands as a sign of acknowledgement and respect:
We place our hands on the land of the Wangal People
We raise our hands to the sky that covers the land of the Wangal People,
We reach out our hands to the waters that run through the lands of the Wangal People.
We place our hands on the hearts of all the people who live , work and play on the Wangal Land,
And now we take one hand and place it on a friends so that we may all stay connected.
We decided to use the “Sea of Hands” to make a visual representation of this. The children, families and staff were provided with the opportunity throughout the week to decorate a hand which was then placed on Wangal Land as a sign of recognition, that this is and always will be Wangal Land. By placing our hands on Wangal Land, we are symbolising that we are all connected to it and we all pledge to be the custodians of the Land, its waters, plants, animals and its people.
While there was much visual representation of Aboriginal Perspectives and our commitment to Reconciliation Week inside the gates, it was obvious that this was not represented to the community outside our preschool fences. To help make our commitment to Reconciliation more visible to the wider community we made a Reconciliation Banner to place on the outside of our Preschool. Again we used the symbol of hands, this time concentrating on the meaning of connection, friendship and working towards a respectful future together. We provided the children with the provocation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags and corresponding paint colours and let their creativity flow!
We read Say Yes (Castles, Jennifer) and used it as a discussion on Aboriginal Rights, in the form of fairness and equity. As we read the book we referenced all of our Aboriginal friends, from the many different Nations across Australia, that visit preschool. This gave the children a personal connection to the injustices referenced in the book, of not being able to go to the pools, visit your grandma, or sit with your friend at the movies. It was not surprising that the children all declared that these thing were wrong, not friendly and not fair! When they then discovered that this was the law, they quickly came to the conclusion that we needed to change the law, it was a silly law and it was an unfair law. They were happy to discover that indeed the law did get changed. This led to further discussions on how our actions matter, how we treat people and how we can make change through our actions.
Traditional instruments and music were available during the play periods and some of our groups learnt a new song which was adapted from ‘Our Land’.
This is Wangal land
Here at our Preschool
Where we come together
To Learn and Play
We thank the Wangal People
For looking after
The animals and plants on Wangal land.
We are now incorporating this into our daily Acknowledgement practices.
With thanks from Marnie Omeragic, Joanne Somerville, Trish McFadden and Cathy Whitmore (Educators at Concord West Rhodes Preschool)