As we developed the Learning and Living with nature philosophy and the children where connecting with nature every week the importance of including learnings about First Peoples cultures strengthened.
Over the past six years Balnarring pre-school has prioritized and intentionally included First Peoples cultures within the philosophy and the curriculum development of all the programs.
We came to understand that as nonindigenous teachers reconciliation was our responsibility and the history of the First peoples is all our history. Australia is not a young country. First Peoples ways of knowing and now support deeper connections with our identities, each other and the Land.
To respectfully and authentically include First Peoples perspectives in the program the teaching team recognized their lack of knowledge and understanding. We sought professional development opportunities through conferences and workshops, and invited indigenous consultants to work with the team at the centre. After several years the team’s confidence has increased to respectfully begin to include First Peoples culture and language within every day practices. The team are very aware that their learning would be ongoing.
The Bundjil Nest Project began in 2014 when an invitation was extended to the Balnarring Primary School and Early Learning Centre. Representatives from these services formed the Bundjil Nest Project team. Together we continued to learn about Cultures and discuss how to share what we learnt with the children and families.
Professional learning and intentional teaching opportunities so far included in the project are:
- The team meet twice a term to discuss the yearly plan
- We have applied for grants to support the project activities
- Information days have been held at the local shopping village which inform the community of the work we are doing and provide them with opportunities to ask questions
- Each year a joint day of learning has been planned that involves the children accessing workshops with First Peoples. The children learn: songs, dances, language, stories and participate in art projects.
- The team raised funds to create a sculpture that is Bundjil’s Nest. The nest has been placed in Robertson’s park Balnarring Beach.(2015)
- Elders have worked with the children in each of the services sharing stories
- At the end of each year a community event has been held at Bundjil’s Nest to celebrate First Peoples culture.
- A small conference was organized with N’Arweet Carolyn Briggs and her team
- St Josephs school joined the project ( 2017)
- Kindercare family day care joined the project (2017)
- All children worked with artist, Christabel Wigley, over four weeks which led to the her sculpting an eagle to fly over the nest (2017)
- The team facilitated the creation of the Womin djkea Balnarring Ngargee (Festival) (2018)
The development of this project has provided Balnarring teaching team with the opportunity to share what we have achieved hoping it may inspire other teachers to learn about First Peoples cultures. We believe it is very important that all children in early childhood services and schools have the opportunity to learn that our Australian history is over 50,000 years old and celebrate First Peoples cultures.
By sharing our learning and demonstrating leadership within the early childhood field, we hope we will encourage others to include First Peoples culutres into their programs. If teachers are more confident and First Peoples cultures are visible throughout services then we may be able to increase the number of Indigenous children enrolled in our services providing them with a solid foundation for their education.