The Australian Early Years Learning Framework (2009) and Closing the Gap (2017) recognises the importance of partnership between ECEC practitioners, children, families and communities. The initiatives promote a holistic approach that views children’s learning as socially situated and contextual (DEEWR, 2009).
Rocky Hall Preschool recognises that diversity contributes to the richness of our society and provides a valid evidence base about ways of knowing, including a greater understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. The preschool’s rural remote location lends itself to adopting an Indigenous perspective that is relevant and meaningful to the children and families in the context of our community and environments.
Our journey to embed Indigenous perspective into our curriculum commenced in 2016 with a rural-remote community outreach grant that provided the opportunity to establish respectful and meaningful relationships with the local Indigenous community, including Elder Aileene Blackburn, Aboriginal language teacher Noeleen Lumby and young Aboriginal leaders Chelsy Atkins and Nathan Lygon. We facilitated and supported visits for the local Aboriginal community members to share cultural activities and Language learning.
Due to the success of the program, the preschool received further funding to continue the program into 2017, which provided opportunities to progress to the next stage of our journey. We built a Yarning Circle and fire pit, which sits sympathetically in the preschool environment, enriching relationships with children, families and community. ‘Yarning’ is highly valued within educational systems; this traditional learning method leads to inclusion, participation and value of the individual, regardless of age, culture or gender. Giving voice to individuals in a safe, relaxed, nurturing and comfortable environment empowers children, families and community as a group.
The circle has provided an inclusive space to learn local Aboriginal language and to share culture, stories and knowledge with the local community. Chelsy Atkins and Nathan Lygon have provided an Indigenous education called Allawah Nigindigan, which has burgeoned from the program during the previous year at Rocky Hall Preschool. Noeleen Lumby is providing language learning and Dreaming stories to the children, and professional development through language learning, cultural awareness and histories to educators. The preschool fosters a sense of belonging for the local and broader community with the children at the forefront, leading the way as they take ownership over the space and create the connections to identity, community and the natural environment for the future. Kristy McBain, the Mayor of Bega Valley Shire, opened the Yarning circle on Friday 26 May 2017