Mindaribba Pre-School celebrates 21 years of Reconciliation
Mindaribba Pre-School, located in the New South Wales city of Maitland, opened on Reconciliation Day in 1999, celebrating a milestone in late May when it ticked over to 21 years of working with the local community to ensure children get the best possible start in life.
Tara Dever, CEO of Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council, who operate the pre-school told local publication The Maitland Mercury that a big celebration for the services birthday and Reconciliation Day combined had been planned, but that COVID-19 had spoiled those plans.
“Instead we’ve had cakes and cupcakes” Ms Denver said.
When the pre-school began 21 years ago, the main goal was to ensure that First Nations children had the same pre-school experience as other children in the area.
“We found that with limited places available in pre-schools, our kids were missing out and we wanted to change that. That was the goal,” Ms Denver told The Maitland Mercury.
Since then, she added, the goal has grown and evolved to help children become ready to transition to school, and not just to be equal to the other children, but to excel.
Learning about culture through the mediums of dance, painting and language is a core component of the work done at Mindaribba, which also strives to ensure the young children who attend are open minded and accepting, through the makeup of the children in the service, who come from a variety of backgrounds.
“We wanted to start teaching them early – and remember, these are kids aged three to six years old – to be proud of their culture, but also to want to hear and learn about other cultures too” Ms Denver said.
The fact that non-Indigenous families, often with limited English, choose Mindaribba for their child’s early learning is a point of great satisfaction to the school too, she added.
When asked what the children enjoy the most about attending Mindaribba, Ms Denver said it is without doubt the opportunity to learn and perform traditional dance.
“We try to get people around to talk to them – maybe a youth worker, or a policeman or an elder – and often they’ll dance to show their appreciation and they absolutely love it. They danced at Brough House not long ago, a National Trust building. That was a big occasion for them” she added.
Mindaribba can cater for up to 60 children and is currently accepting new enrolments. More information is available here.
To read the original coverage of this story, as written for The Maitland Mercury, please see here.