A week of storytelling gives ECEC the opportunity to strengthen connections to culture
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A week of storytelling gives ECEC the opportunity to strengthen connections to culture

by Freya Lucas

November 22, 2021

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services across Australia are being presented with a unique opportunity to connect children in their care to the culture of First Nations people during First Nations Bedtime Stories Week, which takes place between 22 and 26 November. 


Every year Common Ground works with First Nations communities to film five non-secret Dreaming stories told by Elders and Knowledge Custodians with the aim of sharing and strengthening these stories for future generations, and to provide a way for all people to make a connection with the oldest continuing cultures on Earth. 


The stories, which are a rich source of valuable knowledge and wisdom, create a positive impact across the ECEC and broader education sector by supporting educators to bring First Nations knowledge and cultures into their classrooms in ways that are safe and engaging.


First Nations Bedtime Stories Week also supports different First Nations communities to record their sacred stories in a new way, building on tens of thousands of years of strong, community-driven storytelling, and invests in community by working with Elders, Knowledge Custodians, producers, filmmakers and many other people to make this project happen.


The Stories


In 2021, the stories featured come from Nyikina Country in the west Kimberley region of Western Australia. Nyikina people belong to Mardoowarra (the Fitzroy River) and Mardoowarra First Law.


The stories listed below will be told by Nyikina storytellers, and are adapted from the 1976 book, Joe Nangan’s Dreaming: 


​​The Cockatoo Sisters and the Magic Digging Stick, told by Dr Anne Poelina

Kanjiba and the Burning Coal, told by Edwin Mulligan

The Buwit and Her Lost Son, told by Vennessa Poelina

Bara, the Sun Maidens, told by Alison Torres

The Boys Who Broke the Law, told by Mark Coles Smith


The Storytellers


Dr Anne Poelina


Anne is a Nyikina Warrwa woman who belongs to the Mardoowarra, the lower Fitzroy River. She is an active community leader, respected human and earth rights advocate, filmmaker and highly qualified academic, with two Doctorates of Philosophy (PhD), three Master degrees and two undergraduate degrees. For the past 30 years, Anne has focused on the development of multimedia resource kits for the Nyikina language, including the Nyikina dictionary which ensures the preservation and promotion of Nyikina language and culture.


Edwin Mulligan


Edwin is a Walmajarri and Nyikina artist, also known by his traditional name Warrda Lumbadij Bundajarrdi. He is an acclaimed painter, hailing from a family of unparalleled and globally recognised artists. He has featured in numerous films and plays. Edwin grew up with a connection to both his Mothers’ and Fathers’ ancestral homes, stretching from the Mardowarra to the Great Sandy Desert. Edwin is deeply connected to his language and culture, which is strikingly evident in his painting and poetry. He moves easily between Walmajarri and English, relaying profound philosophy and spirituality in riveting parables and anecdotes.


Vennessa Poelina


Vennessa is a Nyikina Warrwa woman with a deep connection to the West Kimberley. She is from the remarkable generation of Kimberley talent who were the original creators, cast and crew of the original Bran Nue Dae, in which Broome-based creativity made a mark on the developing Australian Aboriginal identity. Vennessa is not only an artist but a known leader in her community for life promotion, with over 30 years experience in youth and mental health services.


Alison Torres


Alison is a Djugun and Nyikina creative who has created and starred in numerous projects. Most notably she is one half of Kriol Kitchen, a television series that blends food, culture and family stories. Alison comes from a strong family with connections from the Dampier Peninsula to Noonkanbah. The families have been part of two historic wins in the Kimberley, the Noonkanbah Dispute in the 1980s which led to the creation of the Kimberley Land Council and in 2013 won the battle for James Prices Point (Walmadan).


Mark Coles Smith


Mark is a Nyikina Warrwa man who works across several performing arts genres, as an actor, writer, producer and sound designer. His time growing up on Country has heavily influenced his sound design, which operates under the alias Kalaji, the Nyikina word for Whirlwind. Mark has won numerous awards for his abilities including the Helpman Award for ‘Best Actor in a Play’, Yvonne Cohen Award from VCA Wilin Centre For Indigenous Arts, the inaugural Sirius Award from the Casting Guild of Australia, and has been nominated twice for The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards for ‘Best Supporting Actor’.


How to take part


The stories are shared online to all those who have signed up. The films will arrive via email at the beginning of each day, from 22-26 November.


Signing up to take part also unlocks free, educational resources to help guide safe and informative learning with children. 


The stories and the accompanying resources are free for everyone to enjoy and learn from. Common Ground does ask for donations to continue First Nations Bedtime Stories in the years ahead, and provide free films and resources to people all over Australia.


Click here to learn more about the impact this project has, and what the money raised goes towards.


For more information please visit the First Nations Bedtime Stories website, here

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