Lulla’s dream realised with the creation of Lulla's Children and Family Centre

Lulla’s dream realised with the creation of Lulla’s Children and Family Centre

by Freya Lucas

March 28, 2022

Lulla’s Children and Family Centre is the embodiment of a long held dream of Bangerang woman Lulla Bamblett who raised 14 children in a tin hut on the outskirts of the remote New South Wales community of Leeton on her own. 

 

Granddaughter Anne Atkinson spoke recently with the ABC about Lulla’s legacy of wanting to ensure that her children received an education and worked hard, and how this legacy has led to the creation of a service where Aboriginal children can learn in a culturally safe environment.

 

Lulla’s five daughters — Geraldine, Mary and June Atkinson, and Rose and Esme Bamblett — inherited that dream, and passed it on to their children in turn. In 1986, the daughters established the Lidje childcare centre in Greater Shepparton — a safe, nurturing space where local Aboriginal children could learn.

 

In 2010, the centre joined with local Aboriginal kindergarten Batdja, forming a single hub, known as Lulla’s Children and Family Centre. Lulla’s legacy continues to influence the service, with the recent Close the Gap Day giving the service pause to reflect on how far the Indigenous community has come — and how far it still has to go.

 

Intergenerational trauma

 

While Shepparton is home to the largest First Nations population outside Melbourne, before the service opened in the 1980’s few First Nations children attended early learning, something Anne says is likely a function of the ongoing intergenerational trauma arising from the Stolen Generations and colonisation, and the fear that children will be taken away. 

 

Lulla’s has worked to address this fear in Shepparton, endeavouring to provide early education in a culturally safe environment, caring for 60 local children aged between six weeks and five years of age, with a growing waiting list. 

 

Beyond just education and care, the service offers wrap-around support, including breakfast and lunch programs, immunisations, dental care, maternal health care, a home library program and a bus service.

 

Community meals, and delivering food to families in need, are also aspects of the way in which the service cares for its community, and uses Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory to consider the way in which the child exists in the context of community. 

 

“We look at the parents and their kinship structures and how best we can support all the people involved in that child’s life,” vice chair Nicole Atkinson said.

 

Aunty LuLu has seen the impact of the service on children’s lives

 

Jennifer “Aunty Lulu” Mitchell has worked in Aboriginal early childhood services for 46 years, and is currently based at Lulla’s. Having a positive entry to schooling has meant a lot of the children she has cared for and educated have gone on to do their VCE and university courses.

 

“It’s given them confidence,” she said. 

 

To access the ABC coverage of this story please see here.  Image features Charles Sturt University Speech Pathology student, Alice, with children from Lulla’s Children & Family Centre, Shepparton

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