Avoca Preschool creates deeper cultural connections
The Sector > Provider > General News > Creating a special space – a journey of acknowledgement and discovery

Creating a special space – a journey of acknowledgement and discovery

by Freya Lucas

June 09, 2023

Avoca Preschool, a Y Kinder in the Pyrenees Shire and located on Dja Dja Wurrung Country, has been on a journey over the past two years to explore, understand and incorporate First Nations perspectives into its early education service. While the voyage of learning is far from over, the team found that the process of discovery has brought them closer to their community and given them a deeper understanding about caring for the land, animals and people. 


Building on a foundation of respect


Avoca’s journey commenced with the aim of embedding an Acknowledgement of Country into the program. As a starting point, the team sought to find both a native totem animal and plant to represent their kindergarten, a step they viewed as an essential way of connecting the acknowledgement to the broader environment and community.


The teaching team and children started to look more closely at the land and their immediate environment. They learnt about the 6 Dja Dja Wurrung seasons, particularly Wai-kalk Time (Wattle Time), with the tree being prolific in the region. This was to be the inspiration for their plant totem. Observing and learning about the trees has extended to caring for young wattle saplings in the vicinity of the kinder and at their ‘River Kinder’ location. 


Initially, the kindergarten puzzled over the choice of a totem animal. However, one made itself loudly known. Avoca early childhood teacher Delvene Barber explained; “A kookaburra lands in our yard every morning and knocks persistently on our window. The bird was so familiar, we had taken it for granted and not valued its presence. So we added a commitment to our Acknowledgement of Country, to look after not only kookaburras but all native animals.” 


Pride of place


The preschool’s next step was to ensure that the Acknowledgment of Country had the right place and space in the program. It was felt that this had to occur outside, where the children could see, hear and feel the natural environment. 


With added knowledge and appreciation of not only their totems, but seasons, Culture and the land, an Acknowledgement of Country now takes place every Monday morning in Avoca Preschool’s special place – Kookaburra Corner.


Each week the children gather in the outside environment, under the watchful eye of the kookaburras and the wattle, with families contributing items for a new and respectful gathering space. One of Avoca’s grandparents made a kookaburra sculpture from recycled corrugated iron to support the children and the service in their connection to Country. 

“I find I learn something new every week. I’ve found it a very exciting process and feel that this has made my practice so much better and improved me as a teacher,” Ms Barber said. “We continually strive to learn about and embrace Culture, especially that of the Dja Dja Wurrung people who are the Traditional Owners of the land on which Avoca Preschool is built.” 


For Regional Operations Manager at Y Kinders, Marg Harrison, watching the service grow and evolve in this space has been particularly exciting. 


“It’s really exciting to see our services taking the time to thoroughly explore the culture and traditions of our First Nations people, and to see it as a journey rather than a box to be ticked,” she said.


Planning is underway to arrange a Smoking Ceremony to formally introduce the new area to the community. 


Avoca Preschool is managed by Y Kinders EYM. Y Kinders manages 93 kindergarten services across the state of Victoria in 23 LGAs, educating and caring for over 4,300 children. 


Lead image: Shayla proudly holds the kookaburra sculpture created by her grandmother for Kookaburra Corner

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