Adamstown Community learns from Elders during NAIDOC Week
Children at Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool are spending NAIDOC Week reflecting on the impact that Elders – including grandparents, family friends and community leaders – have made in their lives and the wisdom they’ve shared.
In 2023, the NAIDOC Week theme is For Our Elders, and Adamstown Service Director Kelly West said there was a lot to learn from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s respect for older generations.
In First Nations culture, Ms West said, “Elders are the holders of knowledge and share and pass this knowledge down through stories, song, dance and ceremonies.”
“In regard to early childhood, it is important to reflect on the essential role that our grandparents, elderly peoples and community members play in our lives and what wisdom they can share,” she continued.
“Young people can benefit so greatly from engaging with Elders in their lives to learn deeper knowledge and understanding of the world around them.”
For services wondering how to start this process, Ms West recommends engaging with Aboriginal Elders within the local community and developing partnerships with nursing homes and community groups that cater to the elderly.
During NAIDOC Week, Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool have celebrated and acknowledged First Nations culture in a number of ways, including talking about smoking ceremonies and reading Jasmine Seymour’s book Baby Business in a yarning circle by the fire pit.
Children have been invited to engage in experimenting with re-enacting the images they see within Baby Business as a way of deeply connecting to cultural practices, Ms West explained.
“Children were also invited to put some baby dolls through the smoke of the fire just as they saw in the story,” she continued.
“While that was happening, the educators had age-appropriate conversations with the children about the history of these practices.”
Children also had the opportunity to express, through art, what the images on this year’s NAIDOC Week poster and the phrase For Our Elders means to them, as well as weaving, and thinking about their recent excursion to see the Cultural Resurgence exhibition at the Newcastle Museum.
“Celebrating, learning about and authentically embedding NAIDOC Week into early childhood curriculums from as early as possible creates a deep understanding of the cultural histories and heritage of our nation’s first people,” Ms West said.
“It is important to educate our young people of the true histories of our country so they may embrace reconciliation more authentically. Providing this exposure and authenticity from an early age allows children to see the embedding of our First Nations peoples’ culture as normal, everyday practice – and this enhances reconciliation for all.”
In 2022, the service appointed Tammy Mulligan as its Indigenous Perspectives Coordinator, seven years after she joined its ranks as Reconciliation Action Plan champion.
Ms Mulligan works alongside educators and children to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture throughout the service and the year in authentic and age-appropriate ways.
This includes through a Connecting to Country program, which involves an Indigenous NSW National Parks and Wildlife service ranger joining the service’s educators and preschool and toddler aged children to explore Glenrock State Conservation Area.
“The children learn to tread lightly and learn about Awabakal history, including bush tucker, grinding grooves and caves,” Ms West said.
The presence of Aboriginal art throughout the service strengthens connections with community, with a number of pieces having been commissioned from local First Nations artist Thomas Croft.
“This artwork is on our staff uniforms, our service bus and the original painting sits in our foyer,” Ms West explained.
Services like Adamstown are supported by the NSW Department of Education, which marked the midway point of First Steps – the NSW Aboriginal Children’s Early Childhood Education Strategy 2021-2025 in June.
The strategy is a roadmap to achieving the best educational outcomes for Aboriginal children aged birth to five years of age and has three goals centred around the child, family and kinship, and learning.
More than 3,000 Aboriginal children and their families have already benefited from department- funded programs and initiatives guided by the strategy.
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