Federal Grant helps First Nations preschoolers to learn on Country
Three to five year olds in Lake Tyers (Bung Yarnda), a small Victorian Aboriginal community have returned from summer holidays to a newly designed outdoor kindergarten, offering cultural learning activities and adventures on-Country, thanks to a grant from the Federal Government.
Lake Tyers’ kindergarten teacher Natalie Beveridge explained that the kindergarten is locally-designed to integrate Gunaikurnai culture and history, with practical ways for children to remain connected to Country.
“We’re building a bush tucker garden, a mud kitchen with a yarning circle and our Gunai Kurnai culturally-painted concrete serpent path to welcome the kids at the entrance,” she said.
“With the Commonwealth’s funding, this outdoor kindergarten is already bringing all of us – teachers, parents, community and of course the children – pride and joy. Having a dedicated, stand-alone kindergarten with outdoor learning creates an opportunity for the children to become adjusted to the structure of primary school.”
The $45,000 Federal investment means preschoolers will have a tailor-made outdoor learning and playground, offering;
- a bush tucker garden,
- play equipment,
- mud hut and yarning circle, and;
- artwork, including a rainbow serpent mural path.
“This funding doesn’t just give our littlest mob a new locally-designed kindergarten and playground, it will also help facilitate their connection to Country and culture,” Senator Jana Stewart said.
“The Gunaikurnai lands are a beautiful part of our nation, with a long and rich history. It cannot be understated how critical outdoor learning and On-Country adventures will be to First Nations children along the south coast.”
Works on the outdoor kindergarten are almost complete, with an official opening to take place next month after the kindergarten term resumes for the new year.
On-Country adventures including nature walks with Traditional Owners and Elders are also planned for 2024, giving the youngest First Nations learners the chance to strengthen their connection to Country, culture and Gunaikurnai heritage.
“The Albanese Government is committed to supporting locally-led and culturally-appropriate programs, including early childhood learning,” Linda Burney, Minister for Indigenous Australians said.
“The Commonwealth is proud to fund Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust’s outdoor kindergarten, where the community, its cultural identity and heritage underpin the preschool’s early education program for the littlest First Nations learners, to thrive.”
For Nicole Morgan, a parent using the service for the education and care of three year old Ari, the playground and outdoor learning service is a welcome development.
“The entire community is so excited to see our children develop their connection with culture and Country, while being able to play and explore their surroundings,” she said.
“As a family, we’re thrilled that Lake Tyers offers a culturally-led early learning kindergarten where the little ones can learn about their ancestors, the unique plants and animals – and be proud of who they are and where we live.”
Mikila Sharkie, CEO Lake Tyers Aboriginal Children’s Services said the development of the service is an exciting moment.
“For the first time since the childcare opened over 30 years ago, we’ve built a dedicated kindergarten for preschoolers, while the day care centre – where the kindy was until September 2023 – is now exclusive for the under 3-year-olds,” she shared.
“We know that early childhood education provides important opportunities for learning, development and social experiences; but what makes Lake Tyers kindergarten unique is the connection with Gunaikurnai culture, Country and history which are important foundations for little people to grow-up with a strong sense of identity and pride.”
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