Each year, YWCA Canberra’s children’s services celebrate National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. Held on 4 August, this is a day to celebrate children of First Nations heritage. The 2021 theme was Proud in culture, strong in spirit!
As noted by SNAICC – National Voice for our children, which organises the Children’s Day, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities have provided love and care for their children, growing them up strong and safe in their cultural traditions, for thousands of generations. For First Nations children, safety, wellbeing and development are closely linked to the strengths of their connections with family, community, culture, language, and Country.”
YWCA Canberra’s celebration of this day is both part of our commitment to reconciliation under our Reconciliation Action Plan, and as an opportunity to educate children in our services about our nation’s history and unique cultures.
School age care services
In our education and care services in primary schools across Canberra, educators engaged children with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures through reciting Dreamtime stories and learning about traditional symbols. They also explored the importance of colours in Aboriginal art and what they were used to represent. In some services, the children enjoyed learning about Aboriginal musical instruments.
At our Campbell Cottage early childhood service, the educators focused on the importance of diversity and how we need to respect and honour the traditions and culture of our Aboriginal children.
In addition to their regular group time activity of saying the Acknowledgement of Country and singing along to Taba Naba, the Campbell educators worked with the children to explore the importance of the boomerang in Aboriginal cultures. Each room read books and looked at pictures themed around hunters and then made their own boomerangs. These were finished with painting where the children explored traditional colours and animals imagery.
This exploration of colour was informed by teaching the children about the significance of the elements in the Aboriginal flag: yellow for the sun, black for the night sky and red for our beautiful Australian land!
Fairley Early Childhood Service
At our service in Murrumbateman, connection to Country is a common element of their programming given the local farming communities.
On National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, the team brought the two nursery rooms together to share a meal featuring a native ingredient, building on a similar experience during NAIDOC Week. This time, the ingredient was lemon myrtle, which was baked in shortbread cookies. All agreed they were delicious!
Conder Early Childhood Service
Our team down in Tuggeranong enjoyed reading Dreamtime stories to the children in their service, demonstrating the rich cultures of our First Nations peoples. The pre-schoolers participated in yarning circles and built didgeridoos out of cardboard.
Of particular interest to the children was learning about Aboriginal music and dance!
Currawong Early Childhood Service
In Barton, our Currawong team linked National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day to their focus on outdoor sensory experiences for children, which develops both physical and cognitive skills. They used playdough and puffy paint to make Aboriginal-themed art and make sand paintings using traditional symbols.
Winyu Early Childhood Service
In our Gungahlin service, the children explored diverse cultures and beliefs through culturally- and sensory-rich experiences.
The children joined the educators to sing and dance along some familiar music, such as Inanay and Taba Naba. This use of Aboriginal languages was extended to teaching the children how to say ‘Hello’ in the language of the Ngunnawal people: ‘Yuma’.
The educators engaged children in drawing and painting that reflected their understanding of native animals and Aboriginal arts, as well as related puzzles that really captured the children’s attention.
The children were encouraged to make choices in their play which the Winyu team believes is a great way to promote their autonomy and a strong sense of identity and spirit, in keeping with the day’s theme.