We celebrate Australia Day at Gumnut Gardens by acknowledging the survival of the Aboriginal people and their customs, traditions and “bush tucker” (Australian native food). We refer to the time around Australia Day “Survival Week”.
This year we devoted our entire week’s program to learning about Survival Week through books, films, cooking, discussions and experiences, led by our Indigenous Cultural Educator, Aunty Marion from Wiradjuri country in mid-western New South Wales. We delved into topics such as why we say an acknowledgement to country (“we have to say thank you because the Aboriginal people were here before us and they share their land” quote by Tilda, 4)
We learnt about Aboriginal dance and the significance of painting, symbols and mark-making as a way of telling stories. This aligns with our promotion of literacy concepts and invites children to embark on a meaningful exploration of Dreamtime stories.
To avoid tokenism, we embed indigenous perspectives within our educational program beyond just Survival Week. We are very fortunate to have Aunty Marion with us to share her culture with the children and to inspire and teach our educators. Aunty Marion is from Wiradjuri country.
We believe it’s important to teach children about cultures beyond their own to enrich their perspectives and concepts of diversity. As stated by the Early Years Framework that guides our practice, this involves learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. It is imperative that we foster children’s connections to the world by expanding their understandings of the different ways of “being” and “belonging.”
Children shared with us their own customs and how they celebrate Australia Day with their families. We invited families to join Aunty Marion and other educators at Yabun Festival (http://yabun.org.au/) on Australia Day where they could be immersed in Indigenous culture, connect with each other and learn for themselves what we are teaching their children.
Next year we will expand Survival Week to acknowledge the thousands of convicts transported across the world to a very foreign land. They survived travelling many months crowded at sea in the bowels of filthy ships to land in an alien environment. The sentence of transportation was imposed on what today we consider very trivial offences. Petty criminal acts were often committed out of necessity or desperation. Stealing a loaf of bread was one of the most common offences resulting in transportation.
There are arguments for and against renaming the day and/or changing the date.
We give the children at Gumnut Gardens the opportunity to see “Australia Day” from many perspectives.