In Wiradjuri country in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, Tumut Pre-School is forging a reputation for involving local elders to create a culturally appropriate curriculum.
One hour from Wagga Wagga, Tumut has a population of over 6,000, of which five per cent are Indigenous. The preschool identified the need to engage Indigenous children in early childhood and sought to increase engagement with their parents.
Through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), Tumut Preschool employs two Indigenous educators and links with Elders to build relationships and develop projects and events with the local Indigenous community.
In less than twelve months, enrolments of Indigenous children more than doubled and their attendance rate rose to over 90 per cent. The Indigenous cultural knowledge of all students also increased through a culturally inclusive curriculum that has seen parental engagement increase dramatically.
The children chose to rename their preschool rooms from Yellow, Red and Blue Rooms to Wiradjuri and English names, representing the local culture and what preschool means to them. The new names are, Gindhay/Playful Room, Malayarr/Friendship Room and Girra Girra/Happy Room.
The children are engaged in various activities such as learning the Wiradjuri language, writing lyrics and music and creating totem poles, one of which is installed in the Tumut Hospital Aboriginal Garden and the other in the preschool foyer.
All staff have completed Wiradjuri Cultural Competency Training and have developed a Reconciliation Action Plan. Flag poles have been installed to fly the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, and staff and children have learnt each flag’s significance and the protocols for raising them.
Staff member Hannah Goldspink was runner-up in the National Hesta Early Educator Awards finals in the “Outstanding New Graduate” category. Hannah received this recognition for her commitment, passion and positive action in breaking down barriers and fostering cultural diversity at Tumut Preschool.
Tumut Preschool is working collaboratively with other local IAS providers Tumut Regional Family Services, Compact, and Mission Australia to deliver their projects.