Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives into our Early Learning Environments

This year, the entire ELC team have made a commitment to grow in our understanding and knowledge when it comes to embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into our learning environments. We recognise the responsibility we have to ensure that First Nations culture is valued, respected, honoured and carried on. But what does that look like from an early learning perspective?

Our ELC classes all share in an Acknowledgement of Country as a part of their morning meetings each day. In a recent staff meeting, we had a fabulous discussion about the wording we are using in our Acknowledgement with the children. Engaging in such critical reflection helps us make changes and improvements to our practice, knowledge, actions, interactions, and learning environment. It is a crucial part of meaningful learning and practice improvement. Put simply, critical reflection makes us better educators and enriches children’s learning.

Inspired by the provocation from Reggio Emilia that ‘the environment is the third teacher’ – we extended our thinking, wondering and provocations outdoors. We contacted the incredible Bayside Community Nursery who have provided us with a large variety of native plants that are important to the country we are on and are using these to establish an Indigenous garden. The children across all ELC classes were involved in establishing this space and take ownership for its ongoing care.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day is an initiative of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC).The day has been acknowledged on August 4 since 1988. It is an opportunity to show support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as learn about the crucial role that culture, family and community play in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child. The theme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day in 2022 is ‘My Dreaming, My Future’.

To acknowledge and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, Play School collaborated with SNAICC, Koori Curriculum, Reconciliation Australia and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council to create ‘Play School’s Yarning and Dreaming’. This episode was viewed by the children to assist with making greater connections and deepening their understanding.

Some of our students share their reflections:

“We watched Play School this morning and they were talking about Australia and they said about bush tucker and that makes you healthy and strong. They told me words to make me very smart – but it was different words to mine.” Olivia (ELC3E)

“I watched a true story this morning and they sang a song I know ‘Taba naba’. I think it was about the Boonwurrung people and we say in the morning about them. We say: Here is the earth, here is the sky, here is my friends and here am I. We thank the Boonwurrung people for the land we learn and play on. We say ‘here is the water’ too now.” Gus (ELC3J)

“At the start they were putting their feet in the sand and at the end they were eating bush tucker. The Kookaburra kept stealing the bush tucker because it was hungry too. There was something special about the people. They had a different language to me and you. I remember that they did some stomping which was like dancing.” Stella (ELC4M)

“We made something that we watched on the video – from the Boonwurrung people maybe. They used it to dance with – I used string and yoghurt lids to make mine.” Lottie (ELC4G)

Recently, one of our ELC classes welcomed one of our ELC parents, Prue, to share her insights from her time with the Eastern Arrernte people, including the traditional custodians from Mparntwe (Alice Springs) and Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) regions. Prue shared with the children knowledge she gained from the women there about bush tucker and the cooking of damper – which the children were already familiar with having baked damper themselves.

Whilst we recognise that we as a nation have a long way to go in recognising, valuing and honouring First Nations perspectives, we are proud of the way the children in the ELC are embracing, wondering and connecting to these provocations. I am so thankful to the ELC team for their ongoing commitment to being lifelong learners – dedicated to this ongoing project of learning.


Emily Trenchard

Director of the Early Learning Centre