Language and culture at the heart of Waranwarin Early Learning Centre

Waranwarin Early Learning Centre embeds language and culture in everything they do to support children in developing strong relationships and connection to Country.

Image: Dharawal woman and Gujaga educator Sophie Youngberry leading the children at Waranwarin Early Learning Centre in a Dharawal language lesson.

Based in Minto on Dharawal Country, Waranwarin Early Learning Centre is a First Nations community-controlled service that delivers Long Day Care Centre and Before and After School Care, and participates in the department’s Ninganah No More program to teach the Dharawal language to children.

Waranwarin’s Centre Manager and proud Ngunnawal and Gomeroi woman, Jodie Bell, shared that embedding language in educational programs has played a significant role in strengthening children’s identity and culture.

“There was a gap for me and many of our families because not all of us in the Campbelltown area are from Dharawal Country, we’re visitors,” she said.

“It’s a privilege to be part of the Ninganah No More program so language can develop on the Country that we’re on.”

Weekly Dharawal language lessons are delivered by the Gujaga Foundation, with Dharawal woman and Language Educator Sophie Youngberry leading the children through activities and games in language to grow their vocabulary.

“Teaching language to the wider community is not only important to us as Dharawal people for maintaining our strong connection to culture, language and Country, but also because if we don’t share our language, it will be lost,” Sophie said.

“Coming out to centres in Campbelltown through the Ninganah No More program has been a massive privilege because they are on Dharawal Country.”

“Having that relationship with the Gujaga Foundation is massive because we are not the local language holders. We have to have those relationships with people from the Country so we can continue language,” Jodie said.

“What that does for our mob, children and families is strengthen identity and connection to the Land. The most important thing is that culture is strong and that we, as Aboriginal people, are proud,” Jodie said.

Waranwarin educators Alinta Pencheff-Scott and Mustafa Al Mathaji also contribute to this cultural richness, leading daily yarning circles to build trusting relationships with the children, and encourage responsive and meaningful interactions which support elements of Quality Area 5.

“We have strong connections here. The children are so confident and brave to share their emotions in day-to-day life,” Mustafa said.

“I have built a family [at Waranwarin] through my relationships with staff members and the children, and have learned a lot from everyone’s different identities.”

“We bring our best for the kids because that’s our passion,” Alinta added.

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