Central Coast preschoolers celebrate culture

Students from Toukley Public and Kooloora Preschool celebrated NAIDOC Week with a school fair. Helen Gregory reports.

An older student points to some younger students sitting on the floor. An older student points to some younger students sitting on the floor.
Image: Gorokan High student Koby Swannell speaks with students from Kooloora Preschool.

Toukley Public School’s preschoolers joined their older peers and hosted other little learners from the Central Coast area as part of vibrant NAIDOC Week celebrations.

The school’s on-site preschool, Kooloora Preschool, was established in 1996 and is one of 11 NSW Department of Education preschools designated especially for Aboriginal children.

While enrolments are open to all families in the community the preschool prioritises enrolments from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander families.

Assistant Principal Preschool and proud Kamilaroi woman, Sharon Buck, said preschoolers participated in the fourth whole school NAIDOC Week Fair on 2 July.

Children from three other local early childhood education and care services, Toukley Preschool, Play to Learn Early Learning Centre and Little Coast Kids, visited the preschool on 3 July for a smaller version of the fair.

“NAIDOC Week is a time to reflect and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of First Nations peoples – recognising them as the traditional owners of the land,” Ms Buck said.

“We want our children to be proud of their culture and to see themselves reflected in our school environment and events – and we also want our non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children to have a rich understanding of Aboriginal culture.”

Ms Buck said the primary school, on Darkinjung Country, had the highest primary school enrolment of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children in the Tuggerah network, with a total of 169 students out of 530 identifying as Aboriginal.

At Kooloora Preschool, 17 of the 37 children are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

Ms Buck said Aboriginal culture was embedded into the daily program at Kooloora Preschool and not isolated to specific event days.

She said Kooloora Preschool and Toukley Public School had partnered with Gorokan Public School and Gorokan High School to develop a localised Aboriginal curriculum.

“This means we ensure that the curriculum we are delivering is localised to our specific context,” she said.

“So we might not talk about the desert, we talk about what is local to us. We take children on Country to the beach to see the shell middens or to Mount Yango, a significant site, or to the rock carvings at Bulgandry, at Kariong, so they learn what is sacred to the Darkinjung people in our area.

“This has involved significant community consultation led by Elder Uncle Dave Ella, and in consultation with Muru Bulbi AECG.

“We have yarn ups for families, children and community both on and off site and have provided the opportunity for staff, families and children to learn on Country.”

Students with painted faces. Students with painted faces.
Image: Armanii Dargan, Isla Clark, Alfie Grant and Rafael Gleave had their faces painted.

The whole school event on 2 July started with respected Aboriginal community member Matt Sonter performing a smoking ceremony to cleanse the path from the preschool to the school, where preschoolers joined the whole school assembly.

The assembly included a performance by the girls' cultural dance group.

The preschoolers and school students moved between activities including:

  • Trying foods with traditional ingredients such as lemon myrtle, saltbush, kangaroo and emu

  • Engaging with a Gorokan High student playing the didgeridoo and sharing Dreaming stories

  • Contributing to a sea of hands, symbolising unity and reconciliation

  • Using ochre

  • Participating in traditional games organised by Sports in Schools Australia (SiSA) and from the Australian Sports Commission’s Yulunga Indigenous games resource

  • Art-making

Local Aboriginal and community services ran stalls. Those present included Yerin Aboriginal Health Services, Barang Regional Alliance, Toukley Neighbourhood Centre, Uniting’s Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters program, as well as the school P&C.

“The school is committed to ensuring successful transition for all local children attending early childhood education and care services into our school,” Ms Buck said.

“We do this by including other services to join as many school-based activities that our public preschool attends as possible. We aim to support others and showcase our practice.”

Students eating out of white plastic cups. Students eating out of white plastic cups.
Image: Zara Rayne Tomiak and Timothy Bowring tuck into a delicious snack.
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