Harmony Day at our public preschools

Conversations about culture start in the early years, as preschoolers enjoy language lessons, experiments and art. Helen Gregory reports.

A group of students and teachers outside under a tree. A group of students and teachers outside under a tree.
Image: Sixteen children attended Bonnyrigg Public School Preschool for Harmony Day, a celebration that brings together Australians from all different backgrounds and recognises diversity.

Children sampled a range of cultures at Bonnyrigg Public School Preschool during Harmony Week – without needing passports or to leave their classroom.

Preschool supervisor Assistant Principal Lyndall Hayton said the preschool in the multicultural community in south-western Sydney has 35 children aged three and four, including from Aboriginal, Cambodian, Fijian, Laotian, Samoan, Syrian, Tongan and Vietnamese backgrounds.

“I often say Harmony Day is the best day of the year; everybody is engaging and happy, everyone is proud of their culture and accepting of each other,” Mrs Hayton said.

“We’re rich with culture and diversity and that’s what we believe makes our public preschool great.

“We value and embrace all cultures and it's a place where everybody belongs.”

Sixteen children attended the preschool today on Harmony Day, a celebration that brings together Australians from all different backgrounds and recognises diversity, inclusiveness and respect and fosters a sense of belonging.

Schools, community groups, sporting clubs and workplaces often host Harmony Day events.

Early childhood education and care services including public preschools are also starting conversations about culture with little learners.

“It is teaching cultural diversity at a young age and that we are all humans, regardless of how we look, dress, eat or celebrate,” Mrs Hayton said.

A teacher breaks an egg for students. A teacher breaks an egg for students.
Image: Students participated in an experiment using eggs.

The children were invited to wear Harmony Day orange or traditional national dress and participated in group and play-based activities, including reading the story ‘We are different: we’re the same’, mapping the countries of their family background on a map and participating in an experiment using eggs.

“Each egg was a different colour, and it teaches children that we all look different on the outside but on the inside, we’re all the same,” Ms Hayton said.

The school’s Aboriginal education officer and community languages teacher visited the preschool to teach the children Darug and Vietnamese, and a parent shared her Fijian culture.

The school’s Aboriginal dance group performed and taught the children to dance.

Mrs Hayton said the preschool joined the primary school in cultural celebrations throughout the year, including a large multicultural day in Term 3 and NAIDOC Week.

“Any chance to embrace culture we do,” she said.

“We are a preschool to Year 6 school, so the preschool is involved in everything we possibly can have them involved in.

“It is really important for their sense of belonging and it supports a strong transition to school and building those friendships and relationships with teachers before they begin their kindergarten journey. It sets them up for success.”

The NSW Department of Education has 99 public preschools. Another 100 public preschools will be built before 2027.

A split photo of students outside on a mat and a little boy with a painted face. A split photo of students outside on a mat and a little boy with a painted face.
Image: Students at Woy Woy Public School's Guliyali Preschool made handprints, replicated Aboriginal symbols on stones and children did drawings of their families.

Woy Woy Public School, Guliyali Preschool

Woy Woy Public School’s Guliyali Preschool also welcomed guests on Harmony Day, including a parent who shared her Sri Lankan culture through sand mandalas and food, and Aboriginal Education Support Worker Patrick Pumpa who painted children's faces with ochre.

Other activities included learning the Torres Strait Islander song ‘Taba Naba’, making hand prints, replicating Aboriginal symbols on stones and children drawing their families.

Early childhood teacher Alix Leo said the preschool wanted to create a community where everyone felt valued and connected.

“Harmony Week is a chance for us to learn about the many cultures that make up our preschool community to further enhance the sense of belonging for our children,” Ms Leo said.

“We were lucky enough to have families share their time with us. We created sand art mandalas and tried south Indian treats; we danced to Brazilian music.

“We learned about Aboriginal symbols, enjoyed ochre painting and learned a traditional dance about flathead fish with permission from an Aboriginal Elder.”

Staff making hand prints on paper. Staff making hand prints on paper.
Image: Staff and students enjoyed making hand print art.

Ms Leo said Harmony Day was one of the preschool’s favourite events of the year and the children had relished participating in such a wide range of activities.

“The highlight of the day has been the engagement, curiosity and respect shown by our preschool children,” she said.

“Seeing the big smiles and focused faces has been magical.

“It's important for our children to feel connected to one another by recognising and appreciating the similarities that unite us and embracing our differences that make us special and unique.”

Students dressed in traditional costume. Students dressed in traditional costume.
Image: Students at Gulyangarri Preschool at Riverstone Public School dressed in traditional costume.

Riverstone Public School, Gulyangarri Preschool

Harmony Week builds on activities that Riverstone Public School Gulyangarri Preschool organises throughout the year to ensure a culturally safe environment for children.

Assistant principal Snezana Hill said these activities include regularly sharing stories about diversity, singing songs and learning words in different languages, dancing to music, playing games and dressing in clothes from different countries, cooking with food from around the world and adding children’s family photos to a map of their countries of origin.

“We embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in all aspects of our curriculum, implementing anti-bias approaches through our intentional selection of authentic, diverse resources including books, dolls and dress-ups,” Mrs Hill said.

“We continually have group discussions with the children on cultural diversity, acceptance, similarities and differences between people. We are all alike. We are different.

“Although we celebrate diversity every day at our preschool, Harmony Day is an opportunity to encourage community participation, foster inclusiveness, celebrate diversity, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.”

Students reading a book. Students reading a book.
Image: Students enjoy story time.
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