Junee’s preschoolers are exploring the culture of the Riverina’s first peoples.
The eight-part lessons have come through a $5000 state grant which the preschool received in June, following the introduction of the Ningananh No More program.
“A lot of centres aren’t sure how to share Aboriginal culture with their students, but here they’re doing a good thing,” said Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler.
“While we share our culture, we relearn it.
“The more I talk my language, the more I remember it. Doing things like this keeps it alive.”
In his 12 years delivering the course across the Riverina, Mr Saddler has never been asked to do so in Junee.
“It’s incredibly important and exciting. The preschool isn’t just ticking boxes, they’re actually wanting to engage with our culture and our history and that’s great,” he said.
After spending several weeks with one of the preschool’s classes, on Tuesday Mr Saddler began the course with 22 students in the Mr McGregor’s Garden group.
The children had already absorbed his first lesson, delivered within minutes of arrival.
“With the other group, we saw the change straight away,” said preschool teacher Jane Murphy.
“They’re saying goodbye to each other at the end of the day using the language, drawing the symbols they’ve learnt, calling each other ‘mudyi’ [friend].”
At the beginning of each day, the students also recite an acknowledgement to country using the words learnt during their classes.
They are now working on memorising it for their Christmas concert on December 7.
“We’ve had a lot of positive reactions from the families,” said Ms Murphy.
“Parents are always coming in telling us their kids have been practicing the words they’ve learned at home.”
As the students bring their lessons home, it brings more parents into the lessons.
“There aren’t a whole lot of Wiradjuri people in Junee anymore, and those who are around tend to be pretty quiet,” said Mr Saddler.
“It works best when we can get the whole family involved. It builds the trust between us, helps us make connections and respect each other.”