When learning and play are one

When learning and play are one

“Back in the day when I was a child, they made learning fun, so you didn’t see it as anything different or new – it was just natural,” writes Ningali Lawford-Wolf in, Let’s combine classroom learning with learning on country for kids (Koori Mail, Edition 706, July 3, 2019, page 25).

“With my  grandfather we’d draw tracks in the sand so we could learn to identify different animals.  We were also taught about the seasons and when animals and foods were abundant.  I think for us indigenous kids, learning and play weren’t seen as different activities; they were both fun for us.”

Ningali is the 2019 National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Children’s Day Ambassador which is celebrated on August 4th (or thereabouts) each year.  This year’s theme for Children’s Day is ‘We Play, We Learn, We Belong’.

Writing this opinion piece, she recalls how: “A lot of indigenous kids would go to the bush and they would learn how to read footprints and how long they’d been there ….   I think learning on country and everyday learning in kindy for the early years needs to be combined.”

Munibung Hill Conservation Society would say that this kind of thinking could well apply to all children, not only children with an indigenous heritage.  And what a classroom Munibung Hill is – we say is, because she already exists, but is not seen through a teaching and learning lens.  But that is not how some teachers think – they would like Munibung Hill to be accessible for a whole range of teaching and learning activities from kindy to year 12.

“Belonging is a very big part of indigenous culture  … It’s part of our heritage. It’s part of our language  … Culture is a means of identity. It’s a means of having pride in yourself and your people, because culture is the basis of our family system, our kinship system … All indigenous kids should be proud that they’re part of a very anciet history, and a resilient one at that.”

Munibung Hill is geologically significant as well as being culturally significant within local Aboriginal history and yet she is for the most part off-limits when it comes to access for Aboriginal people.  Children of all cultural backgrounds need to know how this has come to be and why it remains so in spite of land classifications stating her importance dating back thousands of year, pre European settlement and pre Lake Macquarie coming into existence.  The idea of a makarrata at a national level needs to duplicated at all levels of government and in all spheres of society.

“Everyone in Australia should celebrate National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Children’s Day, because we need to start learning from each other.  Our future starts with our young children – to be able to walk in a world without racism, and to be able to extend a hand of unity to other people,” says Lawford-Wolf.

“We should celebrate that kids don’t see colour.”

For more than 30 years, National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Children’s Day has been celebrated by schools, kindergartens and communities across Australia.  For more information go to the link: NATSI Children’s Day  …. And for background on the Uluru Statement click on this link: A quick guide

Note: Ningali Lawford-Wolf is a stage and screen actress, known for her roles in Australian films including: Rabbit Proof Fence, Bran Nue Dae, and Last Cab to Darwin, for which she was nominated for the AACTA award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.