The tranquil surrounds of Saltwater Reserve provided the setting for a festive gathering of dance, language, and culture when more than 250 preschoolers converged for the NAIDOC celebration on Thursday, September 15.
Taree and District Preschool was joined by Old Bar Community Preschool, Bulahdelah Preschool, Wingham Preschool, Flying Fox Mobile Preschool, and Girrawong Preschool for a morning of entertainment and cultural awareness aimed towards reconciliation.
The day commenced with a Welcome to Country from Uncle Russell Saunders OAM, as well as a welcome from Uncle Will Paulson, who has been part of the organising committee. The event provided a valuable learning experience for the children as they explored Aboriginal culture at Saltwater, a place that is an important meeting place for the Biripi people.
This is a really important thing to reach kids at this early age to teach them about the cultural significance of the land- Uncle Russell Saunders
"This is a really important thing to reach kids at this early age, to teach them about the cultural significance of the land," Uncle Russell said.
"These kids learn language faster than you or me, we can teach these kids Biripi language quite easily, and we're doing that now, we're sharing that language, teaching it in schools now, even at preschools. These little kids they're amazing, they just take it in. The language and the cultural significance of country, of what it means to indigenous people."
Also present were special guests MidCoast Council mayor, Claire Pontin, along with the many elders, who were on hand to watch presentations of music and dance provided by students from Taree High School, Chatham High and Old Bar Public School.
Additionally, the children engaged in art and craft activities with local Aboriginal artists, stories by MidCoast Libraries, dance from the Chatham High Dance Group and Aboriginal language (Gathang) with Benn Stewart and students from Taree High School.
It's been years in the making. We've all wanted to bring the community preschools together to hold an event united.- Taree and District Preschool director, Kylie Jones
The event was originally planned for 2021 but was postponed due to COVID.
For Taree and District Preschool director, Kylie Jones, the day has been a long time coming.
"It's been years in the making. We've all wanted to bring the community preschools together to hold an event united. Also, a lot of the time we do it on preschool grounds, but we wanted to do it on sacred land out here at Saltwater," Kylie said.
"The significance of the land we're standing on today, what this event signifies, and looking at reconciliation for our First Nations people, so that's our goal."
Organisers expressed their thanks to Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre for proving all the children with gift bags, along with Bunnings Taree and Bunnings Forster for donating, cooking and preparing sausage sandwiches for all the children and educators.
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