Childcare Kids Told Land Stolen from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

Toddlers and preschoolers in some childcare centres are being taught that Australia was stolen from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in ceremonies branded as “indoctrination’’.  More than 7000 schools and daycare centres have a formal “acknowledgement of country’’ in place, which can include children singing or reciting that the land belonged to Indigenous people. At SDN Children’s Services Bluebell in the ACT, kindy kids are taught about “stolen land’’ as they recite an Acknowledgement of Country each morning. “The preschool children are used to acknowledging Country, and know they gather on Ngunnawal land, the place of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples,’’ the centre states on its website. “The foundation for this learning begins when the children enter the centre as infants. “Now older, preschoolers participate in enquiry-based learning – the daily ritual of acknowledging Country is built upon with explicit teaching about stolen land.’’

The SDN Childcare Centre is among 7097 schools and daycare centres that Reconciliation Australia has registered for Welcome to Country ceremonies, or that have Acknowledgement of Country statements displayed in classrooms or recited during school assemblies or morning greetings. After some supermarkets dumped the sale of Australia Day merchandise this year, sensitivities over the January 26 date – which marks the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 – are causing some daycare centres to shy away from celebrations. A leading provider of childcare resources, Aussie Childcare Network, has compiled a calendar of events that lists January 26 as “Yabun, celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultures, Invasion Day, Survival Day, Australia Day”. The network suggests that centres could commemorate Australia Day by flying the Aboriginal flag at half-mast, observing a moment of silence, or including an Acknowledgement of Country in the morning, or even celebrating on a different date altogether.

NSW Libertarian Party MP John Ruddick said children were being “indoctrinated to feel ashamed of their country’’. “Every nation has a national day to reflect on what’s good about their homeland,” he said. “Seems to be only in Australia we have this ever-escalating culture war and now we’re doing all we can to indoctrinate infants to be ashamed of their country.’’ Indigenous leader Warren Mundine – who campaigned against the Indigenous voice to parliament in last year’s referendum – said childcare centres should not be caught up in “culture wars’’. “Don’t they realise the largest group of Australians want to celebrate Australia,’’ he said. “The elite minority need to stop attacking Australia and Australians.’’ Indigenous Liberal Party senator Kerryanne Liddle said, “Australia Day is a day to celebrate for all Australians’’. She said that changing the day “was not going to make a difference to the lives of Indigenous people’’. “I’m very frustrated with the ongoing conversation around these things, when we have appalling domestic and family violence rates, with Indigenous Australians disproportionately represented,’’ she said.

“Focus on improving the best possible services, and practical things. That’s the way to be inclusive and ensure all Indigenous people receive the best possible service and treatment.’’ Liddle said. The childcare regulator requires centres to “embed’’ First Nations perspectives in teaching and activities. Its official curriculum for childcare centres says students should be aware of cultural events including Easter, Harmony Day, NAIDOC (National Aborigines’ and Islanders’ Day), and Sorry Business of Indigenous mourning. It makes no mention of Australia Day. Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page said daycare providers “need to be mindful of the different connotations (Australia Day) has for First Nations families’’. “We’ve stopped short of providing too much direction,’’ she said. “It’s the date that’s controversial.’’ Australian Childcare Alliance vice-president Nesha Hutchinson said centres can acknowledge Australia Day in different ways. “Some centres celebrate it, some don’t’’ she said. “It’s reflective of the culture of the families you’ve got in your centre.’’

Ms. Hutchinson said that in her Sydney centre, celebrate Australia Day with a “green and gold day’’. “We talk about what it means to be Australian,’’ she said. “We’re celebrating not the Britishness of it, but the mateship of it. “Ninety per cent of the parents were born overseas, so they’re very excited about being Australian, so we’ll talk to the children about what does it mean to be an Aussie, and where did they come from.’’ Ms. Hutchinson said other centres might be aware that Australia Day is “sensitive’’ for their families, and “will embrace First Nations culture’’. Australia’s biggest childcare chain, Goodstart Early Learning, said it did not instruct or guide individual centres on the commemoration of Australia Day. “We don’t instruct them on how to commemorate any day,’’ she said. “Centres make their own decisions due to the fact they know their communities best.’’

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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