A COLLABORATION between Boon Wurrung elder N’Arwee’t Professor Carolyn Briggs AM and Balnarring Pre-School has resulted in a third self-published book to honour and celebrate First Peoples culture.
The Time of Chaos was launched on Saturday 25 March at the Womin Djeka Balnarring Ngargee, a community-run family festival that honours and celebrates First Peoples cultures.
Professor Briggs has been working with teachers and children at the pre-school for almost 10 years, and in 2018 asked the children to illustrate her stories.
The following year the Bundjil Creation story was published, followed in 2020 by Barraeemal Story.
The Time of Chaos has taken three years to complete as the school navigated its own chaos during lockdowns and COVID restrictions.
The book contains images of the children interacting with the story and being with nature, as well as drawings students produced in response to the text.
The text contains Boon Wurrung words with a pictorial dictionary, and while it has been illustrated by young children, the content and relationships with the land provide learning for children and students of all ages and their teachers.
Pre-school lead teacher Karen Anderson said there were strong messages in The Time of Chaos story about climate change, the importance of caring for country and relationships with each other and the land.
The pre-school was joint winner of the 2021 Narragunnawali Award, which recognises outstanding reconciliation initiatives in schools and early learning centres.
The teaching team has organised six conferences to provide opportunities for teachers to learn with First Peoples as the teachers.
Anderson said the pre-school hoped to inspire other teachers to learn about First Peoples cultures and for them to have the skills and confidence to embed First Peoples perspectives into their programs.
She said the Ngargee (festival) came about through the community embracing learning about First Peoples cultures and history. She said It promoted cross cultural awareness in a “vibrant, family-friendly outdoor space” with a focus on community and shared through music, dance, language, art, conversations and first-hand experiences.
The festival was paid for through fundraising, grants and a volunteer contribution on the day.
Anderson said Briggs challenged the pre-school and wider community to view the relationships with First Peoples beyond reconciliation and develop mutual relationships based on reciprocity.
Briggs said the relationship with Balnarring Pre-School was built on four key values: learning, showing respect, celebrating life and honouring sacred ground.
“The Balnarring teaching team have learnt and continue to learn to listen deeply,” she said. “It is important to me that the bubups (children) learn about culture, as they are our future.”