Good vibrations

“Sometimes the children have difficulties understanding the length of times being talked about, or even getting their heads around a world before shops, cars, houses and streets.”
Laidley Kindergarten in South East Queensland has been running an innovative program for the last two years, immersing children in Indigenous culture following the involvement of indigenous community member and parent of a former student, Jason Troutman. Bedrock Journalist Michael Oliver speaks to Director Barbara Buchannan about the positive effects the program is having as it enters its third year.

The sessions run once a fortnight, in a block, and then rotate to the other group of children. Lessons start slowly, with Jason introducing himself. He makes sure that children are involving all their senses.

“When he first comes, he might just show them the Aboriginal flag. He lets them touch the flag. He plays the didgeridoo, on their feet even, just to let them know not to be frightened.

“Little kids have to learn hands-on rather than just being told. It is so much better for them to touch it.

“The children loved it so much we even had some go home, get a large piece of cardboard roll and make their own didgeridoo and play it. They are so excited then to show it to me and to Jason next time he comes in.”

Jason doesn’t talk about Indigenous culture in a static sense, or refer only to the past, but constantly explains to the kids about how his culture fits into today’s world.

“Jason talks about bush tucker, and eating kangaroo, and hunting them, but he also says ‘these days I go down to Woolies to get my kangaroo’.

“He makes kangaroo sausage rolls and brings them in for the kids to try. Last year he also made us prawns wrapped in paper bark, and it was just beautiful.

“He will explain to the kids that even though today we use foil, it didn’t exist in the past so paper bark was used.

The children of C&K Laidley Kindergarten have felt the vibrations of a didgeridoo on their feet, learnt the difficulties of dot painting and told stories of Australian animals thanks to the regular visits of Jason Troutman who comes and shares his knowledge of his culture with the children.

“We first approached Jason when his daughter was a student at the Kindy,” says Barbara.

“He came in with Jessica (his daughter) and said we should do something with the kids and it grew from there. He wants Kindy children to make up their own mind about Aboriginal people, because a lot of them have never met an Aboriginal person. And really, all they know is what their parents say.”

“Sometimes the children have difficulties understanding the length of times being talked about, or even getting their heads around a world before shops, cars, houses and streets.

“I had one other Aboriginal boy at the kindy and he would go home to his mother and say things like ‘why don’t we go out collecting bush tucker’, and she says ‘because we don’t have to'.

“They can’t even imagine that when Aboriginal people first came to Australia there were no houses and cars. They find that very difficult to understand. All you can do is keep repeating it and say that ‘if you didn’t have shops and houses and cars — this is what you would have to do’.”

The lessons with Jason also create awareness of Australia’s fauna and flora. With Jason’s guidance, each group creates, writes and illustrates a Dreamtime story about Australia’s unique animals. They then act out these stories with Jason as the story teller and the didgeridoo accompanying.

“We talk a lot about Australian animals, because a lot of our kids don’t know about them. They will talk to me about lions and tigers, but not about Australian animals. So we like to spend a lot of time on that.”

Barbara can see the positive effect this exposure is having on her children, expanding their horizons, and helping them to become more socially inclusive people.

“Each year we’ve been to National Aboriginal Islander Children’s Day in Ipswich — which is run by the Ipswich City Council. It involves group activities and artefacts, dancers and musicians. The kids are really comfortable because they have seen it all before.

“The children love Jason so much. He gets on their level, and he is so good at picking which ones are shy, or the boys who get upset when they can’t do something right the first time — like catch the boomerang — and then he spends extra time with them as well.

“Our kids go home and rave about Jason and call out on the street to him when they see him in the community. It might not be much, but for parents to see their children being so accepting and open, and other members of the community to see the same, is doing just that little bit more to promote acceptance and appreciation.”