A time to remember: Australia’s National Reconciliation Week
In preparation for Australias National Reconciliation Week (27th May- 3rd June 2012) I have introduced my current preschool group to this year’s theme, Let’s talk Recognition by initially inviting them to take a moment to think about the meaning of the word recognition and then encouraging some thoughtful discussion about ways we can acknowledge each other, how we can acknowledge and appreciate our families, our
history and our cultural backgrounds. By believing in the children’s ability to engage in such an important discussion, I was privileged to hear some children chat to their peers about times they have felt sorry for something they have done and as a result, have asked for forgiveness in the hope of reconciling differences.
Our initial discussions centered on acknowledging the traditional custodians of our local area, the Guringai people. Most children were notably intrigued and taken back with the fact that their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunties, uncles etc. were not the original owners of the land they fondly refer to as home. Understandably this can be a rather difficult concept for young children to grasp, particularly when we are so accustomed to the currency of lifestyle we have and the closest we get to uncovering historical facts with young children involves learning all about dinosaurs. Sounding familiar? Is this because we do not believe Australian history is important to share with young children? Do we believe they will not understand, or be interested in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and customs? Do we make these decisions on behalf of young children because we are ashamed of our past and cannot explain the whys behind our ancestor’s actions? Do we believe these facts are too heavy for young children?
Young children are all too aware of concepts such as: the consequences (emotionally, socially and unfortunately sometimes physically) of taking something from another without asking; respecting one another and our belongings whether we are friends or not and; respecting and preserving our identities by acknowledging that our differences are beautiful and should be celebrated.
My mantra is: Give young children the opportunity to decide what is manageable for them and trust that they are resilient enough and able to take on the good, the bad and the ugly of the world around them.
In addition to the above discussions, we also unpacked the meaning and significance behind the Aboriginal Flag. I feel it is important to state that none of these children were asked to join me on the carpet, they came out of their own interest and willingness to learn and share their thoughts about the composition and meaning behind the Aboriginal Flag.Many children prior to these discussions did not realize that flags have the potential, as do all images we view in picture books and signs etc, to send very specific and deliberate messages to inform or influence us.
YELLOW= The SUN. BLACK= The ABORIGINAL PEOPLE. RED= The EARTH.
A picture book that illustrates my point beautifully, regarding the power of images to portray very deliberate messages, and also recounts the events surrounding Australias First Settlement from Shaun Tan’s perspective is The Rabbits. You can view the entire story below.
The Rabbits- part 1
What emotions and thoughts did this story conjure for you? Would you introduce this story to young children? Why or why not?
Leave your comments below and enjoy National Reconciliation Week, no matter how you choose to celebrate it.