building Bundjil's Nest


Balnarring Pre-school’s Bundjil Nest Project has soared skyward since winning the 2016 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Award for advancing pedagogy and practice. 

Inspired by the Kulin Nation’s eagle creator spirit, Bundjil Nest is introducing a new generation to Country, culture and care for the land by embedding First Peoples’ perspectives, learning and stories into its programs.

We caught up with project leader, Balnarring Pre-school’s Karen Anderson, on Bundjil Nest’s evolution over the past few years.


In case our readers missed your award win, can you give us a quick snapshot of The Bundjil Nest project?

The project brings together teachers working in a Balnarring community preschool, a private early learning centre, a government primary school and a Catholic school. We believe it’s important for all Australian children to learn about the oldest living culture in the world: it is their history. We hoped that by making First Peoples culture visible within our services, we would be supporting better outcomes for Aboriginal families within and beyond them, and for all children in our community.

The project allows us to offer more than 200 children learning opportunities and experiences through stories, songs, language and dance provided by local Indigenous artists, Elders, educational consultants and Community members.

Through our engagement with Boon Wurrung Elders, especially N’Arweet [Elder] Carolyn Briggs, we have used these opportunities to embed the Lore of Bundjil in our services. The lore centres on our responsibility to care for and respond ethically to the land and our children and has become part of our daily practice.

In 2016 we symbolised our understanding of the lore by creating a real-life Bundjil’s nest with the children in our services and the local community.


Bundjils Nest Balnarring Preschool

Bundjil's Nest today


In your award acceptance speech you outlined how you’d like the future of the project to look. How has the project evolved since then?

It has grown! We held a joint learning day in 2017 and that’s happening again this year in May. Another school has come on board, so two schools, the early learning centre, a kindergarten and a family day care service are all part of the project now. We’re up to 250 children on the one day!

In last year’s learning day we explored the story of Bundjil and his friends. The children learnt songs in language, performed contemporary and traditional dancing, completed an art project, and did storytelling where they acted out the characters in the story. They also took part in a smoking ceremony.

We created an eagle to fly over Bundjil’s nest by employing a local artist to work with the children in all five services to create their image of Bundjil. They then created a 3D image of Bundjil using balsa wood and other natural materials. Then they learnt how to burn symbols onto the wings. The eagle was unveiled at a community event in October.

We also ran a conference last year for teachers on the Mornington Peninsula, with purely Indigenous content. About 120 people attended so we’ll probably run that again this year.

We’ve continued to meet with the Elder to share information, and as part of the Festival, we held an event where an Elder came and spoke to the community.


How do you feel the HESTA award has supported the project’s development?

The HESTA award funds have been used in each stage of the project. The recognition helped us keep our momentum going and made us feel people believed the work was important and valuable. That has inspired us to think ‘what else can we do?’

We’ve run several workshops around the project, and when we explain to attendees that it has been recognised in [the HESTA] national awards program it gives us extra credibility.


What has been the most rewarding aspect of Bundjil Nest so far, for the project team and for the Balnarring community?

For the Bundjil Nest team, we’ve been privileged to develop a very strong relationship with the local Elders who are very supportive of what we’re doing.

The community has embraced the opportunity to learn; they’re excited and enthusiastic. Because of their response to the program we created and ran the Womin Djeka Balnarring Ngargee (‘celebration festival’) in March 2018. It featured music, cultural workshops, a wellbeing area, market stalls and food stalls.


know someone like Karen?

Health and community services is full of ordinary people doing extraordinary things — day in, day out — across Australia. That's why we came up with the HESTA Awards Program.

you might also like

Federal Budget 2024-25

With inflation and currently high interest rates continuing to hit household budgets, this year’s Federal Budget contained some important changes for super.

Read More

Prefer learning at your own pace?

Our online education tools are available right at your fingertips. Consider using the Money101 program which covers a wide range of topics, including planning for aged care.