Karen Anderson, Balnarring Pre-School Educational Leader, and her team have been busy building on the momentum of Balnarring’s win at the HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards last October.
Balnarring Pre-School, on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, was recognised in the Advancing Pedagogy and Practice category for developing the ‘Bundjil Nest Project’ and wider educational program for children. This initiative acknowledges and embeds the beliefs and values of the First Peoples into the service’s practice and learning.
Development of the Bundjil Nest Project brought together three children’s services — a primary school, an early learning service and a pre-school — in the first local collaborative effort of its kind. In 2015, over 700 people from the local community participated in a ceremony to build ‘Bundjil’s Nest’ on the local beach.
As part of the ongoing education about First Peoples' culture, Balnarring Pre-School consults Boon Wurrung Elders and members from the local community to share stories, language, songs and dance with children, their families and teachers.
Karen shares that the project has resulted in children and their families having a greater understanding of the First Peoples' culture and a greater sense of inclusion amongst those in the wider community.
“The learnings from the Bundjil Nest Project have rippled out through the community, developing new relationships and collaborative partnerships both within our local community and beyond."
“The recognition for us — the project team — really inspires us to keep on going,” says Karen.
In the five months following Balnarring’s win, the team has run a second community ceremony at ‘Bundjil’s Nest’, which included a Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, and dance performance with the children. They have formed a festival committee, employed an artist to work with the children to create an art piece, and organised a combined day of learning involving 160 local children.
Karen explains that as a community-run pre-school, Balnarring relies on fundraising. The injection of the $10,000 development grant has been particularly vital for the longevity of the project.
"The award has meant that we’ve got a bit of breathing space to look for sponsors to help financially support the project.”
The pre-school has also successfully applied for other community grants since receiving the award and is hoping to secure ongoing sponsorship in the future.