Growing up strong immersed in culture

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Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Family Services and Community Planning unit is unapologetically proactive in closing the education gap, particularly when it comes to families with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and young children.

The Shire has an ongoing relationship with the Aboriginal Gathering Place, Willum Warrain, to co-facilitate the culturally appropriate Koori Kids Bush playgroup held every Wednesday from 10am-noon, excluding school holidays. Exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children up to five years old, this playgroup provides a natural learning environment with weekly activities that aim to connect families with their culture in a safe space. It’s run by Carla Lauch and Kerry Fortuyn.

The unit teams work closely with other agencies to develop holistic approaches to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are receiving information that encourages and enables them to enrol their children in the Early Start to Kindergarten (ESK) program. Working with Peninsula Health Aboriginal Early Start to Life, Frankston City Council, Koori Education Support officers and the Shire’s Maternal and Child Health team and a specialist Aboriginal MCH outreach worker, the unit aims to foster relationships while providing an opportunity to support families in accessing other programs and services in their area.

Adopting culturally safe practices has led to a large increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children attending playgroup and a significant uptake in Kindergarten Central registrations. Proactive strategies are implemented to assist new families in accessing two years of funded kindergarten by identifying those new registrations and offering the ESK program. Assistance is also provided to ensure the second year of ESK is implemented.

If you’d like to find out more about Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander early learning, go

to mornpen.vic.gov.au or willumwarrain.org.au/bush-play-group/ for more information. Or give Willum Warrain a call on 5979 1391. You’ll find it at 10c Pound Rd, Hastings.