Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory are gaining new insight into traditional practices like hunting, local medicines, ceremonies and language, thanks to Save the Children’s Play2Learn program, which is now being delivered remotely.
Many family groups from Wadeye in the NT have moved to remote sites across traditional homelands to meet new social-distancing and travel restrictions and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
To ensure children keep taking part in the vital early learning during this time, Save the Children has adapted its program by providing individual family groups with tablets for photos, songs and videos, as well as education kits with pencils, paper and games.
The program is being delivered by four local Aboriginal women who work for Save the Children and have returned to their homeland.
The women are all studying a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and helped modify how the program will be delivered, and what it will include.
Save the Children Northern Territory Director, Noelene Swanson, said the program adaptations meant that children were continuing to learn and take part despite the disruptions from the coronavirus.
“It’s fantastic that we are able to keep providing this vital service for Aboriginal families in the NT,” she said.
“The kids love the program and are really enjoying attending remotely. They are still able to take part in games and activities, but at the same time we have been able to adapt the program content to incorporate life on-country, such as by tasting bush tucker, building a hut from branches and leaves and going for a bush walk.
“While there is so much grim news around Coronavirus, this is a positive story showing how technology can support Indigenous Australian children connect to country, family and culture during a very difficult time.”
The adapted program is consistent with the Early Years Learning Framework and reflects the natural environment of the homelands. It includes activities such as going hunting, taking part in ceremonial life, talking about tradition medicines and valuing language skills.
Gwendaline Kolumboort works for Save the Children in Wadeye, and is delivering the Play2Learn program on country to the children in her family group.
She has been supporting the children’s fine motor development and hand-eye coordination through drawing with thin pencils, and has also incorporated rhymes and songs in the local language in the sessions.
“I want to thank Save the Children for helping me to teach the kids here so they can keep learning,” she said.
The Play2Learn program has also been adapted on Groote Eylandt which is in lockdown to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
There, Save the Children is using online platforms to post educational content about the program, and making weekly phone calls to families to continue engagement and support wellbeing.
The organisation is also preparing packs for families which include reading books, crayons, playdough and games, which are being delivered through community health clinics.
The Play2Learn program is Save the Children’s largest Early Childhood Care and Development programs in Australia and has been running for more than 30 years.
Run by trained early childhood staff, the program runs free playgrounds to help young children learn to play, socialise, establish routine and prepare for school.