By Anna Velez
To celebrate NAIDOC Week, the children at Gowrie OSHC, Erskineville had an incursion visit from David of the Koomurri Aboriginal Group. This visit gave the children an opportunity to learn about the culture and practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through storytelling, singing, dancing and art. David uses traditional dance to explore and discover his connection to his family history and Aboriginal heritage.
David started by teaching the children some words in his dialect and connected it with common objects and routines that children can relate to doing everyday like preparing or cooking food. This slowly progressed to giving the children a beat and teaching them some actions and dance moves. David was pleasantly surprised that the children still remembered the dances that his brother had taught the children from the previous week when they celebrated NAIDOC week with the school. They showed off the dances that they had learned and were quite happy to keep dancing with David.
There was also a lot of interesting stories that the children were keen to hear about. David showed the children how his people would traditionally fish in shallow water by standing on one foot and using a spear. The children then had very insightful questions about the Aboriginal people’s way of life, which David explained was very connected to nature and the earth. He explained that they used mud, leaves, trees, fruit and other natural materials as tools, food and even medicine. The children asked a lot of questions on how things were made and what they were all used for. He showed the children some hand woven baskets that women would make to store food and other items around the house.
The older children were impressed by the detail in the weaving technique and asked how the baskets would bend and get its shape. David pointed out to them how certain strands need to be pulled tightly to gain its unique shape and that women in their community were very fast at getting these made. He also showed them more tools and artifacts and explained that these objects can vary depending on what tribe you are a part of. He played a few notes on his didgeridoo and dispelled the myth that women were not allowed to use this musical instrument as he believes that in most communities across the country (excluding some communities in Queensland), women are able to play the didgeridoo.
Daivd then whirled around a bull-roarer, which is another aboriginal musical instrument but could also be used as a long distance communication device in some communities. He gave examples of different plants that were used as medicine and then tested the children’s thinking skills when he asked them about a substance that was created by an insect. Max L. was quick to answer that it was honey – his wit earned him a bull-roarer that he could keep for himself.
The children were curious about the ceremonial markings and painting on David’s body. They talked about traditional clothing and the body paint. He explained that all the lines drawn on the body symbolise something different. He explained that he thoughtfully painted his body to in honour of his uncle, with the hand-prints on his legs representing himself. Most of the children were keen on getting their faces painted. David again explained that the symbols he was to paint on their faces meant different things; that the symbols painted for girls were different to the symbols painted for boys.
Giving the children opportunities to celebrate cultures and learn that there are many different ways of life helps them to appreciate diversity. They become more connected to their world because they get to ask questions that support their understanding of the things they see around them. They also develop a sense of identity and belonging in the community and respect the identity of others.