Australian Aboriginal children talking culture: what does ‘seeing’ Country and the ‘child spirit’ mean for health educators?
Sport, Education and Society
The purpose of this paper, is to invite health educators to see children as Country–to listen to, learn from and see the child spirit often not observed in academia. We do this by asking, ‘What can we as academics and adults learn from Australian Aboriginal children’s talk about culture?’ To do this, we examine photos taken by Aboriginal children on what culture means to them. We also draw on interview data of the children speaking about their chosen photos. The data reported on in this paper is drawn from a multi-community (co-created) pre-test/post-test feasibility study (ACTRN12619001224112) of the ‘Strong Culture, Healthy Lifestyles’ afterschool cultural activity programme held on Yuin Country. In focusing on the children’s spirit, perspectives, talk and photos about the place of culture in their lives, we aim to look, listen, and see Country [Harrison, M. D., & McConchie, P. (2009). My people’s dreaming: An Aboriginal Elder speaks on life, land, spirit and forgiveness. Finch Publishing; McKnight, A. (2017). Singing up Country in academia: Teacher education academics and preservice teachers’ experience with Yuin Country [PhD thesis]., University of Wollongong.]. In observing the photographs, it seems that care and connection are important dimensions to the place of culture in the lives of the children. For some of the children, there is a sense of pride and wonder in what they already know about the importance of family; what they learnt from the programme led by their own community members, the mentors; and the re-triggering of learning through Country. This demonstrates the power of learning/knowing/living/talking about/engaging with culture and Country through cultural programs such as the ‘Strong Culture, Healthy Lifestyle programme’. It also demonstrates the importance of nourishing the curiosity of spirit in/with the children, through their (and your own) cultural journey with culture and Country.
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NSW Ministry of Health