Aboriginal children flourish with support of Early Start program
After-school program provides Aboriginal students with skills for a healthy lifestyle.
A unique after-school program that encourages Aboriginal children to engage with Country and their culture and make healthy lifestyle choices is expanding into new communities.
Koori Kids Culture Club, kick started in September, is a result of two years of collaboration between researchers from Early Start, Early Start Engagement Centre Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, and the local Aboriginal community in the Shoalhaven.
“Koori Kids Culture Club has been in the pipeline for two years. Throughout that time, we’ve been engaging with the community, with elders, parents, and children, and holding focus groups to find out what the community needs,” said Dr Rebecca Stanley, Research Fellow at Early Start.
“Some of these communities have been through so much. This is a fun way, outside the classroom, that the kids can learn where they are from and learn about healthy behaviours through activities that represent their culture.”
11 year old Shaylah shares the impact of the program explaining, “Before I did it, I didn’t feel that comfy about being Aboriginal and then when I started the program I met people that were Aboriginal and then I felt more comfy about being Aboriginal”
The eight-week program was launched in Ulladulla, and will be increasing participation numbers and expanding into the Nowra & Culburra regions in 2017. It brings together a number of people and organisations from diverse disciplines to create positive experiences for the children and communities.
The programs positive impact on the children went beyond expectations, with the children expressing feelings of pride, happiness and confidence in sharing culture with friends.
10 year old Jason shares, “I didn’t know much about it (Aboriginal culture) and until I got to Koori Kids Club, I like know pretty much heaps now. It makes me feel proud of myself and teaching other people about our long lost culture, which is pretty cool.”
The cultural activities, which were chosen by the local Aboriginal community, promote physical activity, healthy eating, and a sense of belonging and self-esteem. The program fosters the power of culture and connection with Country to encourage healthy lifestyle behaviours.
Each week, Aboriginal children spend two afternoons learning about their culture through activities such as bushwalking, Aboriginal games, art and crafts, discovering bush tucker and bush medicine, as well as learning the local language and making a traditional canoe.
The program is run by local respected members of the community, who hold cultural knowledge. Dr Stanley said their support has been integral to both the launch and the ongoing success of Koori Kids Culture Club.
This is the first program of its kind that using a connection to culture as the focal point for improving children’s healthy lifestyle behaviours and building confidence in who they are.