Culture at kinder

Sarah Luke

INDIGENOUS artist Cassie Leatham recently paid a visit to Queen Street Kindergarten in Maffra, to help its pupils celebrate National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day a bit early.

The visit involved building a bamboo and calico reconciliation hut — decorated with cultural symbols drawn by the children — checking out indigenous artefacts like clapping sticks and boomerangs, crushing and smelling lemon myrtle leaves and a special storytime.

The kinder holds a special place in Ms Leatham’s heart, as it’s where her own grandson, Flynn Donohue, attends.

She has also struck up a friendship with the kinder’s leading educator Kristy Amos, after gifting her a woven healing mat — on the day, it was used by the children as the floor of the hut.

She now volunteers at the kinder every so often, donating materials, sharing knowledge and creating works with the children.

Ms Leatham also used the opportunity to present the kinder with a special project she had been working on — a yarning chair.

The chair is adorned with painted symbols and stories, including native

animals and trees, the Macalister River, children sitting around a waterhole, and even parents taking their children to kinder to sit around the yarning chair.

With the aim to truly embrace indigenous culture in the kinder, Ms Amos brought the ordinary chair to Ms Leatham with the hope it could be transformed into a special story time and sharing chair.

Ms Leatham said the chair was the product of indigenous and non-indigenous people working together to bring reconciliation and break down barriers, as future generations came together to learn and share Koorie culture.

“I think there should be more artists doing it — not for the money, but just to share the knowledge,” Ms Leatham said.

“They engage so well — it’s so beautiful, I just love it.”