3 June 2021
For National Reconciliation Week 2021, our Kindergarten children donned their hats and shoes and set out on a Bibbulmun adventure. We decided a walk to Albany might be a bit much to begin with (though anyone with a four-year-old knows they would have given it a crack!) Instead, we decided to bring the experience to our centre's yard.
Our educators, taking turns lugging a pack and poles, set off from the classroom door with 20 eager walkers in tow. Laminated trail markers led our way. The Waugal beckoned us through grassy fields and mulchy forests. It took us clambering over huge rocks and making daring leaps into the valleys below. We didn't rest there long. The Waugal was coaxing us to the heights of our wooden fort to enjoy panoramic views rivalling the old fire tower on Mt. Wells. We even teetered along narrow logs and garden boarders to avoid dropping into the lava below (some artistic license was taken regarding the perils of the Track...)
We weren't here for an idle stroll though; there was learning to do! Our adventure had us bouncing like a Yonga (kangaroo), slithering like a Waugal (snake), and swimming like a Djiljit (fish). Through our play we discovered these animals held different names to different groups of people. This might seem like a small detail, but it plants a seed that will grow with our young learners. After all, it's not just the names of animals that change between people; narratives change too. Narratives of who we are, of how we conserve our incredible landscapes, and how we see and care for one another. It’s such a delight to hear our children using the Noongar language before their own as they call out, "I found another Waugal!"
All this hopping and clambering was hard work - for us adults, at least - so we decided to make camp. We were in the nick of time, too. The sound of rain began thundering out of the Bluetooth speaker and we all ran for cover under the wooden climber. An old curtain became our tent while we enjoyed a quiet moment together. But the children's enthusiasm meant we didn't camp for long. They had spotted another Waugal marker. In no time we were crawling under old logs and hopping across steppingstones to ford running rivers.
This has been a wonderful experience to share with our Kindy class, both for them and for me. I often reflect on how incredible - and improbable - the Bibbulmun Track is. Its origins seem to me so happenstance. Its continued existence is no foregone conclusion. For the Bibbulmun to persevere it needs ongoing appreciation and understanding. Appreciation is the easy bit— each of us discovers that just by setting foot on the trail! But appreciation alone is not enough. To protect the trail requires understanding and understanding is inseparable from the aims of National Reconciliation Week. The countries that the Bibbulmun passes through were cared for and valued by Noongar cultures for thousands of years. Their understanding of the land and human beings place among it remains just as vital for keeping the Track healthy and accessible today. I have every hope and confidence that our young walkers, hopping joyfully around like a Yonga at present, will be among the people who help carry that knowledge, and this spectacular Track, forward far into the future.
By David Delaney, Kindergarten Teacher at Edgewater Goodstart