By CELA on 22 Jan, 2024

Bribie Island Community Kindergarten Director Narelle Dawson has worked for many years to emphasise the importance of and respect for Indigenous Australian culture in the kindergarten family and wider community. Her efforts have cultivated an awareness among children about the profound value of this country's story, its original inhabitants, wildlife, and plant life.

Initiatives include the Changing the Narrative event, held anually on 26th January, which is run jointly by Bribie Island Community Kindergarten, Pumicestone Indigenous Education and Employment Council (PIEEC) and Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association (BIEPA). All community members are invited to connect and share in “acknowledging the country where we are fortunate enough to live, work and play, and to celebrate the legacy of it's earliest inhabitants, the Joondoburri people, and to honour all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people on this commemoration day.”

This year’s event will include a Welcome to Country and speeches by local Elders, an art yarning circle, a smoking ceremony and sausage sizzle. 

“Bribie Kindy chooses to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, so we do not celebrate Australia on or around 26th of January,” says Narrelle. “As educators we are aware that Early Childhood Australia made a statement in 2018 advising that they too stand in solidarity with Reconciliation Australia and do not endorse the celebration of Australia on or around the 26th of January as it is disrespectful to our country's First Nations peoples. Our gathering on each and every January 26 is about building connections and relationships and enjoying the land, the sea and the sky that we are blessed to share in.”

Image via Bribie Island Community Kindergarten

“We feel it is imperative that we stand tall, stand fully committed and walk with and alongside First Nations peoples,” says Narrelle. “Even though we fear it is possible that ‘truth telling’ may be watered down when our little ones reach formal schooling, we are very confident many of them will also stand tall and steadfast. Especially the Aboriginal and Torres Strait jarjums that spend time here at Bribie Island Community Kindergarten. One example that stands out is when one of our non-Aboriginal children challenged a local school about land ownership locally and who actually are the traditional owners.”

Image from the 2023 Changing the Narrative event - view more photos via Facebook

Coming together on Joondoburri Walk

Changing the Narrative takes place on the Joondoburri Walk, a local cultural space that grew out of an action research project which was endorsed by Traditional Owner Aunty Leisha Krause in 2016. Following research of many of the surrounding plants and trees, permissions from other Traditional Owners were acquired through the legal process facilitated by Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Joondoburri Walk is situated on a small reserve behind the Bribie Island Community Kindergarten. The walk is open to the local community, and is designed to educate visitors about the ways of the Joondoburri people who lived on the island for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans, and to demonstrate how much can be learned from the natural environment. 

Visitors can discover how local Joondoburri people used the bush and were mindful to look after the natural trees and plants to ensure there was a plentiful supply for future generations. They have the opportunity to learn words in the Oonda language of the Joondoburri people from a sign that was commissioned as part of the project. 

Sites of interest are signposted with brief descriptions of their significance, and the area has been designed to accommodate wheelchairs and people with limited mobility. Also featured are examples of the renowned paintings of Daphne Kal-ma-Kuta Dux, great-granddaughter of Kal-ma-Kuta, who was recognised locally for her remarkable life and memorialised after her death in 1897 as the “last of the Joondoburri tribe”. The project was financially supported by the Department of Treaty, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (DATSIP) with an Indigenous Languages Grant. 

“We thought the project was almost complete,” recalls Narrelle. “But then we were encouraged to apply for a second Indigenous Languages Grant. After the second application was approved research began on a second sign that shared Kabi Kabi (Joondoburri people are of the Gubbi Gubbi Nation) words. 

“We approached Aunty Melinda Serico who designed the centre art piece of the new sign. As part of the grant approval, we also committed to publishing a book about the Joondoburri Walk. We very proudly worked with and alongside the Pumicestone Indigenous Education and Employment Council jarjums, and Jarjums attending the kindergarten to create the vision. We also included the voices of our local Elders.” 

Bribie Island Kindergarten children now participate in a weekly bush program with local Elder, Uncle Ron. Each week children choose whether they would like to experience a bush, beach or a combined program to explore their local beaches, mangroves and bushland. Children have learnt to identify and harvest native foods during these programs, which they take home to cook and share with their families

The kindergarten leadership team launched the publication of the beautiful Joondoburri Walk book to the community on January 26, 2023. The amazing wrap-around cover was designed by Nicole Gulwell, a First Nations former student of Bribie Island High School. 

Supportive voices

What others have to say about the Changing the Narrative event: 

January 26th and the lead up can be a difficult day for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many events held on January 26th, even in 2024, fail to recognise, acknowledge, include and celebrate the oldest living culture in the world. There exists in some places a blatant refusal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as being valued as Australian and denial of their place as Traditional Custodians and First Peoples of this country. It's very important for the Pumicestone Indigenous Education and Employment Council Inc to be a part of an inclusive event such as Changing the Narrative held at Yarun (Bribie Island). We include and centre our Traditional Custodians, Elders, jarjums & community in this event that is made possible because of wonderful partnerships with Bribie Island Community Kindergarten and Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association.
Kristine Ellis -  Pumicestone Indigenous Education and Employment Council  (PIEEC)

BIEPA's mission is to help life flourish on Bribie Island. Our members see a vital connection between sound and progressive conservation of our natural world, and the central leadership by and engagement with Aboriginal people. We believe climate justice and First Nations justice are inseparable. It is a privilege to be invited to stand with and walk alongside our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and our opportunity to encourage our whole community to support efforts to tell the truth and recognise the slights and injustice of history, as well as many which continue today. As president, I really appreciate this unique moment, when we can demonstrate real efforts towards reconciliation for a better future together.
Richard Ogden - Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association (BIEPA)


In April 2023, Bribie Island Community Kindergarten was re-awarded the Excellent rating for the third time by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), the highest rating a service can achieve under the National Quality Framework.

The service was recognised for its collaborative partnerships with professional, community or research organisations, commitment to children that respects, reflects and celebrates culture and diversity, including place of origin, and practice and environments that enhance children’s learning and growth.

Find out more via this ACECQA article titled Bribie Island Community Kindergarten re-awarded excellent rating 

Further reading relating to this topic: 

Amplify! Is there a respectful way to approach Australia Day? by Deborah Hoger

ECA - The Spoke Australia Day—it’s time to change by Catharine Hydon

ECA - A change of heart as well as date

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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