By Hayley Goodrick on 23 Jun, 2024

As a proud Gangalidda woman, NAIDOC Week is a cherished time for me to reflect, celebrate, and honour the incredible legacy and vibrant cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year’s theme, "Keep the Fire Burning: Blak, Loud, and Proud," is a powerful reminder of the resilience, pride, and ongoing cultural vitality within our communities. For early learning educators, this theme offers a wonderful opportunity to embed these values in young hearts and minds, fostering respect and appreciation from the earliest stages of life.

Understanding the theme

"Keep the Fire Burning" symbolises the enduring spirit and rich traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

  • The fire represents our cultural heritage and deep connection to Country—alive, warm, and vital.
  • "Blak," a reclaimed spelling of Black, emphasises pride in our identity.
  • "Loud and Proud" calls for the celebration of our culture openly and unapologetically.

In early education, it’s about teaching children the importance of these values and encouraging them to appreciate and respect our diverse cultures.

Learning experiences to keep the fire burning

Storytelling sessions

Storytelling is a cornerstone of our culture. Sharing Dreamtime stories like "Tiddalik the Frog" or "The Rainbow Serpent" can captivate children and introduce important cultural lessons. Use visual aids like storybooks or felt pieces to enhance engagement. Additionally, introduce books by Aboriginal authors like "Welcome to Country" by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy or "Somebody's Land" by Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing to enrich their understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture.

Exploring fire in culture

Fire holds deep cultural significance in Aboriginal traditions.

  • Create an experience where children learn about the role of fire using a symbolic "fire" made of red, orange, and yellow paper or cloth.

  • Introduce books such as "Looking After Country with Fire: Aboriginal Burning Knowledge with Uncle Kuu" by Victor Steffensen to provide further insight into the traditional knowledge and practices of fire in Aboriginal culture.
  • Discuss its importance in traditional cooking, ceremonies, and "cultural burning" practices that care for the land.

In the video below we hear from Victor Steffensen, who works with a group called Firesticks. Victor talks about fire management techniques that have been practiced by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years in Australia, and how they could save Australia's landscape from catastrophic bushfire seasons.  

Art and craft activities

Art is a powerful medium for cultural expression. Encourage children to be inspired by Aboriginal art and create their own unique pieces. Use Aboriginal art as a starting point for inspiration, explaining that only Aboriginal people can create Aboriginal art. Non-Indigenous children can be inspired by these works and create their own versions, but it's crucial to explain the significance and cultural respect involved.

When sharing artwork from Indigenous artists with children, it's important for educators to review their sourcing methods to ensure they are being ethical by supporting artists fairly and compensating them appropriately for their work. Provide materials like paper, paint, and crayons for children to express their creativity while appreciating the beauty and meaning of Aboriginal art.

Music and dance

Explore traditional Aboriginal music with the children. Introduce them to beautiful examples such as the NGAMA CD by Sharron 'Mirii' Bell and Look Learn Sign Dance by Trish and Noel Butler. These resources offer an authentic and respectful way to experience the richness of Aboriginal music. Play these tracks and discuss the significance of music in Aboriginal culture, how it tells stories, and connects people to the land and each other.

Nature walks, environmental education, and cooking traditional recipes

Our culture has a deep connection with the land.

  • Share knowledge about bush tucker and native plants used for food and medicine. Extend this learning by cooking simple traditional recipes like damper or bush tomato chutney. This hands-on activity not only stimulates their senses but also deepens their connection to and understanding of Aboriginal culture and the natural environment.

  • Organise nature walks where children learn about local flora and fauna and the significance of the environment in Aboriginal culture.

The photo below shows children from CELA member Forbes Preschool heading out on a nature walk. 

Cultural awareness workshops

Invite Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander elders or community members to speak to the children. Their first hand stories and experiences can provide invaluable insights and foster a deeper understanding and respect for our culture. These sessions can include demonstrations of traditional practices like weaving or storytelling.


Tips for Connecting with Local Elders and Communities

  • Approach your Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) or Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) to connect with Elders. Remember, Elders have numerous commitments, so be respectful of their time and open to flexible engagement options, including online content.

  • Building respectful partnerships with First Nations communities involves reciprocity. Participate in local First Nations events and show genuine interest in the cultures and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Incorporating Indigenous perspectives daily

Integrate Aboriginal culture throughout your learning environments and daily practices. Include books, artefacts, maps, and Aboriginal art and textiles that celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as part of your regular setup. Make these elements a seamless part of your learning environments, ensuring that the rich cultural heritage is always visible and appreciated. This approach helps children understand that Indigenous perspectives are a valuable and integral part of everyday learning and life.


I encourage everyone to get involved, listen, learn, and take pride in our nation’s diversity. By doing so, we can build a future where Indigenous cultures are respected and valued by all.

Let's make NAIDOC Week 2024 a time of true celebration, learning, and respect. It’s an opportunity to honour the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to a bright future for all Australians. NAIDOC Week is a chance to instil in our children a deep respect and appreciation for the cultures and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. By embracing the theme "Keep the Fire Burning: Blak, Loud, and Proud," we can create meaningful learning experiences that honour and celebrate our rich heritage.

How will you celebrate NAIDOC Week with the children at your service? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments!


You can follow Hayley via Instagram or Facebook


CELA professional development related to this topic



Further reading on this topic: 

Amplify!: An ethical approach to exploring Aboriginal art in ECEC by Deborah Hoger

Amplify! How Highgate ELC built their knowledge of local Aboriginal culture with artist Reverend Glenn Loughrey by Darren Halim

Amplify! How Kootingal Preschool organised a community day to celebrate NAIDOC Week with Jess Rankins

Amplify! Avoiding the trap of cultural tokenism by Deborah Hoger


About Hayley

Hayley is a proud Gangalidda woman and the owner of Djalgala. Djalgala provides children and educators with a variety of culturally safe educational opportunities that empower all to work together for a brighter, shared future. Hayley is passionate about empowering children and educators through Aboriginal culture with traditional ceremonies, interactive education, and immersive experiences. 



Val Hume
Posted on 26 Jun, 2024
This was a fantastic, and extremely helpful article. One of the most helpful and practical that I've ever read, so thank you so much. I am planning to have a fire pit with the children in my FDC service to mark the week. I aim to discuss the importance of fire to Aboriginal culture and help to create a sense of appreciation for fire. Thankfully I have each of the books that you have suggested, so will definitely be adding extra focus to those. My aim this week is to try and source some local Indigenous foods that we could incorporate into our cooking. We are still working on establishing connections within the community and have much hope that this will grow over time.
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