A new mobile playgroup in Strathalbyn is putting Aboriginal children on a journey to learning.

Run by Centacare, the Po:rlar Ka:ngkun Tainkuwalun (Children Laughing and Playing) program aims to prepare children aged 0 to 6 years for kindy and school by engaging them in fun learning activities and outdoor play.

Outreach, early intervention and one-on-one support is also provided to families experiencing challenges that may put children at risk of disengaging from early education.

“They might have health or housing difficulties, or other siblings might be struggling which brings pressure into the home and prevents the younger children from getting a good start,’’ Family Practitioner Lyall Willis said.

“It’s about engaging pre-school age kids with activities that are fun and culturally appropriate but also are stepping stones into further learning.

“The emphasis is on showing them that learning is actually a fun thing to do and, that by gaining knowledge, you gain some control over your life.

“We encourage parents to get involved too, so that they’re not isolated from their child’s learning but feel as though they have a say and a place in that journey, now and in the future.

The playgroup operates every Thursday from 10.30am out of the Red Hen rail car next to Stationmaster’s Gallery, South Tce, Strathalbyn.

On Monday, the playgroup travels to Meningie Area School, North Tce, Meningie, from 10am to 12pm, and to Raukkan, next to Moorundi,from 12.30 -1.30pm.

Nature play is nurtured through monthly bush and scrub playgroups in each region, such as Rocky Gully, Murray Bridge, and Bonney Reserve, Meningie.

“When you watch children engaging in a normal playgroup environment with toys, textas and crafts, you can make assumptions about who they are and their ability. But when you see them out in the scrub playing with the feathers and grasses and whatever else we might collect, a whole new character comes out.

“I’m blown away by their ability to be creative, initiate things themselves, take leadership and watch out for each other. There’s a real sense of adventure, energy, and interest, and a lot of questions and inquisitiveness.’’

Family Practitioner Rosslyn Richards said the program plays an especially important role for Aboriginal children in foster care because it keeps them connected to their culture. It also helps break down stigma and shame, felt by some young parents.

“We support them any way we can,’’ she said.

*Centacare has joined forces with the City of Murray Bridge to organise a school holiday fun day next Wednesday, April 19. There will be storytelling by Aboriginal elders, dot painting and more. For more information, phone Georgie Trevorrow 0437 799 841 or Rosslyn Richards and Natasha Sumner on 08 8215 6320.

*A family BBQ event will be held at Raukkan, next to Moorundi, on Monday, April 24, with games and activities for the whole family. For more information, please phone Rosslyn or Lyall at Centacare Murray Bridge 08 8215 6320.

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