A Message to Bubup Wilam

On leaving Bubup Wilam
March 2015

 

IMG_0533 copyTeaching and learning at Bubup Wilam 2009 – 2015

I was going to sit down and write this before I did anything else, but I went into the garden instead.

For me, gardening is a kind of meditation. I recall Jeannie’s words – ‘Just let your mind go wherever it wants to, don’t fight it’.

Now I am ready. I have pulled out some weeds, raked over some dirt, and planted in some herbs.

In 2009 I started working at Bubup Wilam when it was a one room kindergarten in Nebel Street, Lalor.

I had left teaching ten years before and didn’t expect to go back to it.

I had loved being a teacher and I missed the day-to-day emotional and intellectual buzz that I got from being with babies to six year old children.

I jumped at the chance, just as I was turning 64, to return to it.

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Our Place – Bubup Wilam, Nebel Street, Lalor. 2010

When I started teaching at Bubup Wilam, I believed my educational philosophy and way of teaching would fit well with Bubup Wilam’s vision and aims.

Now I know how much I still had to learn about teaching, about people, and about being a non-Aboriginal person working in an Aboriginal community.

What challenged me the most was the realisation that I still had a lot to learn about myself. 

It was a steep learning curve, often uncomfortable, sometimes distressing.

Every day we were confronted with the effects of on-going generational trauma suffered by Aboriginal people as a result of colonisation, dispossession of land and culture, and the forced removal of children from families – the Stolen Generations.

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Our Place = Bubup Wilam, Main Street, Thomastown, 2010

THANK YOU…

… all of you, my colleagues who have become my friends, and from whom I have learned so much.

Here I want to single out a few, and what I say to them, applies to you all

Trish, Dianne, Jedda, Lisa – the strong Gunditjamara, Gunnai/Kurnai, Mutthi Mutthi, Yorta Yorta women – that I met when I first started at Bubup Wilam in 2009, at Nebel Street

You welcomed me into the Bubup Wilam family.

You have been my teachers.

You have openly and honestly shared your life stories with me.

You have helped me begin building my own understanding of what it means to be  Aboriginal, and living in Australia today, with a sidelined 60,000 year heritage and culture.

And to realise what it means to me to be non-Aboriginal in the same country.

You have been my role models, and helped me to broaden my own understanding of true social justice.

You have introduced me to Aboriginal ways of thinking and living, and to Aboriginal English, and to your unique style of humour.

You are rebuilding the parts of your lives that have been broken through the effects of historical events.

You are healing yourselves, studying, reconnecting with long-lost family, and raising and creating a new generation of proud and deadly kids, with strong connections to Community, Country and Culture.

We are growing and learning together.

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By chance I turned up at Bubup Wilam 5 years ago.

I am leaving the building.

I can forget the entry code and how to lock up.

I can kiss goodbye to rosters.

I look forward to walking with you as far as I can.


Bubup Wilam

gets into your bones
and lives on in your HEART and soul
HEART
Honest
Ethical
Accountable
Respectful
Trusting 
&
Trustworthy

All images © Bubup Wilam for Early Learning Inc.

 

Bubup Wilam for Early Learning

Bubup Wilam

Bubup Wilam is a self-determining Aboriginal Child and Family Centre managed by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal children, families, and Community. It provides access to an integrated range of services and programs, including: early intervention and prevention programs, early years education, and health and wellbeing services.

I began teaching at Bubup Wilam in 2009 when it was a stand-alone kindergarten in Lalor, one suburb north of Thomastown.  In 2012, the Centre opened at its current site in Thomastown, and between January 2012 and March 2015 I worked there as the Pedagogical Leader.

Bubup Wilam – Purpose

In partnership with families
to nurture
strong proud and deadly kids
in a culturally rich and supportive
educational environment.

Bubup Wilam means ‘Children’s Place’ in Woi Wurrung language. The Centre is situated on the Wurundjeri land of the Kulin Nation, in Thomastown, in Melbourne’s north. It has become a Meeting Place for  Aboriginal people who have settled in Melbourne from different parts of Australia. 

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Families from many mobs/clans come together at Bubup Wilam

Bubup Wilam – Vision

Children who are proud
and have
a strong Aboriginal identity
as their foundation for
lifelong learning, health and wellbeing.

Bubup Wilam – Philosophy

‘Community Control is defined as the Aboriginal local Community having control of issues that directly affect their community, meaning that Aboriginal people must determine and control the pace, shape and manner of change and decision making at all levels. This reflects the right of Aboriginal people to self-determination in a meaningful and effective way.’ National Aboriginal Health Strategy (1989)

Bubup Wilam meaning Children’s Place in the Woi Wurrung language seeks to underpin and strengthen (our) vision through the service’s philosophy of

Instilling and strengthening
children’s strong sense of
Aboriginal identity and
personal self-esteem as
their foundation for lifelong
learning,
health and
wellbeing. 

This equates to children, with the support of their parents and extended family,

Taking a lead responsibility in
owning and developing
their learning,
playspace,
interactions, and
engagement with others
in a 
confident and supported way.

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I was a non-Aboriginal professional educator working within a self-determining  Aboriginal Community. Every day for the five years that I worked there, my beliefs, and ways of being, my knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal history and culture, my educational philosophy and ways of teaching, were challenged. I have never stopped learning, rethinking, revisiting, and searching for ways, as a non-Aboriginal woman, to walk in step with the Aboriginal Community.

Following the announcement by the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, that the Federal government had Allocated $50 million of taxpayer money on a new monument celebrating Captain Cook’s arrival in Australia, I wrote this response.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that such incidents (throwing paint on statues of CC) are part of “a deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it”. Is he serious? 

Spending $50 million on a ‘Captain Cook Memorial is a “deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign” in the hands of the incumbent government which is setting, and has set the history agenda for over 230 years. 

That $50m would go a long way towards ‘memorials’ to teach all Australians the history of our land in the years prior to, and since 1788. This history is being written, painted, danced and sung, by Aboriginal people, who are still living with the effects of colonisation – telling how First Nations people lived here for 60,000 years, and have survived the consequences of invasion, destruction of the environment, massacres, and the terrible effect on whole families and clans, of the stolen generations. 

This government is setting its agenda for a culture war. That agenda must be challenged

 Sharing Aboriginal Voices is the place on Packing for the Journey for me to share stories of our past and current history from an Aboriginal perspective.                             

Janet McLean 

 

 

 

My Brother – Teacher Notes

‘When a gentle creature sets out to search for a lost brother we are taken on an ethereal journey across land and sea to strange, beautiful and faraway places. To fantastic, floating cities, and mediaeval towns full of dark alleyways and winding staircases – to vast open grasslands and eerie, silent forests – and eventually to a place of timeless beauty and light. My Brother is a metaphorical picture storybook for older children that looks at loss and grief from a sibling’s perspective.’

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TEACHER NOTES
by Janet McLean 

My Brother
by Dee, Oliver, and Tiffany Huxley


WRITING / ILLUSTRATING / DESIGN STYLE     
My Brother has been created by Dee Huxley, with her son Oliver, who created the visual characters, and her daughter Tiffany, who designed the book. Together, they drew on a heart-rending experience to create a book in which the words and pictures tell a moving, symbolic story of loss, and grief, and of the gradual steps taken towards the hope of renewal. Dee Huxley says,

 This book came about because of the loss of a loved one in tragic circumstances, & our world changed forever. It is both a tribute & a release. A tribute to a beautiful, empathetic soul, who touched so many lives, young & old, & who will be loved & missed forever. A release, albeit sorrowful, to be able to make this book for him, & us, & others like us, & a hope that he is somewhere beautiful & safe now. The main character, a metaphorical gentle creature, represents the emotional journey of loss, disbelief, grief, but also a journey of hope.”

The reader is led gently into the story through the title page with a soft black and white drawing of a pair of carelessly discarded boots; and the dedication page with a simple inscription and a drawing of a single tree. On the next two pages Tiffany sets up a layout that will be the pattern for most of the book. She has used various design techniques that help establish the pace and mood of the story. The text sits, like a stanza of poetry, on the stark white left-hand page. The text is spare and understated, but every word and line, and the placement of text on the page, adds to the deep meaning of the story – beginning with a simple statement:‘I miss my brother’. The space that is left between this line and the next, creates a catch-of-breath pause, before: ‘I’m so l o s t without him’. The tiny word ‘so’ combined with the word ‘l o s t’, with a space between each letter, heightens the sense of anguish.

On the facing right-hand page a single illustration is enclosed within a white border. In contrast to the pared down, but poignant, text, the illustration is complex and layered with meaning. Graphite and watercolour have been used for the illustrations in this book, although the watercolour is not introduced until the last three double pages.

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On this page:

  • The softness and sharpness of the moonlit shadows in the blacks/whites/greys of the graphite drawing evoke deep sorrow.
  • The reader’s eye is first drawn to the creature seated at a table. This character represents the journey that must be taken through grief and loss, to a place o
    f release and hope)
  • The creature is placed in the centre of the picture – drooped head, slumped shoulders, downturned eyes, a piece of pie uneaten, on the table.
  • Around the room are real and metaphorical images that relate to the lost Brother, and to the intense sorrow of the main character
    • Light from a full moon shines through the window where a duck (in boots) stands keeping a watchful eye a friend.
    • A flock of dark birds gather near the ceiling, symbolising dejection and loss.
    • Two hats and two coats hang sadly on the wall.
    • Two pairs of boots wait on the floor.
    • On the table sits one cup, untouched, another is still on a hook.
    • One dark bird nestles in a coat pocket.
    • Another bird is anchored in the bottom left-hand corner investigating the rest of the pie, a passing allusion to the child’s nursery rhyme, Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds.

On the wall is a memory of happier times – a picture of the siblings together. Continue reading