Celebrating Indigenous Culture and Nature Play

It's NAIDOC Week, a time to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples - the original nature players!

One avid nature play family who understand and embrace the importance of their culture and community is Chantelle, Jovin and Eli. They are from the 'Undumbi' tribe originally from Caloundra, and are very proud of their Aboriginal heritage and culture, which has many ties to the nature play principles we try to instil in the community at Nature Play QLD.

From a fostering a connection to the environment, to a focus on independent and unstrucutred play, there is a lot we as a community can learn about parenting from Australia's Indigenous families.

Connection to Environment

We know that children who have a relationship with nature, are more inclined to become adults who are invested in protecting it (Louv, 2005), and this is something the Indigenous community do incredibly well.

Chantelle's children know the traditional homeland for their tribe, which ran along the coast from teh Pine Rivers to Noosa. Physical evidence still abounds in this region, including the Glass House Mountains, which holds very strong spiritual and cultural significance to the traditional owners.

Chantelle says that being outdoors and fostering this connection is a huge part of their lives, and that her eldest son Jovin is especially proud of his Aboriginal heritage.

A Collective Community

At Nature Play QLD we understand the importance of community, and the benefits it has on promoting nature play in neighbourhoods. Creating an environment where children feel safe to roam and explore their natural spaces helps them form relationships with other children, build independence, manage risk, lose themselves in the joy of play, and much more.

Australian Aboriginal culture places strong emphasis on community, and a "collectivist" kinship system. Children remain central to the life and culture of their communities, and raising children to be active participants in the community is seen as the collective responsibility of all members of the community, who each have a role to play in keeping children safe and happy (SNAICC, 2011; Yeo, 2003).

One beautiful term that encapsulates this community ethos, is "one community, many eyes", where children have a sense of belonging, and are known by a community of people who are all invested in protecting and preserving their wellbeing (Lohoar, Butera, & Kennedy, 2014). This approach to child rearing can also instill adults with more confidence to allow children to explore past their own fence lines.

As one mums said, "I'm not worried as I have a lot of relations around me. The families know each other and if one child walked out of the community, another member would see that and report that to the family. I pretty much let my children go out there and learn from experience" (Lohoar etal, 2014).

Independent Unstructured Play

'The importance of unstructured play is well understood by Aboriginal parents', whose are encouraged to explore the world around them (Lohoar etal, 2014).

One mum from Queensland put it well when she said: "We aren't always wrapping them in cotton wool, we let them go a bit, but you're controlling it … I've done it with my boys too, but what is it going to prove if you are sitting right there and they are swimming and you say, "Don't go there." I mean, what is it going to prove in the long run? You can't be right beside them when they are 18. They have to learn!" (Lohoar etal, 2014).

Educating the Non-Indigenous Community

'Non-Indigenous people sometimes misunderstand the positive aspects of traditional Aboriginal family life' (Lohoar etal, 2014), but this doesn't have to be the case. 94% of parents of school-aged children want them to have an understanding of Aboriginal people and their history. At the same time more than 80% of Australians feel that they know little or nothing about Aboriginal culture (Koori Mail 452). We can all benefit by educating ourselves further on Indigenous culture, and there are many ways this opportunity can be passed on to our children.

4 Great Ways To Educate Your Kids On Indigenous Culture

  1. Bring an expert into the classroom
  2. Read Indigenous books to your children
  3. Educate kids on the Indigenous tribe and langauge of their area
  4. Attend a local NAIDOC Week event


'Eco-tourism is helping the process', Koori Mail 452 p.45

Lohoar, S., Butera, N., & Kennedy, E. (2014). Strengths of Australian Aboriginal cultural practices in family life and child rearing. CFCA Paper No. 25

Louv, R. (2005) Last child in the woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill, NC : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care. (2011). Growing up our way: Practices matrix. Melbourne: SNAICC.

Yeo, S. S. (2003). Bonding and attachment of Australian Aboriginal children. Child Abuse Review, 12(3), 292-304.

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