A Kempsey Pre-School has been recognised by the state for its outstanding contribution to Aboriginal education at an award ceremony in Sydney.
Staff and board members from Dalaigur Pre-School in West Kempsey have been recognised by the New South Wales Department of Education, receiving an award for Outstanding Early Education and Care Service at the The 18th Annual Nanga Mai Awards.
The ceremony took place at Darling Harbour in Sydney on Monday, November 27 to celebrate the outstanding achievements of Aboriginal students, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal teachers, Aboriginal community members and schools across a range of areas.
Debbie Swanson, Director of Dalaigur and Scribbly Gum Pre-Schools, says the award highlights the ongoing commitment the school's staff have towards providing culturally appropriate education to local children for over 50 years.
"Our staff and board members are so proud to have all the hard work and commitment that they put into the local children in our community recognised by the Department of Education," said Ms Swanson.
"We love the job we do and are proud to keep the Dunghutti culture as the heart of our curriculum."
Ms Swanson says the work the school does is challenging but rewarding.
"We've been throwing our heart and soul into our preschool and to be recognised for the amazing work we all do here is really gratifying," she said.
Dalaigur Preschool is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation on Dunghutti land.
It educates about 85 children over three days each week and has 14 educators.
About 95 per cent of the children and 60 per cent of the educators are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
History of the school
"There were a few aunties who 58 years ago got together and wanted a place for their kids to go and learn and be safe so they created Dalaigur over a cup of tea," Ms Swanson said.
"We've now got the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those aunties coming through, so it's a beautiful legacy.
"It's a big responsibility and a beautiful connection knowing we're such a trusted and safe organisation for our community's children."
"For the kids we want to empower them, especially around their identity and sense of worth, that they can go and do whatever they want to do when they leave us and hit the world," she said.
Ms Swanson said the service weaves the Dunghutti culture into all its programs and interactions.
Elders Uncle John Kelly and Aunty Vicki Taylor regularly share their knowledge with the children as cultural facilitator and language educator respectively.
The service receives funding through the department's Ninganah No More language program, which supports Aunty Vicki to host language lessons with the service's children three days a week, as well as visit other local services.
"We don't have a cultural program as such, it's so embedded and organic within our service... it's a natural part of what we do and who we are," Ms Swanson said.
"For some families they've have missed out on their culture themselves and some are learning the language and cultural practices through us and through their kids which is really special... it's nice we can help support the families in their own journey as well."
The preschool also works with early intervention services to deliver the Aboriginal Therapy Project, where allied health professionals provide therapy, as well as train and mentor Dalaigur educators and staff to implement the therapy program throughout the year.
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