“Promote in all children a strong sense of who they are and their connectedness to others – a shared identity as Australians…” Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, page 23.

A strong sense of individual identity can be supported through activities that promote and advance collective identities; Australia Day is one of those days that acts as an important time for early childhood educators to embrace the local community and most importantly engage parents in the celebration.

The tradition of noticing 26 January began early in the nineteenth century with Sydney almanacs referring to First Landing Day or Foundation Day.  That was the day in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. Australia Day – Beginnings http://www.australiaday.org.au/australia-day/history/beginnings/

Australia has many unofficial national days when people gather, celebrating our identity or reflecting events of the past. Think of the AFL grand final; Clean Up Australia Day; Harmony Day; Mabo Day; Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day.

Increasingly, with a greater understanding of our history, there are certain days that are times of deep reflection and mourning. The anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations and Sorry Day are days when we pause and think about the events of the past, when we acknowledge how the events of the past shape who we are.

Throughout the history of Australia Day various sporting events have coincided with January 26. These have included boat regattas, bike races and Test and One Day cricket. Many families now celebrate Australia Day at the beach, swimming or in parks playing cricket. Asking children what their families do on days together is a good way to increase a child’s sense of place and identity. Including various sporting and team events at your centre in the lead up to Australia Day can be a continuance of these traditions.

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Guest Speakers: Discussing Australia Day with parents and members of the community can build important connections. Aboriginal Land Councils or AECG or IECG members can be approached through local primary schools to help with any events that your centre has planned.

More recently, Australia Day is also the day that the ‘Australian of the Year’ is announced. This award has acknowledged great Australians from a variety of fields. Raising awareness of the values that the Australia of the Year represents can lead to great conversations with parents and community about values. The value of individual worth, of everyone having a sense of identity and sense of belonging, as well the value of supporting each other are all important elements of Australia Day. Showing children how they value each other through play and reflection time can lead to great conversations about the importance of valuing individual and collective identities.

For the huge variety of cultures and nationalities that make up the Australian identity, Australia Day is a day to share our commonalities, promoting how our differences bring us together.

Remember that Australia Day can be a time of sorrow for some parts of the community. Discussing this with parents and educators can help build understanding and make this Australia Day one of celebration of inclusion and social cohesion.