Last month we were fortunate to be able to spend a morning with a new local 'bush and ocean' playgroup that was visiting Lot 2 in the Painkalac Valley. We were joined by Janice Carpenter.
The glorious morning highlighted the vigorously growing new plants, and the winter water in the billabong. An initial food stop was important for the children, and gave time for the adults to discuss how the Wadawurrung farmed this area e.g. with large areas of Murnong (Yam Daisy). Unfortunately, early farming practices by white settlers disturbed many traces of their homes, farming and thriving livelihoods by their river.
The children enjoyed running down the green hill, paddling with gumboots in the swampy patches, and then running through the developing indigenous vegetation that is replacing the former massed weeds. Not far away, two Cattle Egret were finding plenty to eat in the soft soil without the aid of farm animals. A number of ducks were in the water, a Kookaburra posed on a post, and raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos flew overhead. Mick (Michael Loughnan), the owner, took time off from his replanting work to talk animatedly with the children. Of most interest to them was a ‘run’ made by a Swamp Rat or, what Mick called, a Native Guinea-pig. One of the children was most excited to find another new ‘run.’
A quote from the parent who opened the playgroup: ‘as a group of families we're very keen to learn as much as possible about Wadawurrung people's knowledge of their country, and from ANGAIR members who are happy to share what they know with eager nature loving little learners two to five years of age. We feel that in our changing climate, giving our children as many opportunities as possible to really connect with, appreciate and learn about the living world that surrounds them is so beautiful, important, and delightful!’
Ellinor Campbell and Pru Gell