As we gear up for Australia Day 2018, your child might start asking “What is Invasion Day?” Australia Day is among the most difficult special events to properly explain to kids because our amazing country has a chequered history. We’ve prepared a few fun family activities to help kids understand why Australia Day is sometimes called Invasion Day.
Australia Day is an excellent opportunity to start family traditions around diversity, history and acknowledgement.
Read our special story on Australia Day from an Aboriginal Family
Explaining Invasion Day to kids
How do you explain a concept like Invasion Day to a three year old? Raising informed adults means helping kids understand age appropriate concepts as they grow. Your three year old doesn’t yet need to know about mass murder! Nor will your little one be able to understand the concept of pre-history. What you can do is to help your little one become aware that Australia wasn’t always as she sees it now.
Visit an Aboriginal Sacred Site
Little people have big imaginations and this is the best way to help explain Aboriginal history to your kids. In the lead up to Australia Day, take your child to visit a local Aboriginal Sacred Site. Educate yourself on the meaning, purpose and context of the site and then head out for a bush walk to view the special place. Ask your child to imagine what it would have been like to use the site. Middens, Bora Rings and other places where familiar activities took place are the best places to start. Get your child to imagine Original Australians having their dinner or having a party with their neighbours. These are very familiar concepts that can start your little one on the path towards being an empathetic adult.
Teach your child about the local people
Learn about the local people who once lived in your area. There’s a comprehensive map here to help you begin your research. Learn a little of their language and traditions and share those with your child. While Invasion Day is filled with complexities, the idea of original custodians of local land is a simple way to introduce these difficult ideas to a young child.
Acknowledgement of Country
Start your Australia Day 2018 with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land on which you live. While there is no set “script” for Acknowledgement of Country, the usual wording is:
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we
meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present.
This acknowledgement is a small gesture but one that your little one will hear repeated at most events throughout her childhood. Your Australia Day celebrations at home may be the first time she encounters this and it should help her connect some of the “big concepts” she’s trying to understand.
Learn the stories of Original Australians
For a three year old, making Aboriginal culture part of your Australia Day celebrations is the first step in raising a mindful adult. There are dozens of wonderful kids books about Aboriginal history and mythology. Even better, search your local libraries and council websites for opportunities to attend live story telling by a local! If local Australia Day activities include traditional dance displays, take your child to watch and help her to understand the story of the dance.
Should you attend an Australia Day protest march with kids?
Most capital cities will host an Australia Day protest or march to highlight the injustices suffered by Original Australians. These Australia Day events are usually peaceful and hosted by informative speakers. In the past, these have turned to riots and hosted clashes between protesters and members of the far right. If you’re worried about taking children to an event that could turn ugly, National Sorry Day events are hosted each year on May 26th and is a wonderful experience for young kids.
Make diversity part of the Australian conversation
When discussing Australia Day, talk about the positives of living in this wonderful country. It really is the most amazing place on earth. Seriously. Help your child take pride in our amazing landscape, climate, flora and fauna, lifestyle and be sure to include history and diversity in the conversation.
We Are Australian is a wonderful way to introduce an Australia Day / Invasion Day Anthem to your child’s understanding of history and diversity in our country. Create a tradition of tolerance, understanding and devotion to a diverse and welcoming Australia. It’s never too early to start!