National Reconciliation Week in PLAY UP
Last week was National Reconciliation Week and here at the Museum of Democracy we marked the occasion with a celebration of the work of the first Aboriginal Senator Neville Bonner.
In PLAY UP, the Museum’s early learning space, we thought carefully about ways that we could engage a very young audience with concepts of reconciliation.
To meet the needs of this small but mighty audience, we designed a three part activity:
1. Children were given an opportunity to engage with items from the Neville Bonner collection
We were lucky enough to have the heritage team come and show the children some of the items that former Senator Bonner used during his time in Old Parliament House. Children were shown his pillow, wallet – which included a photograph of Bonner with his wife - and a Boomerang made by his son that he famously threw in the Senate garden. This activity also gave the children an introduction to heritage and museum practice. They were all given a pair of gloves to wear and then allowed to handle prop versions of the objects. This helped them to understand the significance of these objects and some of the methods museums use to protect them.
2. Badge making
The idea behind this activity was to create something that would open conversations between parents and children about reconciliation and why it is important. Children were invited to decorate a plain badge template with pencils or by paper collage in the colours from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags. Once they had finished colouring their template they were given the opportunity to choose words to stick onto their badge in order to create their own message for National Reconciliation Week. The words available aligned with the aims of reconciliation. This activity was designed to facilitate multiple levels of engagement for different age groups.
The badge-making idea was inspired by a badge that was a part of the Bonner collection for the One People of Australia League (OPAL). The badge is currently on loan so unfortunately we couldn’t display that object, however we were also able to relate the activity to an old National Reconciliation Week badge in the Art Is a Weapon exhibit.
3. Morning tea
The morning tea event was suggested by Reconciliation Australia as a way to allow participants to stop, reflect and take notice of the importance reconciliation plays in their own lives. This was also a way for PLAY UP to join in an activity that was happening nationally in many locations.
Throughout the week we have also had a beautiful playlist running in the space with songs by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians and about reconciliation. Reconciliation Australia also provided information sheets for parents to take home to help them facilitate conversations with their children about this important topic.
The event was a real success with around 45 children and parents participating. It was also a great way to collaborate with Reconciliation Australia, with their staff attending to join in the fun making their own badges and chatting to the children and parents.