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New program in Adelaide keeps Aboriginal kids connected to culture


Violet Buckskin, founder of Winda Creations, with an artwork entitled ‘Meadow’s Children’.
 
BY ANTHONY CASTLE

 

A new community program has been connecting Aboriginal children to language and culture in the suburbs north of Adelaide. Owned and operated by Winda Creations, the initiative came about due to a foster mother’s concern, and a space was made available at Riverside Salvos in Gawler.

 

“Sam Sands is a foster carer of an Indigenous young person and has been part of the parents’ groups that meet at Riverside Salvos,” explains Darren Dwyer, Riverside Corps Officer. “We have families with children that have Indigenous backgrounds. Sam saw the need, and that’s how it came about; a mum desperate to make sure her adopted son understood his background and heritage in more than a token way.”

 

Engaging with culture

The program connects Aboriginal children to experiences of bush play, house building, arts and crafts, and bush cooking. The bush school also provides storytelling from elders and ongoing carer support. The program is called Minya Windas, which means Little Owls in Narungga, and crosses over to Kaurna. 


Major Darren Dwyer says Riverside Corps is called to be a part of reconciliation.

“We’ve just allowed them to use the grounds and buildings,” Darren explains. “We want to sponsor and partner and be available, share our resources with them. Scripture says God is reconciling the world, and we’re called to be a part of that reconciliation.”

 

Minya Windas is now in its second term, offered to families and carers of Aboriginal children in the wider Gawler area. The program builds up knowledge of Aboriginal culture but also offers a program for younger Aboriginal children in care.

 

“I am a non-Aboriginal foster carer with an Aboriginal child in my care,” explains Sam Sands. “Knowing the desperate need to keep him connected to culture, I was looking for something to attend that wasn’t just a one-off event. I found Violet Buckskin, who runs Winda creations. I nagged her, and finally she agreed to meet with me. The program went from there.”

 

Violet, the founder of Winda Creations, is an Indigenous artist who works at the highest level of state engagement to recognise, preserve, and celebrate Indigenous culture. Minya Creations is her organisation of cultural consultants, working with others to create fit-for-purpose programs, workshops and projects.


The Winda Creations logo.

“When Sam approached my business, I was a bit reluctant,” says Violet. “She chased me for six months, but when I heard her, I said, ‘Let’s do this’. I wrote the program. The Salvos has been a big player in giving us space, to make it our own, and we work together on projects.”

 

Risks to children in care

An inquiry into the South Australian Government’s removal of Aboriginal children launched last yeardelivered its preliminary report recently, comparing the predicted level of removal of Aboriginal children now to that of the Stolen Generation.

 

Indigenous children are 10.5 times more likely to be removed by the state and in out-of-home care than their non-Indigenous peers, putting their connection to their own culture at risk.

 

“It means a lifelong impact getting to kids this early,” Violet says. “We’re embedding multiple languages, so they don’t lose tongue while being brought up by white people. They get to immerse in culture, take it home and implement it. They’re doing homework for the next session, understanding art, kinship systems. We’ve made ourselves a little community.”

 

As of last year, there were over 22,000 Indigenous children in care. Research shows that disconnection from people and place can be significant risk factors for Aboriginal young people, increasing likelihood of future incarceration, even suicide.

 

“Sam didn’t want to see her kids dead at 15,” Violet says. “This is the only program I’ve seen that’s helping. It comes from our heart, not from money. This is the best form of reconciliation, carers and Aboriginal knowledge holders coming together. We need to work together.”

 

The Minya Windas program is looking to expand, now with funding from the Department for Child Protection. The program has established a Bucker Tucker garden at the Riverside Gawler Salvos site, where children can learn to plant and grow.

 

“I know those statistics,” Sam says. “I know the risks for Aboriginal children in care, and that is not going to happen to my child. I am going to make sure I am giving him every opportunity to know his culture. It made my day when Darren said ‘yes’. It’s not just about this group, but how something like this can affect all of the children in care. Let’s stop the incarceration, let’s stop the suicide. We can work together.”


 

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Riverside Corps provides spaces for the parents’ group to run the Minya Windas program.

 

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