Gunawirra is a preventative service

This was foremost in our minds as we and the directors of several partly and fully Aboriginal preschools from the community and DET section designed our work together in the Girrawheen Project.

Girrawheen:

  • Supporting the parents of preschoolers in the country.
  • Supporting our preschool directors
  • Supporting preschool staff

The Girrawheen Project is a multifaceted program specifically aimed at meeting the needs of teachers and other professional workers in the preschool setting. The directors in country preschools look after the whole family and indeed their own staff in a very special way.  It is often left to them to help the parents and refer them to appropriate sources. They sometimes feel isolated and even at times undervalued in their community for the very long hours of work and sacrifice they make to make a “go” of their centres. Gunawirra is constantly in admiration of the preschool directors it works with.

Because of the remoteness and realities of their communities, preschool directors are isolated and working with many needy Aboriginal young families.  Often these families lack a partner or a father for their children and the young Aboriginal  mother struggles with that loss heroically. So many of her relatives will also die young or move away. The protection of community so important to Aboriginal people may be missing for her.

The Girrawheen program uses a variety of strategies to support preschool directors and to help them improve their work. It also works to support the parents through six programs.

For the parents and children: 

  1. Strongman Project Inverell.(Taplin Fund) 
  2. Peak Hill  Woman’s Quilting Group at preschool (Taplin Fund) 
  3. Camps for families from Kempsey and Kootingal(Tom Davis Foundation Fund) 
  4. Breakfast Program for Gunnedah(Myers Fund) 
  5. Nutrition Programs at Kootingal and Tingha(Myers and Sisters of Charity Fund) 
  6. Sponsorship of aboriginal preschool children who would otherwise not go to preschool (Taplin Bequethed Fund)
  7. Art as a Method of Treating Early Childhood Trauma(The Healing Foundation of Australia)

For the teachers and directors.

  1. The Marte Meo program. There is a burgeoning concept of using the preschool centre as the one safe place to treat and heal early childhood trauma. This is a simple easy program in which the directors and their staff train.
  2. Booklet Let’s go to Preschool and DVD – I go to preschool now.
  3. Early Learning  Web Site Activities Project – Tracking the Milky way,

Some thirty  centres from Community and DET use Gunawirra services.