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Kids and community explore cultural-focused kinder in Victoria's east

Jarred Cross -

First Nations kids aged 3-5 have arrived for a first look at their new school putting local Aboriginal culture in the classroom and the playground on Victoria's eastern coast.

Works at the new outdoor kinder in Bung Yarnda (Lake Tyres) are almost complete after the idea sparked following the closure of a local Kindergarten in recent years.

Daycare centres quickly took over to keep early learning operating.

Lake Tyers Aboriginal Children's Services chief executive Mikila Sharkie told National Indigenous Times the excited wait for doors to open at the brand new service finally ended this week.

Ms Sharkie said "we don't go overboard", but a focus has been placed on giving the kids opportunities to learn about culture - including language.

"It's a regular Victorian kindergarten with all the same early years framework in place," she said.

"We have a cultural coordinator position who sits across the whole organisation. And that is to ensure that every programme that we run in health and in early years has a cultural component that is appropriate."

Local Elders are involved with storytime, yarning circles, bush walks and artwork embedded into lesson plans.

Teacher Natalie Beveridge said the integration of Gunaikurnai culture and history has the community brimming and the locally-designed teaching will help connect the kids with Country as well as adjust to primary school structures.

"Having a fun, engaging and creative learning environment – outdoors and inside – is the perfect start for children's education journey," Ms Beveridge said.

Students will put the finishing touches on the school with their own handprints set to cover a rain serpent walkway at the front gate. (Image: Mikila Sharkie)

Local mum Nicole Morgan is almost as rapt as her son Ari.

"Ari absolutely can't wait to get back to kinder. The entire community is so excited to see our children develop their connection with culture and Country, while being able to play and explore their surrounds," she said.

"As a family, we're thrilled that Lake Tyers offers a culturally-led early learning kindergarten where the little ones can learn about their ancestors, the unique plants and animals - and be proud of who they are and where we live."

The kids are set to put the finishing touches on the school by covering a rainbow serpent path at the front gate with their handprints.

The development after contributions from the Indigenous Land and Sea Council and a $45,000 Commonwealth investment.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the Government meant is proud to help and looking forward to "underpin the preschool's early education program for the littlest First Nations learners, to thrive".

Senator for Victoria Jana Stewart said it's funding well spent.

"The Gunaikurnai lands are a beautiful part of our nation, with a long and rich history. It cannot be understated how critical outdoor learning and On-Country adventures will be to First Nations children along the south coast," she said.

The kinder is set to be in full operation later this month.

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