Cultural activities are popular among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to mark National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.
In 2014-15, 70 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3-14 years participated in selected cultural activities in the last 12 months, according to the 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS)
“Participating in cultural activities is one of the many ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children learn about culture,” said Debbie Goodwin, Director of the ABS’ Centre of Excellence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics and Community Engagement.
“Of those who participated in selected cultural activities, fishing (76 per cent), making Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander arts and crafts (38 per cent), hunting (28 per cent) and performing Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander music, dance or theatre were the most popular types of cultural activities.”
The 2014-15 NATSISS also showed the importance of family members and in the learning and teaching of cultural activities. Of the children aged 3-14 years who participated in selected cultural activities, the majority (84 per cent) were taught these activities by an immediate family member or relative and/or at school (31 per cent).
Ms Goodwin said the survey showed that an important part of building connections to community, culture and family for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was spending time with community leaders and Elders.
“In 2014-15, just over a quarter (28 per cent) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (aged 3-14 years) spent at least one day a week with leaders or Elders in their community,” said Ms Goodwin. This was higher in remote areas (50 per cent) than non-remote areas (23 per cent).
“Children aged 3-14 years who spent at least one day a week with leaders or Elders in their community were more likely to identify with a clan, tribal or language group (67%) and be involved cultural events, ceremonies or organisations (88%) than those who never spent time with, or do not have leaders or Elders in their community.”
Professor Tom Calma AO, NATSISS Ambassador and Co-Chair of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, said investment in culture biased early years education is critically important.
“For example, the impact of investing into Australia’s First Languages goes well beyond the preservation of Language,” Professor Calma said.
“There is a strong correlation between Indigenous language acquisition and higher educational, employment and training outcomes and lower engagement with high risk and antisocial behaviours. Our Land Our Languages, 2012-13
“The social and emotional benefits are not only for individuals, but for families and communities through language acquisition and engagement. Such an investment strengthens communities, bridges cultural divides, fosters resilience, contributes to reconciliation, encourages literacy and puts First Language back into community members’ hands.”
August 4 is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day – a day dedicated to celebrating and learning about the importance of community, culture and family in the life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.