Bubup Wilam ("Children's Place") for Early Learning: Aboriginal Children and Family Centre

Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

This educational centre for children and parents takes a whole-of-community focus that is underpinned by self-determination and community control. This approach involves actively engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, stakeholders and community members in the design and delivery of Bubup Wilam's programs. The use of culturally appropriate materials to provide early learning opportunities and parental education is an effective way to support children's pathways through the education system and helps to build the capacity of communities to protect their children and enhance their wellbeing in the longer-term.

Delivered by

Bubup Wilam ("Children's Place") for Early Learning: A community-based organisation.

The information for this Promising Practice Proflie was provided through a telephone interview with the Acting Centre Manager of Bubup Wilam.

Service type

Bubup Wilam is a childcare and parenting service that focuses on early childhood development (particularly cultural education) of children and young people and their transitions though preschool, primary school and high school. The focus includes building relationships with community stakeholders as a way to build the capacity of the centre to deliver quality services for the benefit of Aboriginal children, their families and the local Aboriginal community.


Melbourne metropolitan regions in the local government municipalities of Whittlesea and Darebin.


The philosophy of Bubup Wilam is based on the principles of Aboriginal self-determination and community control. In this sense, the programs are family-centred and community-focused so that parents, extended family and the local Aboriginal community can collectively support their children. This means working in partnership with a range of organisations and Aboriginal community members to help deliver services. Both family and community engagement is therefore a key aspect of the program.

The Centre's Coordinators adopt an integrated service model to deliver a number of different programs for Aboriginal children, families and the local community. Primarily though, services are focused on early childhood, where the aim is to instil a strong sense of Aboriginal identity and self-esteem as a foundation for lifelong learning, health and wellbeing in the children.

The children engage in early childhood language development,literacy and maths and sciences programs using a play-based learning framework aimed at stimulating brain development and social and emotional development.


The Centre began with Commonwealth funding under the National Partnership of Indigenous Early Childhood Development, and the City of Whittlesea provided land for a building where services could be delivered. The program has minor, temporary philanthropic support for some projects, such as the transition program for children.


MOST promising aspect

The establishment of a program that is self-determined by the local Aboriginal community is a significant step in itself. Educating the Aboriginal community about how to provide the best possible education and wellbeing opportunities for their children is the most promising aspect of Bubup Wilam's approach.

Other promising aspects

The program is balanced to help the children begin bridging the gap between the instinctive, natural learning style of the pre-schooler to the more abstract, theoretical and literary learning that is required of the older child. This is facilitated by attaching a Transition Coordinator to each child/family to work with the family as their children move from preschool to primary school and into high school. This is supported through the relationships built with the primary and high schools that operate within the precinct to help facilitate the transition.

Evidence base and opportunities

Play-based learning is recognised as an effective means to assist families with children that have additional needs, and Bubup Wilam's early learning services provide a soft-entry gateway for families to access more intensive assistance and support where required. By recognising that extended family and community members are included in the care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, Bubup Wilam, as a "children's place" for early learning, can also facilitate additional parenting education for the whole family group.

Bubup Wilam provides a safe, non-threatening environment for children and parents/carers to engage with the programs. In combination with the provision of culturally appropriate activities, the services are more effective in engaging families and building their trust in the service. This trust is a key ingredient in Bubup Wilam's effectiveness in providing early learning opportunities for children and parenting education for families.

In taking a culturally appropriate approach to early learning and parental education that aims to strengthen individual and cultural identify, Bubup Wilam facilitates vital and ongoing friendships, social support and community connections to the whole community. This promotes confidence, self-motivation and respectful members of a community that serves to provide the practical skills necessary to help keep children safe and enhance their wellbeing for future generations.

Enlisting the support of local community organisations and other services also provides additional support to facilitate the transition of children and young people through the education system, which in turn leads to better outcomes for the children and for the local community.

Bubup Wilam is willing to share its experiences in establishing and implementing the program with other services that aim to provide similar "grassroots" services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups in other locations. This transparency in sharing information has been instrumental in gaining the support of the local Bubup Wilam community, and provides opportunities for other programs to learn how to deliver positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Bubup Wilam was founded after local Aboriginal community members identified the need for a community service hub in the City of Whittlesea, as the closest Aboriginal service hub was in the suburb of Fitzroy, a 45-minute drive away. The demand for such a service was also supported by the fact that the City of Whittlesea was emerging as one of the fastest population growth areas in Victoria for Aboriginal people. These community members formed a steering committee and explored options to develop a service hub where the local Aboriginal community could come together and spend time to engage with services and with each other.

Bubup Wilam's programs work alongside and intertwine with each other in order to develop and build on Aboriginal identity, being and belonging. The focus is on building strong family and community connections, including extended family and friends, and community members are actively encouraged to share the space and contribute to the programs.

Cultural practices and materials

The program expects to set the benchmark for Aboriginal early learning by:

  • building strong relationships among children, families and staff that facilitate trust, mutual respect and understandings of other people's ways of being and learning;
  • building strong individual identity that fosters confidence, self-motivation and respectful members of a community;
  • building a strong Bubup Wilam community that comes from many different places to gather on Wurundjeri land to share their knowledge and stories; and,
  • building a community of learners by developing literacy and numeracy, knowledge about the world, science, and the environment.

The principal foundation of culture is reflected in the range of activities provided for the children who attend the Centre. These include:

  • campfire, Aboriginal storytelling and singing activities with program staff and other Aboriginal adults;
  • providing a range of activity areas to choose from, including art tables, home corner and book corner - all with a focus on Aboriginal art and literature;
  • environmental education, such as using traditional, natural and recycled materials for art and craft activities, and learning how to grow vegetables to improve nutrition and dietary habits;
  • low adult to child ratios (1 adult for every 1-4 children) that allows children to settle into the program in their own time;
  • using maps to show children where they originate and who their mobs are; and,
  • teaching children a sense of belonging to the community through group interactions with other Aboriginal children and adults through cultural experiences that build a strong sense of identity.


Evaluation status

As part of the National Partnerships Agreement for Indigenous Early Childhood Development, Bubup Wilam is currently being evaluated by URBIS (an interdisciplinary consulting firm that offers services in planning, design, property, social planning, economics and research) and will continue up until the end of 2014. Stage One of this evaluation has been completed.


Demonstrated outcomes

In 2009 there were six to eight Aboriginal children engaged in early childhood services across the City of Whittlesea. There are now more than 70, with 60 of them attending Bubup Wilam. This demonstrates the program's effectiveness in getting families to the Centre to engage in its services. In addition, thirteen children recently graduated from the kinder program as part of their transition to primary school. This is a big achievement for the children, their families, and for the community.

Other evidence

Bupub Wilam was recognised in two prestigious award schemes in 2012:

In the Kidsafe 2012 National Playspace Design Awards (which recognise excellence and innovation in providing safe, creative playspaces for kids across Australia) Bubup Wilam took out the 'Children's Services' section with the judges commenting that:

  • "Strong references to the local indigenous community in this multi-purpose playspace reflect a commitment to cultural recognition and understanding."
  • "The use of open-ended, natural materials was commended."
  • "This playspace offers leadership to others engaged in journeys of reconciliation with Indigenous communities."

Bubup Wilam was also Highly Commended in the 2012 Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Early Years Awards. The judges commented that:

  • "Bubup Wilam for Early Learning provides greater access to services for Aboriginal families and their children, offering long day care, kindergarten and childcare services, and also accommodates Elders and a women’s group in a community focused hub."
  • "The Centre has the support of all levels of government, with the Board of Directors having been the main drivers of the development of the facility."
  • "17 early childhood workers are now employed, including 8 Aboriginal educators."
  • "Parents have access to a Maternal and Child Health nurse, various health professionals and family support services."
  • "The importance of family is clearly recognised by the centre, with children able to move between rooms, playing with siblings, cousins, adults and staff."
  • "Programs focus on building self-esteem, cultural identity, creative educational experiences and transitioning children to school - strong, proud and ‘deadly’."
  • "Early assessments have shown vulnerable and traumatised children are now showing themselves to be trusting, happy and engaged."

See City of Whittlesea

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