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Meet the preschoolers fighting to get the Aboriginal Flag flown on the Harbour Bridge

Kinderling News & Features

You're never too young to make a difference - a lesson the kids at Kelly’s Place Children’s Centre are learning very early on.

Ben Thatcher (ie. Benny Time Music) who works at the early childhood centre, recently shared a post on his Instagram, sharing that these kids were on a special mission to get the Aboriginal Flag flown on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 365 days of the year - not sporadically, like it is at the moment.

To get their petition in front of legislative council, they need 10,000 physical signatures.

So, how did it all begin?

Turns out this wasn't the kids' first foray into political advocacy. A few years ago, the kids expressed concern about the rubbish in the park across from their centre - on Cammeraygal land. They spent months working their community to lobby the local council, and because of their efforts, the council installed a bin to encourage respect for the land.

"They went through the process of learning who to speak to - and they achieved what they wanted," says Benny. "They were incredibly empowered by their abilities."

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Ok. This is a long story which I’m going to condense into a few sentences with little cohesion and many a gap in narrative. Last year a boy at my early childhood centre questioned why the Aboriginal Flag wasn’t on the Harbour Bridge. We researched and found it wasn’t permanent. The children seemed a little perplexed and enquired why and if they could change it. Through a long journey we came across Cheree Toka who is running a campaign to get 10,000 physical signatures to take the concern to legislative council. We explained what this meant and the kids wanted to help. They wanted to get signatures. So they essentially went door knocking on their own volition and got over 300 signatures. But this kinda wasn’t enough and they came to us educators and asked how they could get more people to sign, more precisely, how do we get other daycare centers involved. We discussed this over a long period and they decided to set up a Facebook page so they could reach more centre. So they did #helpkellyskidsflytheflag to date they have over 50 childcare centers, primary schools and universities Australia wide joining in. And have now amassed over 1600 signatures. Which we as educators are completely flawed by. The kids? They seem to think that’s just what happens. Only 13 more years till these kids can vote. Phew. Please visit Cheree’s site and see if you can help out and give your kids heaps more responsibility. They’re up for it. #proudteachermoment #earlychildhoodmusic #earlychildhoodeducation @kinderlingradio @littlerockersradio @triplejhack

A post shared by Bennytimemusic (@bennytimemusic) on

After that, their confidence was contagious ...

"Last year a boy at my early childhood centre questioned why the Aboriginal Flag wasn’t on the Harbour Bridge," Benny shared with his followers. "We researched and found it wasn’t permanent. The children seemed a little perplexed."

As one kid shared, "It's their land. They were here first... they need to feel welcomed!"

Over the following months, the kids - with the help of their educators - managed to link up with Cheree Toka, a woman hoping to get 10,000 signatures to fly the Aboriginal Flag on the bridge all year round. They printed out petitions and started assisting Cheree's cause by collecting signatures of their own.

Over 1,600 signatures, and growing!

Through close friends and family, and some proactive door knocking, they managed to get 300 signatures - but this wasn't enough for the kids.

"We decided to set up a Facebook page so they could reach more peopel ... So they made #helpkellyskidsflytheflag. To date they have over 50 childcare centers, primary schools and universities Australia wide joining in. And have now amassed over 1600 signatures."

What's even nicer is that the 50 childcare centres involved have built their own community of the back of this.

"We've heard rumours that there's a preschool in Melbourne that started collecting signatures," says Benny. "Apprently one of the boys came back and said there's no flag on the Westgate Bridge - and now they want to petition for that too ... It's unreal! The kids at Kelly's have inspired another kid in another preschool in another state!"

"We as educators are completely floored"

When you combine the kids' collected signatures with Cheree's and other schools, they're starting to get close to the halfway mark. And if you'd like to show your support, Benny encourages everyone to get in touch with the centre (or with Cheree directly - just be wary that she needs physical signatures, not people signing her change.org petition).

If you'd like to add your signature to their cause, drop the centre a Facebook message on their Help Kelly's Kids Fly The Flag page. The centre reads out all the messages they get via Facebook to the kids, an activity which really consolidates that they are agents of change. Their centre will post out petitions for you to collect signatures on, and then send back to them to add to their tally.

"The kids have really started to understand the connection they have to the project. They're blown away by how people are perceiving them - that they're being an inspiration to people."

Once they have all the signatures, the next challenge will be getting them all to Canberra to present it. A hurdle Benny and his team are more than happy to cross when the time arises.

As Benny aptly sums it up: "Only 13 more years till these kids can vote. Phew."