Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.


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Murawina (meaning black woman) [1] started as a breakfast program in Hollis Park, Newtown, in 1972. A group of Aboriginal mothers saw the need to provide meals to Aboriginal children who were struggling at school on empty stomachs. [2] The original program had the support of the Wayside Chapel. When winter arrived, the women were allowed the use of an old factory building in Chippendale. [3]

[media]By 1973, Murawina had developed into a childcare centre, providing not only child-minding services, but also assistance with housing, referrals to other agencies and a meeting place for Aboriginal women. In 1974, the preschool was able to purchase land in Eveleigh Street in Redfern, with a grant from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Despite government support, it took four years for construction of a new childcare centre to begin, owing to the long development application process and some community protests against the opening of an Aboriginal childcare centre. [4]

Murawina has contributed significantly to the inner-city Aboriginal community by addressing issues specific to Aboriginal children. Nutrition and monitoring of health were priorities.

The centre was also considered a bridge between the Aboriginal home and the mainstream education system. The main philosophy of Murawina was to instil a sense of pride in Aboriginal children of their heritage, so that they would be well equipped to deal with potential racism in wider society. Aboriginal kinship terms were used in place of formal titles for teachers, and Indigenous culture was integrated into learning programs.

The centre was also involved in the development of the Murawina Readers, a series of learning materials that reflected the experiences of Aboriginal children. These readers featured large photographs of local children and were later developed for regional Aboriginal communities. [5]

The Murawina Child Care Centre in Redfern has inspired similar preschools all over the country, the first at Mt Druitt in 1976. [6] In 2003, Murawina moved to the former Redfern Public School and now cares for up to 69 children.


[1] Barbara Rowlands, 'Caring for kids ended in triumph', Aboriginal News, vol 3, no 7, 1979, p 6

[2] 'Aboriginal Breakfast Programme', New Dawn, May 1972, p 3

[3] Barbara Rowlands, 'Caring for kids ended in triumph', Aboriginal News, vol 3, no 7, 1979, p 7

[4] Barbara Rowlands, 'Caring for kids ended in triumph', Aboriginal News, vol 3, no 7, 1979, p 8

[5] WG Coppell, 'The Murawina Readers', Aboriginal Child at School, vol 7, no 1, February 1979

[6] L Dow and P Stewart, 'Murawina: The Aboriginal Perspective', Community Child Care Centre Newsletter, no 28, September 1986