1 July 2022

Fighting fire with fire: preschool uses winter solstice festival to build children's resilience

| Albert McKnight
Start the conversation
Circle of lanterns surrounded by people

Bermagui Preschool’s Winter Solstice Fire Festival earlier this month was a spectacular event with a higher purpose. Photo: Supplied.

Two winter solstice festivals have brought light to children on the Far South Coast, with one local preschool using the occasion to build resilience against bushfire trauma.

Both Bermagui Preschool and Mumbulla School for Rudolf Steiner Education marked the longest night of the year with their winter solstice festivals.

For the former, the lead up to their Winter Solstice Fire Festival provided a chance to help the community’s children heal after the tragic 2019/20 bushfires hit their region.

Preschool director Narelle Myers said the tragedy had had a lasting impact on the school’s children and in the months before the Festival, many still had a lot of negative feelings about fire.

So over the period, the preschool opened dialogues with the children about fire from a positive perspective.

READ ALSO New multi-use squash courts in Pambula provide space for many activities

They discussed fire safety, provided opportunities for the children to express how they felt at the time and talked about how people like firefighters and SES volunteers were there to help them.

They also talked about the slow-burning techniques of First Nations people, as well as the critical roles of fire in our lives, such as for cooking.

Children learned “all those things they can do to empower themselves when fire does get to that catastrophic level”, Ms Myers said.

When it came to the festival, she said their children used local materials to create candles, high school students helped make a sand mandala, while local seniors, First Nations artist Cheryl Davison and television personality Paul West all lent a hand.

Eastwood’s Deli used vegetables from the preschool’s Moodji Garden to create a hearty soup.

“All these people in our community worked together to make this beautiful sand and fire circle for our celebration,” Ms Myers said, adding that about 100 people turned up for the event on Thursday (23 June).

She said the fact the children had an opportunity to reframe their experiences with fire meant they had greater resilience because they understood what help was available.

“Through many hardships in recent years, quality, not-for-profit community preschools like ours have proven to be an essential, supportive haven for children, families, staff and the broader community,” Bermagui Preschool educator Caitlin Brown said.

Meanwhile, Mumbulla School also welcomed back its Winter Festival Spiral Walk on 23 June. The Winter Spiral is celebrated in Steiner schools on or around the solstice throughout the world.

A school spokesperson said children from Years 1 to 6 created lanterns for the special evening.

READ ALSO Vinnies volunteers dress Batemans Bay shop windows for success

While singing, children walked slowly into the centre of a natural spiral created on the school’s oval, then travelled outwards carrying lit candles.

“The Winter Festival helps remind us of our ability to bring light into darker times,” the spokesperson said.

“The spectacular glowing spiral of light created at the Winter Festival by children and their families walking out from the centre of the spiral by candlelight also reminds us that we are beginning to move towards the warmth of spring and summer.”

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.