Kiya Watt Designed The First Indigenous Doll For Play School

In honour of

NAIDOC

week, which celebrates Indigenous Australians in July every year, the first doll to recognise and represent Indigenous Australians has been introduced to Play School.

I grew up watching Play School and I can recall every doll and presenter that I loved - Jemima and Big Ted, of course. It is so important that we recognise that there is a major divide in the health, social and economic wellbeing between native Australians and the rest of us. It isn't solely the job of politicians or celebrities to ensure that this changes. It comes down to the choices we all make and all Australians have an opportunity to learn more about the language, the history, the traditions and the values of Indigenous Australia. How is it possible, even in this enlightened age, that we study World War 2 and German history with greater attentiveness than our own Indigenous history and culture? Still. Whatever you do or don't know about our shared history, I hope you enjoy my interview with Kiya Watt, who designed Play School's own Kiya.

Had you watched Play School before or growing up? How much did you know about it?

I grew up watching Play School. I can always remember trying to guess which shaped window I would be looking through on the episodes. It was always such an exciting show. A lot of my early creativity came from watching Play School’s craft episodes.

Tell me about being Menang Noongar - what does this mean to your sense of community and identity?

Menang means that my Mob is from south Western Australia. Menang covers the very southern areas/lands of south Western Australia such as Albany which is a 4 hour drive south from Perth and is where I am located. It is a huge part of my identity within my Noongar community. Their are 14 different  Groups of Noongar people (Amangu, Ballardong, Yued, Kaneang, Menang, Njakinjaki, Gnudju, Bibulman, Pindjarup, Wardandi, Whadjuk, Wilman & Wudjari) We all have our own individual languages and cultural stories. We all have our own individual totems as well. My cultural identity is dependent on my families stories/language that is why it’s so important to acknowledge our groups that we belong too.

You have 3 children - how old are they and how have they responded to the doll and to Play School?

I have 2 twin sons who are currently 9 years old which means they were old enough to sit down and learn and be apart of the process and story behind the painting I did for Play School. They are very proud of their culture, and have grown up with strong cultural identities which makes me so happy,. They also are mega fans of

Baker Boy

so are actually just as excited as my youngest to tune in and watch the new series of Play School. As for my youngest, she is only 2 years old so watching her see the Kiya doll on TV and the ads has been so exciting. She absolutely loves Play School and starts screaming and clapping when she sees the Kiya doll on TV. It’s so heart warming because my children are so proud to be Noongar and for them to look up on TV and see that representation gives them so much  pride.

As a mother, how important is it for your children to see positive representation of indigenous children and women on mainstream TV?

It is imperative for all Aboriginal and non Aborginal children to see this representation. To gain that knowledge on our identities within our communities it is just so necessary. The children are our future and this knowledge is so powerful. For them to start learning in their own homes and feel that connection with the longest living culture in the world and feel connected is just so positive. It’s such a proud moment for all.

What does Kiya mean in traditional Noongar (I have read "hello")?

Yes it means hello but it is more then that for us. It is how we connect and show respect.

Tell me about your choice of colour, pattern and overall design - does it tell a story and what do you hope people feel and think when they see it?

Yes it does tell a story, and it will be shown on the acknowledgment episode airing this Monday at 9am on ABC Me on Play School.

Image: Kiya Watt and Play School Producer, Bryson Hall.