Literally translated as ‘land belonging to no-one’, Australia was a rich gem quickly appropriated by European explorers, the Great Southern Land in the pocket of the empire at last.
Cook’s declaration of ‘terra nullius’, as he stepped ashore on to Gadigal land in 1770, was a lie so steeped in injustice and corruption that it still weeps like a festering sore today. A bastardised catch-all employed with the pomp and vitriol of colonial endeavour, his words were a convenience, removing questions of authority, of ownership, of power.
The explorer’s own diaries – rich in cursive and undeniable evidence of the Indigenous communities to whom this land has always been home – disprove his assertion yet Cook strolled confidently into a future in the knowledge that the cloak of colonisation would hang stanch from this Latin declaration.
These archaic words deftly removed questions of authority, of ownership, of power. Terra nullius removed black Australia at a stroke… replacing it with emptiness.
‘Emptiness’ became the dark interior, untamed land so barren it spawned its own movement – the Australian Gothic. Emptiness represented the void beyond the black stump – the never never – a wild land to be feared. So removed from England’s green and pleasant lands and bucolic inertia, ‘out back’ was stigmatised, tens of thousands of years of culture, civilisation, stories, politics and lore denied, rights extinguished. Emptiness became erasure.
Terra nullius was an excuse to exert European ‘white’ control and unfurl a poisoned blanket of systemic racial dispossession, injustice and enduring prejudice. It described an ‘empty’ space, in which nothing exists; in which Aboriginal Australia was not recognised.
This doctrine has existed in the law of nations throughout the development of Western democracy and is derived from Roman law. It spruiks the concept that ownership by seizure of a thing no one owns is legitimate if the use of the land is not consistent with European ideals. The language here is telling: ‘seizure’ is described as ‘the action of capturing someone or something using force’; ‘legitimate’, too, suggests an illegitimacy inherent in the concept.
Stan Grant writes that terra nullius is “about the denial of humanity, the brutality of that, and the unceasing, unending, irrepressible demand to be heard. [It is] what stops white Australia seeing – truly seeing – black Australia… [We are a nation] founded on an idea that the First Peoples of this continent were invisible”.
He talks, too, of terra nullius memories:
“I have terra nullius memories: poverty and restlessness; being taunted as a black c…t at football training; trying to scrub the colour off my skin; reciting the names of white explorers in class; shrinking at the mention of the poor Aborigines; the schoolyard pledge of allegiance to Queen, God and flag… segregated missions; half-a-day's pay for a full-day's work; turned away from swimming pools and pubs; ‘honorary white’ exemption certificates; welfare homes and signs that read ‘think white, act white, be white’.”
Yet the most powerful argument against the fiction of terra nullius is black Australia. It lives, breathes and replicates its truth in the enduring strength and resilience of Australia’s First People – because we are still here despite countless attempts to erase us. We are the oldest continuous culture on earth, and our connection to Country – this great Southern Land – is a truth that cannot be denied.
Today, on the 75th anniversary of the momentous Mabo case which altered the foundation of Australian land law, native title exists as recognition of First Nations’ enduring connection to this land.
Led by Eddie Kioiki Mabo, the case fought the legal concept that Australia and the Torres Strait Islands were not owned by Indigenous peoples because they did not ‘use’ the land in ways Europeans believed constituted legal possession.
The High Court decided "that the common law of this country recognises a form of native title which, in the cases where it has not been extinguished, reflects the entitlement of the indigenous inhabitants". The court rejected the notion that such a finding undermined the foundations of sovereignty, since, as Justice Brennan put it, the "Crown's acquisition of sovereignty… cannot be challenged in an Australian municipal court". And further, on acquisition of that sovereignty, "the Crown acquired a radical title to the land".
Still, First Nations People are still trapped in the “throes of contestation and opposition” , the need to always defend their histories and identities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have to prove themselves and show that their rights have not been “washed away on the tides of history”.
The terra nullius lie is pervasive. It will only be truly denounced by recognition of and reconciliation with this country’s First People and moving beyond the empty words of a broken colonial history. 
Always was, always will be.
 Anthropologist Elizabeth Povinelli, as above.
 Stan Grant, 'Terra nullius is a lie': the brutal denial of First Peoples' humanity, Sydney Morning Herald, 2019
With Sorry Day coming up, this time of year is a time when we see people starting to reflect on the past treatment of Aboriginal people and the impact of removal policies that created the Stolen Generations. People come together to offer acknowledgement and support to Aboriginal communities who live with the ongoing trauma of the past.
With it comes a barrage of ignorant opinions about how we just need to get over it. The failure to recognise why we say sorry is not a new thing. Nor is it novel that people fail to see the healing that comes with acknowledgement and fail to look beyond the mainstream narrative about Aboriginal people to see the intergenerational trauma we are dealing with. Each year this becomes more frustrating.
There is an increasing number of Aboriginal people sharing their stories, shining a light on truth and working to close the knowledge gap so that people can start to understand why sorry is so important.
I have shared before about my Aunt who suffered dementia and relived the removal of her children over and over and over again. I will never forget the first time I watched her go through that experience. I felt nausea and a knot in my stomach at the realisation of what was happening and that she could not escape it. Not that day, not ever.
As she made me hide in the cupboard to protect me from being taken, I knew that I was safe, that there was no risk to me.
As she told me to hide under the bed, I was focussed on soothing her, not worried about what might happen to me next.
As she told me she loved me like she would never get to tell me again, I knew that it would not be the last time.
But for her, in those moments, there was not that relief. Her fears were real. She was reliving the worst days of her life, the trauma fresh and never ending.
For her children, watching her relive this experience was undoubtedly painful as they not only felt their mother’s trauma but also their own. There was no reassurance for them when they were taken. They did not know what would happen to them. They did not know when, or if, they would see their mother again. They could not still their fears with the knowledge that it would be ok because they didn’t know that it would be. None of the stolen generations could. And it wasn’t ok.
As we are left with the job of healing, trying to connect all that was lost, we aren’t asking you to take personal responsibility for the past, we are asking you to show empathy and understanding as you acknowledge our story and the journey we are forced to travel.
Survivors of the Stolen Generations and their families navigate the impact of those past policies daily. It may not be reliving the day as my aunt was forced to do but the trauma is evident and the healing far from done. As people struggle with the loss of connection, loss of culture and loss of identity that occurred because they or someone in their family was stolen, we need Australia to see that the acknowledgement of the trauma, suffering and loss that comes with Sorry is an important part of that healing.
This year as you reflect on Sorry Day and you see the inevitable increase in racism, encourage people to get educated, raise awareness about the true history of Australia and the work Aboriginal people are doing to heal.
We believe that there is still so much more room for improvement for the technology sector to enhance its understanding and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as consumers, influencers and allies of their respective products and services.
Interestingly, many people may read the opening point above who are critical or “sitting on the fence” in this space will say “Why do I need to enhance my understanding of Indigenous people?” The answer is actually quite simple: because most of you work in organisations and entities that have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and/or are influenced by the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP). And the result is that this benefits your business and all of the people within it, whether it is through revenue and profits or impact marketing. The history of the original people of this country is actually 60,000+ years old, so while we think it is important to teach ourselves and our kids the history of this country, it needs to be done properly. This means the actual history and not selective pieces of it.
With the ever-growing emergence of various types of technology that are increasingly impacting our lives, we are seeing a shift in the jobs of the future to be more centred around growing and servicing the evolution of technology. Combine this with:
There is a perception that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have little experience in the tech space and subsequently this is translated into the way that people are employed in this space. A perfect example is of a story of a young Sydney-based Aboriginal man. This young man is a software developer and has experience working on the tools for several years, as well as being a leader in his team at the large company that he works for. Another global tech company (a household name) approached this young Aboriginal man a few years ago to see if he might be interested in a career opportunity. This young man was elated and jumped at the opportunity. As the conversations between the man and the company proceeded it very quickly became evident that they were wanting to engage him in a sales-based role and not in a more technical capacity. Growing his career in the technical side of things is where he wanted to go. As you can predict, this opportunity did not come to fruition as it was more of an opportunity for the tech corporate giant, than for the young Aboriginal man. This is just one of many stories which exemplifies what is taking place in the tech industry (among other industries) and their engagement with Indigenous people and the Indigenous business sector.
Now, to be clear, there are individuals/champions across the tech sector and working within large corporations and the government that do care about making an impact in the Indigenous space, however, they are repeatedly brought back into the corporate machine that governs their systems, processes and presence in the market. I absolutely get it, I am the cofounder of Ngakkan Nyaagu (NGNY), a tech business, and I am driven by improving the systems and processes that my team uses in order to make their lives easier so that they don’t have to carry as much “weight”. These tools and ways of working make their working days easier and more efficient. But more needs to be done to support these individuals in exploring, experimenting and nurturing opportunities to engage, work with and hire Indigenous people.
Another example is the engagement of my business (NGNY) to bid for tech software and web development project opportunities. We always welcome these opportunities and certainly are not pushing these away. However, we will be invited to bid for a project, then spend time responding to the bid and answering the requirements and then be told that we don’t have enough experience. So, why were we invited to bid in the first place? Oh, that’s right. A lot of the organisations that approach us are in some way governed and influenced by the IPP and are rewarded for demonstrating that they have engaged an Indigenous business in their tender or project response process. To then “rub salt into the wound”, we often see the outputs and results of these projects at their conclusion and are able to define that what was delivered is exactly within our capabilities. Let me be clear here, 99% of the time we lose projects to non-Indigenous entities with the same or similar capabilities and often they are incumbent partners. Again, I get it, there is security and efficiency in going with an organisation that you are already comfortable with, but this is a complete waste of our time and also counterproductive to the existence of the IPP and RAPs.
To further extend on this, we employ a set of processes and systems in NGNY which receive comments from organisations (big and small) engaged with us along the lines of how “amazing” and “easy” our processes and systems are to work with, and that they have “never worked with an organisation like ours that is as organised and transparent in the way we get work done”. My point is that, once given the opportunity, that we have been able to deliver in line and above the expectations of most of our clients and most other Indigenous organisations are the same.
Ultimately, there is a reservation and a deficit mindset when it comes to engaging Indigenous people and businesses for new opportunities and this perception of deficit needs addressing. These are a few ways to address the deficit mindset:
Making a shift in deficit thinking when it comes to Indigenous people in the tech sector is improving, as is evidenced by the growing number of Indigenous people in the sector. However, obvious deficit thinking and related behaviours still exist across the tech sector in Australia and these are still inhibiting the growth of Indigenous people in this space and the first way that we will start to overcome this is by calling it out and taking the appropriate action (yes, “action”, not just words), to reduce deficit thinking and deficit ways of doing.
I know I say this every year – but I love this year’s NAIDOC theme!
This year’s theme – Heal Country! – provides an opportunity for all of us to seek a greater understanding of Country and how we can all better embrace and recognise First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country and how we can better contribute to the healing that is so very much needed.
For many, this year’s theme will be the first time they consider Country as more than a place and begin to understand that it is inherent to our identity. Country sustains our lives in every aspect - spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and culturally. We are elements of Country – part of a larger system that is built on interconnected relationships that promote sustainability for all of its elements.
Aboriginal people have for generations been calling for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of our culture and heritage. There are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are working tirelessly to contribute the knowledge that is crucial to drive education about why this is so important and how we might go about it and I think the reason I am so excited about this year’s theme is because it provides a focus on that important role and the potential that education has when it comes to healing.
I very strongly believe that education is key to the healing that needs to happen and the sooner this education journey starts for all Australians the better. Sharing knowledge and information that develops the wider understanding of our communities and cultures is, in my opinion, the only way we can really start the type of healing our mobs need. That Australia needs. That Country needs.
Reading about the theme on the NAIDOC website, it really resonated with me and the reasons why I started Wingaru. I can see the impact that education has in the schools we work with - the confidence of teachers as they gain understanding of their role in healing and develop confidence in better ways of working; the confidence of kids as they thrive in culturally competent environments as schools tweak approaches that make the environment so much more accessible for Aboriginal kids; the understanding that is creeping, ever so slowly into mainstream Australia as people ask questions and take the time to become informed.
One thought particularly stuck with me:
‘We cannot afford to let pass the very real opportunity that now presents itself for reform based on a fundamental change in the relationship Australia has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’
Education is such an important part of this reform and without it change is difficult. But we need to make sure that education is strong and this means considering education at all stages of life from early childhood through to adulthood. We need education to be Aboriginal led, culturally safe and accessible for all.
I have been thinking a lot about healing Country and how Wingaru can contribute. It’s a big task but if we all do our bit, it does get easier. The daily frustration of teachers who are looking for support with Aboriginal education but are impeded by barriers around resourcing is something that I can help address. NAIDOC is something that many schools observe and this year more than ever, NAIDOC should be the start of continued action and continued learning to support healing.
To support this Wingaru is offering our Wingaru Kids package at considerably reduced prices. Wingaru Kids bundles professional development and classroom resources to support teachers to bring Aboriginal voices into the classroom as students learn information and skills that promote an understanding and life-long appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
We have also teamed up with the amazing Mr J for another challenge to support you to play a role in healing Country by bringing more Aboriginal content into your classroom. The Challenge details will be announced on social media in coming weeks so make sure you are following Wingaru Education (Facebook, Instagram) and Mr J’s Learning Space (Facebook, Instagram) for all the details.
Request a trial now to access this special pricing for individual teachers or whole school subscriptions.
When I was in my first year of Uni I found myself in a conversation about Aboriginal people and all the things wrong with them. It was a conversation fuelled by misconceptions and stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream media. I wondered if anyone present had actually ever met an Aboriginal person. It was awkward. When should I speak up and tell them that the people they were talking about were my people? That I was one of these Aboriginal people they spoke so negatively about. My opportunity came when one of the group stated that he had never met “a good one”.
‘What about me?’ I said.
The group stared back at me, unsure what to say. They were quiet for a minute, clearly confused and not really sure what to think. My awkwardness became theirs as they realised that they had been caught in their racism, not that they would identify it as that. Finally, one of them spoke “Are you really Aboriginal? You don’t look it”.
Now this is a conversation I had had a thousand times, and have had a million more times since. I explained that Aboriginal people are diverse, not cookie cut outs of the stereotypical black person that mainstream media would have the world believe and it inevitably leads to the person declaring that I am somehow different, because I don’t meet their stereotype of an Aboriginal person – that somehow by doing well I have overcome the deficit that is associated with being Aboriginal. It is a conversation that most Aboriginal people are well versed in.
The deficit perception, the view that Aboriginal people are not capable, is something that still persists and Aboriginal people are still forced to prove themselves when other people don’t have to. Even when we have done something that shows we are capable, a question lingers about how we manage to achieve it. The fact that we achieved something overshadows what we have actually done and many people think we were only able to achieve because of a loop hole or handout.
As children, people often don’t expect us to achieve much. Our kids are often not pushed to their full potential because it is assumed that we are excelling just by scraping by. We go to Uni and people assume we got there on a hand-out, a mystical free pass. As adults many of us find ourselves in jobs where we are not utilised to our full potential.
I believe that the deficit perception is left over from the years when Government policy portrayed us as inferior in order to justify the way it treated us. They under-estimated our abilities and worth then and that has unfortunately continued and become part of the unconscious bias against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that permeates today’s world.
This year I would like to actively and directly start to change the deficit perception. If you are a teacher, I encourage you to get to know your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, see their strengths and let them know you see their potential and expect them to achieve it. Encourage and support them to do this – work with them and their community to make sure they don’t get lost in the assumption that good enough is all they can achieve. Opportunity rather than ability is the barrier we face.
If you are an employer, talk to your Aboriginal staff – do they feel you are utilising their skills as well as you can be? Are there growth opportunities they would like to undertake?
This year, Wingaru will be sharing the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who counter the deficit perception. Whose everyday life shows that our First Nations people are strong, determined and capable. That the deficit perception is the biggest myth of all.
Where did term 1 go? I feel like the end of term arrived in the blink of an eye. I hope you have had a great term and have found a classroom rhythm of lots of new discoveries that includes Aboriginal perspectives.
The end of term 1 of course means Easter and the chocolate eggs and craft that come with it! While Easter is not an Aboriginal celebration, eggs were a big part of customary life and looking at how Aboriginal people used eggs is a great perspective for all age groups. I love that over the last couple of years we have been able to support many classrooms increase inclusions of Aboriginal perspectives by considering eggs in this way.
The protocols around egg gathering took into consideration the sustainability of the species producing them. Eggs were respected as a source of life as well as nourishment for mob. Eggs would be collected in vessels weaved by Aboriginal women from the naturally available reeds and materials of the local area.
This year our Easter printable features the artwork of Darug Artist, Chloe Webb. I hope your students enjoy colouring Chloe’s work and constructing their own basket to be filled with whatever goodies they choose.
We would love to see your completed baskets so please share them with us Facebook @wingaru and Instagram @wingaru_education.
I wish you a relaxing and safe break and look forward to sharing some more First Nations knowledge with you in term 2.
Check out our Aboriginal-themed Easter activities from previous years by clicking the "Free Resources" filter at the top of our main blog page.
Aboriginal education is an area of teaching that can have an incredible impact on the world we live in. I was thrilled when I saw that the NSW Government had introduced priority areas of teacher PD that included Aboriginal education. So many teachers reach out for support in this area. I know that this new focus will help to drive real support for educators who are striving to refine their practice and I think over the next year or two we will see so many teachers gain greater confidence.
It is an opportunity to rethink how we approach Aboriginal education and I hope that school leadership teams embrace the opportunity and work with their teachers and other stakeholders to make changes that focus on teacher capacity to drive better Aboriginal education outcomes for their entire school communities. Teachers are definitely willing to embrace the change but they need the support to do so. The time has come for decision makers to consider real change and move away from doing what they have always done in this area of education because frankly, it is not working. In NSW the introduction of priority areas for PD means that teachers will now have more opportunities to consider these much- needed new approaches.
Since we introduced PD last year, a common question I am getting is “what kind of PD should I be looking for?”. The answer will depend on individual circumstances but I think we need to focus on Aboriginal education as having two distinct but often lumped together focuses.
In an ideal world, teachers would have the opportunity to complete PD in both these areas and consider these two focuses separately and give the needed attention to both aspects. Choose PD that gives you this opportunity and the space to consider the space at your own pace.
I also suggest seeking out PD that is led by Aboriginal voices – it will give you an insight that material created by non-Aboriginal people, no matter how experienced, cannot give you.
We currently have 4 PD courses available, each delivered by two experienced Aboriginal educators and aligned with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
I am overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have gotten. Our format - with the Aunties having a yarn - shares knowledge in a natural way. It is how Aboriginal people have been learning for thousands of years. I love that teachers are finding the content thought provoking and the activities are helping to identify resources and ideas that can be used in the classroom.
Each course can be enrolled in separately and we offer group pricing so if you are looking for PD to roll out across your school get in touch for tailored pricing. You can choose one of our courses as part of your Wingaru Kids subscription.
By bundling PD and resources, Wingaru kids is delivering a system of support that provides resources that teachers can use in the classroom and the background knowledge of how and why to use them.
The importance of local perspectives is one of the key messages associated with Aboriginal education. Every teacher is familiar with the call for local perspectives and ultimately the challenges associated with finding appropriate content.
There is no single Aboriginal culture. There were upward of 250 language groups in Australia at the time of colonisation and each group has its own culture and lore. The information that we learn about one, may not apply to another. In an ideal world we want people to be acknowledging and observing local practices, beliefs and protocols. This is where local perspectives in schools help – it is an opportunity for kids to understand that each mob is different and to understand the approach of their local community. It builds cultural competence by supporting kids to go into the world knowing that they will encounter Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures that are different to the one that they have learned about and it arms them with enough awareness to support a respectful navigation of these differences.
But have local perspectives become a barrier to better Aboriginal education? More precisely, is the interpretation of local perspectives becoming a barrier? So many teachers I have spoken with are stuck because they fear that including anything that is not directly related to their local area will be seen as wrong or worse, offensive. Schools are opting to limit the inclusion of Aboriginal content and I don’t believe this was ever the intent of the call for local perspectives.
I can hear the frustration in teachers’ voices as they try to meet a goal that seems impossible because there are no resources and the school doesn’t yet have the connections it needs in the local community or the local community doesn’t currently have the capacity to provide the support the school needs. I understand how Aboriginal education ends up in the too hard basket, I really do. But that doesn’t make it ok. By reframing what we are trying to achieve with local perspectives we can eliminate the barrier, reduce your frustration and deliver better Aboriginal education outcomes.
Let’s look at the bigger picture. What are we trying to achieve? For me a focus on local perspectives does three things:
We can achieve these goals more easily without taking a “local perspectives or nothing” approach. By looking more broadly at how you can include Aboriginal content into your program you will find the task of including regular inclusions less daunting and open up opportunities for students to investigate the local approach.
Let’s use bush tucker as an example. You don’t need a resource that tells you exactly the food sources eaten by your local community pre-invasion. You can look at broader resources (like the ones we have on Wingaru Kids) to consider what factors influence food availability, what techniques were often used to obtain and prepare food and introduce the types of food sources that were available Australia wide. This gives kids the knowledge they need to start investigating what food sources may have been available in the local area, what food sources are still widely available in the area and how the availability has changed.
This approach also supports Aboriginal kids who are living off Country to apply concepts to their own mob as well as the local community they currently live in. Looking at an additional mob can lead to great discussions giving students the opportunity to compare and contrast between the local community and another mob.
It’s a simple change in approach that can make all the difference to how you are able to bring Aboriginal content into your classroom. If you are a Wingaru Kids user, you will find local perspectives worksheets in each of our lessons to support kids to apply their new knowledge to their local area.
I would love to hear about your approaches to local perspectives and the things that you are doing in your classroom.
I often get questions from parents who are keen for their kids to learn more about Aboriginal people, history and culture. Many are concerned about the lack of First Nations content in their child’s education or the quality of Aboriginal education that is taught without true inclusion of an Aboriginal perspective.
I understand these concerns. I have spoken to many schools who dismiss Aboriginal perspectives as “not a priority”, usually because they don’t have many Aboriginal students. This approach is concerning given the inclusion of Aboriginal content in the curriculum for all students. But I believe it is important for parents not to assume this is the attitude of your school until you have had a conversation with them. Many schools are quite open about wanting to improve their approach to Aboriginal perspectives. There are often lots of factors at play and approaching your school with openness can help reach the outcome you are hoping for.
I like to remind people that Aboriginal perspectives hasn’t always enjoyed the priority is has now. For many teachers, we are asking them to teach something that they themselves did not learn about so they may be finding their feet. We want to support them as they do this, help them to find an approach they are comfortable with while ensuring high quality Aboriginal education for our kids.
Here are some suggestions I have about how you could support Aboriginal education at your school.
I would love to hear about how your school approaches Aboriginal education. Are you happy with the approach? What do you love? What do you think they could do better? What are the changes you would like to see?
This year I chose not to engage in the Change the Date debate. It is too exhausting. I cannot face the racism that floods media and social media on this day. It is too ignorant and too frustrating, too much. How in this day and age are there so many people who cannot see that 26 January is not the date to celebrate and that it is time to move the celebration to another, more inclusive date?
Instead I am focusing on the increasing number of Australians who are working to support our First Nations communities – the allies who are taking the time and making the effort to get educated and support our communities by acknowledging our trauma, embracing truth about our history and fostering understanding by sharing this truth. Because this is how we move forward together.
Teachers, who are one of our greatest influencer groups and play a significant role in leading change, often ask me how they can support First Nations communities and be a strong ally for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There are lots of things educators can do to support our communities and I love that so many are seeking advice on how they can provide support in a culturally appropriate way. Small things, like some of the ideas below, may make an Aboriginal child feel supported and start to open up or support a non-Aboriginal child to start on their own journey of being a strong ally.
I have talked before about ways to be a good ally and taking an anti-racism approach so I won’t go into those again – we all know how important standing up and speaking up is. Here are some other ways teachers can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
As always, pick actions that feel comfortable for you, don’t feel you have to do it all. Any support is appreciated! I woulod love to hear about the things you do to support our communities.
How is it half-way through January already? Time seems to pass faster and faster. My boys are growing too fast and I wish there was a way to slow down time, just a little. These last few weeks have been such a needed break from routine. We have loved the slower pace, the not needing to be anywhere, the extra time to read, swim, and play Nintendo – all three favourite pastimes here. School is approaching faster than most of us would like. The exception being Mr 5 who is very excited about heading off to big school this year so the start of school can’t come fast enough!
This time of year, for me, like all educators, isn’t just about the fun, it is also about getting ready for the year ahead. For us at Wingaru it means finalising our new lessons – “Seasons” will be available soon so keep an eye out for it – and getting ready to enrol our 2021 class groups. We are welcoming 35 new schools at the start of Term 1 which I am really excited about. Our set up team will certainly be busy! We can set up your 2021 classes as soon as you are ready. We will be in contact with your school’s primary contact shortly but you can send your class lists through anytime and we can get everything sorted so your accounts are ready to go.
Most teachers are in full swing already – setting up classrooms and planning lessons for the year. The love that goes into setting up classrooms is amazing. If you are a parent, I hope you get the chance to take a minute to look around your child’s classroom and appreciate the time, effort and thought that has gone into the set up. Your teacher likely did that during their vacation time.
If you are one of these teachers, we have some resources that you may find helpful. If you are setting up your classroom consider including some Aboriginal artwork. I have our 2021 Wingaru Calendar and Acknowledgement of Country poster for you here. If you are a subscriber you might like to check out our name labels and birthday calendar in the teacher resources section of the platform. I am a huge fan of Chloe Webb, a young Darug artist who has done this year’s artwork.
Don’t forget to check out our planning templates https://www.wingaru.com.au/blog/planner-challenge to help you identify and plan where you can include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in your program this year.
As always, sing out if I can help!
2021 Wingaru Calendar and Acknowledgement of Country Poster - Download from the links below
Are you a Wingaru Kids subscriber? Check out our birthday calendar and name labels in the teacher resources section of the platform.
2020. What a year! I for one am so glad that it is coming to an end! I am counting down the days until the holidays begin and we can slow down and sink into holiday mode and enjoy some salt-water healing on our usual trip north to gorgeous Gumbaynggirr Country.
It has been a big year for Wingaru and I am really proud of what we have achieved and the support we have been able to provide during this unusual year. Some of the wins for Wingaru in 2020 have been:
Supporting Schooling From Home
With many students schooling from home, we saw record numbers of students logging in to use our resources, completing activities that explored First Nations culture while strengthening their comprehension, problem solving and ICT skills.
All Together Now
Our educators worked with Reconciliation NSW to deliver another year of All Together Now, an initiative to support teachers to celebrate Reconciliation Week and we are very pleased to be welcoming another round of finalists from the NSW Schools Reconciliation Challenge to the Wingaru Kids platform.
Our Butabuta team continued to support organisations, adapting quickly from face to face sessions to online training that saw the Aunties become zoom wizzes – well almost ;). This year we supported a number of amazing organisations with cultural awareness training as well as help to develop culturally safe work environments that support both staff and Aboriginal clients. We worked with Home Teacher to support their partnership with the Smith family to deliver home tutoring scholarships to 100 students. Many of these students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and we love being able to support this amazing group of teachers providing tutoring to do this in a culturally appropriate way.
We also launched digital Professional Development for teachers which is available individually or as part of the Wingaru Kids subscription. The feedback has been really positive with many teachers telling us they now feel more confident including Aboriginal perspectives in their teaching and with working with Aboriginal students and their families. We also provided PD for the Relief Teacher Association and I delivered a session at their annual conference – stepping out of my own comfort zone, as I support teachers to step out of their own. You can check out our courses here.
Supporting Healthy Communities
Our IT team delivered a bespoke platform for the NSW Ministry of Health’s Aboriginal Health Knockout Challenge, supporting the amazing team running the program to expand the reach of this fantastic initiative that delivers life-changing health benefits to communities across NSW. I am in awe of the mobs who took part this year for all their hard work and the amazing results.
Planning with Wingaru and Mr J Challenge
The “Planning with Wingaru and Mr J Challenge” was a big focus for the Wingaru team in term 4 and I could not be happier with how it went. We saw so many deadly teachers sharing how they were including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in their classrooms and supporting each other as they took on the challenge of increasing the amount of First Nations content that they included. I got to know the amazing Mr J who was so generous with his time and self in sharing his journey to refine his personal approaches to Aboriginal education. For so many teachers, getting Aboriginal education right means stepping out of their comfort zone completely which can be overwhelming and I know there are so many teachers who benefited from Mr J’s regular updates, tips and learnings as a non-Aboriginal teacher taking on this important area of education. I want to thank every teacher who has taken part in the Challenge. I’d love to hear how you went and how taking part changed your classroom. While the Challenge is over, the planners are still available to download here if you would like to plan your First Nation inclusions for next year.
2020 has been a crazy year and I cannot wrap up without acknowledging the hard work of teachers who have showed amazing resilience and flexibility in supporting kids in this year of uncertainty. If you are a parent, please take the time to thank your teacher – they earn that thanks every year but this year more than ever that work needs to be acknowledged.
If you are a teacher, I hope that during this busy time you have the opportunity to take a breath and look around at the world before you. As a teacher you have changed lives this year. You have given the gift of knowledge, helped build self-esteem and shape opinions. You have supported children and families to survive schooling from home and shown a flexibility that many didn’t know possible. You have undoubtedly worked into the night and woken worried about a student who struggles with change and needed extra support to cope with the chaos that has been 2020. Your dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed.
While I am keen for this year to be done, I look forward to next year and all that lies ahead. We have some great things planned and I can’t wait to share them with you. We have new lessons coming about seasons, plant use and my personal favourite, a lesson about the Aboriginal history of Coffs Harbour featuring the stories of Gumbaynggirr Elder, Aunty Sue Hoskins, who generously spent time with us this year sharing her stories. We also have more PD coming and our cultural awareness calendar is filling up.
Stay safe, keep healthy and enjoy the festive season!
Well, here we are at the last full week of school here in NSW and the final challenge chatter email. I hope you’ve had a great week and an even better term despite the craziness that always is Term 4.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve come to the end of our #PlanningWithWingaruAndMrJChallenge already, it feels like just yesterday I sat down with my Wingaru Planner and looked at how I was going to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives each week.
Despite, the name I’ve actually found this journey to be anything but a challenge. For me personally, it’s hasn’t been hard to find ways to embed this important cross curriculum priority, it’s been more about changing the way I think, being more mindful and forming new habits when it comes to planning my lessons and units of work.
Thanks to the amazing resources from Wingaru and this incredible online community I’ve never been short of great lesson ideas, activities and resources that I can use throughout my week across a range of KLAs. My eyes have been opened to new perspectives, ideas and insights that I wasn’t aware of before and I’m so excited to take all of this with me into a new year.
For me, this was never about doing a “one off” thing for a term, but it was about changing the way I’ve done things for the last 12 and a half years as an educator and leader in schools. The way I look at it, this isn’t the end of our challenge but simply the start of a new journey and I’m really looking forward to taking this Challenge further and sharing many of the insights, resources and approaches that I’ve seen from others over the past 10 weeks with my colleagues and students.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of our Challenge this term. I hope it’s been a positive experience for you as an educator and you’ve come away with something new that you can continue to use beyond this Challenge.
As a non-Aboriginal educator, 2020 has been a wake up call both personally and professionally and I’ve continually challenged myself to do better when it comes to embedding First Nations perspectives and content into my classroom because I had been ignorant up until now. For that I am deeply sorry and I am committed to doing better moving forward.
Thank you again for those who followed along on this journey, for those who gave it a go and for those who shared their weekly intentions with us along with a snapshot into their classrooms. You’ve continued to inspire me and so many others.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year season friends!
The “Planning with Wingaru and Mr J Challenge” was a big focus for the Wingaru team in term 4 and I could not be happier with how it went.
The Challenge encouraged teachers to include an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander perspective each week for term 4. That meant 10 opportunities for students to explore the fascinating cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to embed that knowledge within their understanding of Australian history.
We wanted to show how accessible Aboriginal perspectives can be and support teachers to refine their approach and take away some of the hesitation that many teachers feel when it comes to including First Nations content in the classroom.
We teamed up with the brilliant Mr J from Mr J’s Classroom (check his work out here). He agreed to share his journey as a non-Aboriginal teacher tackling the Challenge to increase Aboriginal content in his classroom. Mr J was so generous with his time and self in sharing his journey to refine his personal approaches to Aboriginal education and I know there are so many teachers who benefited from Mr J’s regular updates, tips and learnings.
The Challenge is something I have been thinking about for a while now. I talk to so many teachers who feel that Aboriginal perspectives are out of reach and I want to change that perception. By encouraging teachers to include content more often by aligning it with units of work they are already delivering, I believe we can have a huge impact on the collective knowledge Australians have about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and our cultures.
We saw so many deadly teachers sharing how they were including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in their classrooms and supporting each other as they took on the challenge of increasing the amount of First Nations content that they included.
So many ideas were shared about ways to include perspectives in busy classrooms and I loved how many teachers I spoke to that said the Challenge had made them rethink how they do Aboriginal content and how they will continue to focus on including more. That’s what it was all about.
I also spoke to a number of teachers who said the Challenge gave them confidence in the approaches they were already taking. Sometimes we just need that little bit of reassurance to give us confidence in our actions.
I want to take this opportunity to thank every teacher who participated. I know stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy and changing the way you work can be hard, particularly when you are in charge of a busy classroom.
We offered three chances to win a 12-month Wingaru Kids subscription for schools participating in the Challenge. The winners of these subscriptions are:
For signing up to the Challenge:
Congratulations Jessica Malu!
For sharing their planner on social media:
For sharing their weekly intention on social media:
We look forward to welcoming your schools to the Wingaru Kids mob.
While the Challenge is over, the planners are still available to download HERE if you would like to plan your First Nation inclusions for next year.
2020. What a year! I for one am so glad that it is coming to an end! I am counting down the days until the holidays begin and we can slow down and sink into holiday mode and enjoy some salt-water healing on our usual trip north to gorgeous Gumbaynggirr Country.
The tree is up, the elf has arrived and Christmas craft has started coming home from school – Christmas has arrived! While Christmas was not a traditional Aboriginal celebration, many of our mob embrace the holiday today and we celebrate it with great enthusiasm. Our mob gathers, we have a big feed and there is no shortage of laughter. Community Christmas events bring us together, providing opportunity for connection with people and culture. Blak Santas hand out gifts to our jarjums and the Aunties and Uncles gather, sharing stories that we have heard over and over but at the same time can never hear enough.
But before we can get to that we have to make it through the final weeks of term. The energy of kids this time of year seems to be ebbing on exploding with cards and candy canes starting to be exchanged. Teachers are frantic, writing reports and finishing work units as well as planning for next year, all while managing the day-to-day of classrooms full of tired children who are ready for their summer break.
Christmas craft is the perfect inclusion this time of year and this year we have some new handouts that bring an Aboriginal perspective into the busy classroom. Including simple activities like these helps keep Aboriginal content a regular inclusion in your classroom, even at this busy time.
Have fun exploring bush flavours or creating some Aboriginal inspired gift-cards or tree decorations with your students – I would love to see what you do!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love a yarn and this week I have had so many interesting yarns with teachers about how they are approaching the Challenge. I love the diversity of approaches and the thought that has gone into the plans that are being rolled out across the country.
For some teachers this is the end of week 2 – can you believe how fast it is going? Astronomy was popular this week – lots of kids getting to learn about the amazing skies above us! We have two different astronomy lessons complete with video and other resources to support you on the Wingaru Kids platform. If you haven’t already come check them out!
NAIDOC is coming up and this year’s theme ‘Always was, always will be’ is a great theme to build your planner around. There are so many ways you can explore the theme. You might like to:
I have spoken to a few teachers who are using NAIDOC as inspiration for the Challenge so make sure you are sharing and following so you can see all the great ideas that are being shared! To give you some ideas on what you might do for a NAIDOC approach I have attached a sample planner below.
No matter how far in you are I would encourage you to check out some of the inspiration being shared under #PlanningWithWingaruAndMrJChallenge.
Stage 2 NAIDOC Sample Planner - Download from link below
This week we announced the #PlanningWithWingaruandMrJ Challenge – an initiative to get teachers thinking and talking about including more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in their classrooms. The response has been amazing! I am so excited at the number of teachers who have said they are going to take part! I can’t wait to see what everyone does.
If you missed the initial posts about the Challenge, check out the previous blog, which has more information and the planner template: www.wingaru.com.au/blog/planner-challenge. You should also head on over to Mr J’s Learning Space to follow his journey.
In the words of Mr J “the #planningwithwingaruandmrj challenge is all about taking that first step and deciding to think more intentionally about what we do and how we can naturally incorporate First Nations content into our teaching and share the journey together to inspire and support other educators as they try to do the same”.
To give you some ideas on what you might do to bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in each week for term 4, we have created 3 sample planners that I have attached here. These planners, one for each stage, illustrate just some of the different approaches you could take in including a weekly First Nations perspective.
Local Focus - Use term 4 to explore your local community. You could explore:
Country – how did the local mob use a river? or get to know the clans of the language group;
Language – what is the local language? Can you find examples of it? Is there a local speaker you could invite in?
Land management - what bush tucker grows in the area? What tools would likely have been made given the material available in the local environment? What sustainability practices were likely practised?
Perhaps you could look at how the local people are represented today. The possibilities are endless.
Build lessons around a single resource – this example shows how you can build experiences around one topic or resource. Consider the elements of your focus topic and build additional experiences to explore the elements. In our example we look at turtles but the same approach could be taken with many other subjects. Think about the key learning areas and how they may be present in your chosen resource.
Focus on a single topic/unit – this example shows the possibilities of choosing a topic you are learning about in your class and exploring it from many angles which supports students to develop a strong understanding of the related issues. This works well for topics where students should consider different opinions and perspectives on an issue as they develop their own thoughts on it.
You could apply any of these approaches to any stage with some tweaking or apply the approach to any topic that suits what is in your plan for term 4. Don’t be afraid to mix it up! The possibilities are endless – don’t forget to share your ideas by tagging @wingaru_education and @mr.j.learning.space
Stage 1 Sample Planner - Download from link below
Stage 2 Sample Planner - Download from link below
Stage 3 Sample Planner - Download from link below
One question that teachers regularly ask me is how often they should include Aboriginal content or perspectives in their classrooms. There is no one answer that is going to work for every classroom and I always suggest that teachers start with what they are comfortable with. The most important thing is that you give it a go and build from there.
That said, I would love to see teachers including Aboriginal and Torres Strait content once a week. I think this is attainable and planning can support you to reach this target. One teacher who has taken up this challenge is Mr J of Mr J’s Learning Space who you can follow on insta here www.instagram.com/mr.j.learning.space/.
Mr J is one of those teachers we all want our kids to have. His energy is amazing and I love that he is so inclusive with both his classroom content and his approach to school leadership. So, when he responded to a post about including perspectives weekly (saying that he was aiming to do just that) I reached out to offer him a planner that would support him to include content each week for a term.
The planner is designed to help identify and organise the inclusion of First Nations content in all key learning areas for a term. I have included the planner below and I encourage you to take up the challenge of including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content each week of term 4, 2020.
Mr J will be including Aboriginal content in his classroom each week of term 4 and sharing it with you on his insta so make sure you follow along for inspiration and follow his tips to make this challenge achievable. Follow him here www.instagram.com/mr.j.learning.space/.
If you are reading this and thinking that I have lost touch with reality and there is no way you can include more in your already busy program, bear with me. I know including Aboriginal content or perspectives is daunting for many teachers. We will be sharing ideas and tips over the term to support you in the challenge, including examples of different approaches using the planner. Make sure you are following us on social media so you don’t miss these.
There are so many ways you can bring Aboriginal content or perspectives into your classroom. At Wingaru, we aim to support teachers by providing complete lessons that align with curriculum so that teachers can, if they choose, add an Aboriginal perspective to the content they are already teaching in the classroom. This approach means that even just 30 to 60 minutes can bring a new layer to student learning and increase the amount of Aboriginal content they are exposed to over the year. But if this approach isn’t for you that is ok. There are so many other ways you can approach bringing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in. You could:
Share your ideas with us online and borrow from other teachers’ ideas.
If one inclusion a week feels out of reach, don’t worry. Start where you are comfortable and increase at a pace that works for you. The Wingaru Planner is flexible and will work for you no matter how you approach the challenge or how many weeks you plan to include Aboriginal content. Just give it a go!
Finally, share your experiences with us. We want to see how you are including Aboriginal perspectives and would love to hear your ideas for meeting the challenge. Use the hashtag #PlanningWithWingaruAndMrJ.
Download the planner and social media templates and join us in term 4 for the #PlanningWithWingaruAndMrJ Challenge.
A4 Aboriginal Perspectives Teacher Planner - Download from link below
Challenge Social Media Templates - Download from links below
When I visit schools there is usually at least one teacher who asks why Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander perspectives are so important. This seems obvious but let’s not forget that Aboriginal education hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves so we are asking teachers to teach something that they themselves may not have received a lot of education about.
There are so many reasons why this content is important and the motivation will vary from person to person.
It is part of the job – inclusion of Aboriginal perspectives is required by curriculum and the Australian Professional Teaching Standards.
It supports Reconciliation – shared knowledge and understanding is key to reconciliation.
It supports better outcomes for Aboriginal students – Aboriginal kids do better when they can see themselves in the content they are learning. It supports them to feel connected and can build confidence to contribute in the classroom. The whole school participating in Aboriginal content supports a culturally inclusive school environment where Aboriginal kids can feel safe and happy.
It counters misconceptions and stereotypes that feed unconscious bias and racism – correcting negative stereotypes plays a part in reducing discrimination.
It supports truth telling - the true history of Australia should be known by all Australians.
Indigenous knowledge is really interesting – and who doesn’t love learning interesting stuff?
I could go on and on about the benefits of including Aboriginal perspectives, but I want to talk about why finding and understanding your motivation is so important.
Identifying your motivation is part of connecting to content and that connection is what, in my opinion, makes an amazing teacher. Think about the things you love to teach and what it is you love about them. Why did you connect with the content? How do you feel after you have shared your love of it with your students? Channel that energy and explore Aboriginal content until you find a spark.
There are so many opportunities to bring First Nations content into your lessons that there is bound to be something that you connect with. Teachers who include Aboriginal content because they have to, may not feel comfortable or confident in delivering the content and this shows.
How you connect with Aboriginal perspectives can drastically affect the impact Aboriginal content has. Finding your groove not only makes your job easier, it helps shape a better Australia.
Teachers are one of the strongest influencer groups and we need you to share a genuine interest in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander content. In doing so you can support the next generation to have an appreciation and understanding of our people and the journey that we have travelled to be here today, facing the challenges that we do.
Every Wingaru Kids lesson supports an understanding of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander perspectives. The following lessons talk directly to racism, stereotyping & cultural bias.
Looks at discriminatory items in the Australian Constitution and the political movement that fought for, and won, changes via a national referendum.
Lesson Category: Political Issues
Acknowledgement of Country
Encourages appreciation of diversity by exploring some Aboriginal names for country and why we acknowledge this.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Discusses the contribution of Adam Goodes as both a sportsman, a role model, and a campaigner against racism.
Lesson Category: Contact
Anzacs - Indigenous Veterans
Studies Indigenous veterans and the discrimination and hardship they faced before and after fighting for their country in overseas conflicts.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Investigates stereotypes in the portrayal of the Australian identity
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Discusses the contribution of Cathy Freeman as both a sportsperson and a role model.
Lesson Category: Contact
Looks at the arguments for and against reform of Australia’s Constitution so that it is fair to all Australians.
Lesson Category: Political Issues
Considers how David Unaipon’s public role challenged the negative stereotypes held about Indigenous People at that time.
Lesson Category: Contact
Democracy & Truth Telling
Looks at what truths need to be told to foster positive race relations in our democracy.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Discusses types of racism and explores techniques to help stop it.
Lesson Category: Political Issues
Fair Skin Black Fella
Looks at the impact of stereotypes about skin colour.
Lesson Categories: Modern Life
Explores the incredible story of a Darug woman who, at a time when both women and Aboriginal people had few rights, triumphed through her resilience.
Lesson Category: Contact
NSW Freedom Ride
Introduces to the concepts of racism, segregation and political action.
Lesson Category: Political Issues
Explores Oodgeroo’s writing and campaigning against discriminatory government practices at that time.
Lesson Category: Contact
Reconciling the Past
Explores the history of multiculturalism in Australia.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Racism. It Stops With Me
Helps students identify how racism is a form of discrimination and suggests ways they can counter it.
Lesson Category: Political Issues
Challenges stereotypes by encouraging students to consider who they might have a bias against and why that might be the case.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Provides an understanding of the Stolen Generation and the lasting impact of the government decision to forcibly remove children from their homes and communities.
Lesson Category: Political Issues
The National Apology
The apology acknowledged the existence and the impacts of the Stolen Generation.
Lesson Category: Political Issues
Investigates the lack of a Treaty between colonisers and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Voice: Uluru Statement from the Heart
In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart demanded constitutional reform on three points: voice, truth, and treaty.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
What is NAIDOC Week?
Explains the origin and purpose of NAIDOC Week while exploring strategies to respect and value diversity.
Lesson Category: Modern Life
Based on a Watch-Play-Learn format, each lesson includes a video, digital activities, comprehensive curriculum-aligned lesson plan & printable support material.
Log into your Teacher Centre account to assign these lessons to your class or to view our full catalogue.
Don't have Wingaru Kids? Learn more about Wingaru Kids through our 10-day free trial. Sign your school up today at https://www.wingaru.com.au/wingaru-kids.html & see how we can help you include more Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander perspectives in your classroom.
I have started this post about six times now. I honestly don’t know what to write about Black Lives Matter and the racism debate that is raging in Australia right now. As an Aboriginal woman it is overwhelming. The racism that the world seems to finally be seeing is an everyday part of Aboriginal life. As an Aboriginal mum I am terrified for my boys and what they will endure in this world because of the colour of their skin.
I wondered if I should share my childhood experiences of racism, like:
Surely this would highlight that racism starts at a very young age and Australia needs change so that no child has to be at risk because of the colour of their skin. That no child should face racism before they even know what it is.
Or should I talk about the many times when the treatment of two boys in my extended family group – one white and one black – highlighted that being black meant you always got the raw end of the deal? Especially with the police. Should I talk about the time that they were riding an unregistered motorbike owned by the white kid, the black kid on the back: both wearing no helmets; both making stupid decisions as teenagers often do? Should I point out how the black passenger was arrested, not just fined, while the white owner of the unregistered bike, who should not have had a passenger, who also should have been wearing a helmet was given a warning? Should I talk about how this is just one of many examples I could talk about just in relation to those two lads? Surely this would highlight that race is often a factor in interactions with police.
Should I talk about white privilege and when I first became aware of mine? I was 17 and got called to the principal’s office to support a younger Aboriginal student who was in trouble for her response to being racially attacked by a white student. He was returned to class with no consequence while my koori sister was facing potential suspension. As we discussed the issue, she told me how lucky I was to be able to pretend I wasn’t Aboriginal if I wanted to while she could never escape it because of the way she looked. Should I talk about the awareness that her comment brought to my life and how sad I still feel that she once felt that way? Would talking about my white privilege help others acknowledge their white privilege and the impact it has on how they see the world?
Or is it better to talk about the racism I have experienced as an adult – the many cabs I have had to hail for dark-skinned friends, family and even strangers because cabs don’t stop for black people? Or the mouthfuls of hate I have copped from cabbies when they realise that the fair skinned person is letting Aboriginal people into their cab? Should I talk about the times I have had to pay for my trip up front because the driver refuses to move until we do? Amazingly this has only ever been an issue when I am with black people. Should I mention the time that I was filling out paperwork to start a new job and while making small talk with my new boss I mentioned I was Aboriginal? She instantly withdrew the job offer and eventually told me I was unsuccessful because they needed someone with more experience with petty cash. I had been working very similar roles with larger sums of petty cash for three years and had glowing references. But sure, let’s pretend my lack of experience was the issue. Should I talk about the many conversations I have had to listen to about how terrible Aboriginal people are, or how many times I have been told “but you are different, you are one of the good ones”?
Should I talk about my weekend on social media? In many of the groups I am part of – whether it be mums’ groups, business groups or hobby groups – that when the issues of Black Lives Matter or racism were raised they were met with racist rants denying all existence of racism and asserting that they were somehow a victim of black people’s search for fair treatment. Should I talk about how admins in these groups often dealt with the issue by deleting the anti-racism posts rather than asking those that were uncomfortable with the conversation to refrain from making racist comments? Even posts from fair-skinned mums checking in to see if Aboriginal mums were ok or asking what they can do to help or how they could educate their children about racism were deleted. Should I talk about how this made several of these groups an unsafe space for black mums and mums of black children? Should I talk about the lost opportunity to educate on this issue and to support any mum who wants to talk to their child about racism? Who is going to educate kids if mums are not supported to do so?
Do I talk about the racism that I have experienced as an Aboriginal business? Should I talk about how people assume we get huge government handouts (we don't)? Or that our resources should be free because government has already paid for them? Should I describe:
Each and every one of these things that I want to talk about is relevant and will resonate with people differently. But they all share one thing in common and that is change.
Each of us can help to change the conversation. We need to stop debating about whether there is racism in Australia because the simple fact is that there is. Findings from an Australian National University study released last week found that three in four Australians held an unconscious racial bias against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. (You can read more about that here https://www.sbs.com.au/news/three-in-four-australians-hold-racial-bias-against-indigenous-people-study-finds)
So why are we still debating it? Why are people still denying it and trying to shut down attempts by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to be heard and to bring about change? And perhaps most importantly what are we doing to make sure the next generation has a better understanding of racism?
One thing is very clear – as a nation, our understanding of racism needs work. We think of racism being a deliberate act to discriminate against someone based on race. We rarely think about the unconscious bias that is also racism. We need to see it, we need to acknowledge it, we need to actively ensure we don’t do it and we need to make sure our kids are supported to understand it so that they don’t fall into the same patterns.
Tomorrows leaders are sitting in classrooms today – let’s help them do better and give them the information they need to create a less racially biased world.
Tip 1: Participate in a simultaneous learning experience with “All Together Now for Reconciliation”.
Across Australia children in early learning centres, primary and high schools, can simultaneously join the reconciliation movement and learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices via an exciting online platform we have developed in partnership with Reconciliation NSW.
“All Together Now for Reconciliation” is a simultaneous classroom experience specially created to provide easy and accessible cultural content and is a great way to engage kids in activities for National Reconciliation Week. Students will learn about the theme of Reconciliation through age-appropriate activities and discussions:
To participate join us online at www.togethernow.com.au.
Tip 2: Learn more about this year’s theme.
Visit the Reconciliation Australia website to learn more about the 2020 theme “In this together”. While you’re there download this year’s poster to display in your classroom.
Tip 3: Have an open discussion in your classroom.
What does reconciliation mean to your students? Encourage your students to explores the five dimensions of reconciliation as identified by the State of Reconciliation in Australian 2016 Report – historical acceptance, race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity and unity.
Tip 4: Learn more about the significance of the dates at the beginning and end of National Reconciliation Week.
National Reconciliation Week is held on the same dates every year – 27 May to 3 June. Both these dates mark two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, which gave the Australian Government the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to include them in the Census; and the High Court Mabo decision, which saw the concept of terra nullius overturned.
Our Wingaru Kids platform provides informative and engaging lessons on both these important dates with our “1967 Referendum” and “Mabo” lessons. Each lesson includes a lesson plan, curriculum outcomes, video, digital activities and printable resources.
Tip 5: Check out one of the Reconciliation activities
National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. Visit the Reconciliation Australia website check out this year’s National Reconciliation Week events.
Ya (hi) everyone, my name is Alana Gall and I am an Indigenous health researcher at Menzies School of Health Research. I come from a large Pakana/Tasmanian Aboriginal family. Our Ancestors connect us back to the North East coast of lutruwita/Tasmania, and more recently to the Bass Strait Islands of Cape Barren and Flinders Island. One of my family’s ancestors, a woman named Pularilpana, was abducted by European sealers in the early 1800s and taken to the Bass Strait Islands. A number of Pakana/Tasmanian Aboriginal families ended up on the many islands in north east Bass Strait (or the Furneaux Islands) but were eventually forced to live at the Aboriginal Reserve on Cape Barren Island. ningimpi-mana (My Nanna), was born on Flinders Island and grew up there and on Cape Barren Island. I currently work on Turrbal and Jagara Country in Brisbane.
I have always been exposed to natural medicines and cultural ways of life. My Dad, Andrew Gall (kurina), always hunted for food when I was young. He would catch snakes, go spear fishing and also hunt for kangaroos. My Mum, who is of English descent, was a keen gardener (as was her father) and growing food “organically” was just a normal part of our lives. So we tended to use both bush medicines that were traditionally used by my ancestors in Tasmania, as well as natural remedies passed down in my Mum’s family. Growing up I didn’t know this was different to other people and I always liked the idea of using the things placed on earth to heal.
It wasn’t until my daughter was 5 years old though that I really understood just how powerful these natural medicines could be. She had suffered with pustular tonsillitis no less than 5 times in one year. The sixth bout was very stubborn, and I ended up having to go to the doctor for a third lot of antibiotics as it just wasn’t clearing up. This upset me as I hated seeing my daughter in so much pain and the doctor was saying she’d need to get her tonsils removed. I am of the belief that where possible we should keep everything in our bodies, as otherwise why would it be there? So I didn’t like that option either. I decided to jump on the internet and try to find an alternative so looked into natural medicines for tonsillitis on there. I ended up giving her Schuessler Tissue salts and echinacea tincture. Her pustular tonsillitis healed up and now she is 18 years old and hasn’t suffered with it since! This solidified in my mind just how powerful these medicines are and that I wanted to know more.
Since that time my passion for natural medicines has seen me complete courses in Flower Essence therapy and Iridology, a degree in Nutritional medicine, and a Masters by research that focussed on traditional and complementary medicine use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients. Through this work I have been able to see just how important these medicines are to the people who use them. In one study I highlight the need for the health sector to open up communication about traditional and complementary medicines in the health care setting, and ensure they are not allowing their own biases about medicine to interfere with providing culturally safe care. As teachers and parents, it is equally important that we understand about these medicines so we can speak confidently about them, and also teach the young ones. This is especially true for the traditional medicines of my people, and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders around Australia. These medicines have been shown to provide them with physical, emotional and spiritual benefits, which is congruent with their differing views on health, being that of a holistic model of health.
As teachers, it is especially important that you also provide a culturally safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to learn. Through putting your bias aside (assuming you adhere to the reductionist model of health care that is the politically dominant one in Australia) you allow these children to feel accepted in the school setting. By teaching about bush medicine in the classroom, not only is this an interesting and engaging subject for all your students, you foster an environment of inclusion which in turn may reduce racism in the future generations.
I am happy to share what I know, so please contact the team at Wingaru if you have any particular bush medicine topics you’d like to know more about and they can work with me to develop the resources you need to teach your children with confidence about this topic.
nayri nina-tu (thank you) Alana
Pakana woman, Alana Gall, is an Indigenous health researcher at Menzies School of Health Research.
You can follow Alana’s work on:
This week marks 250 years since Lieutenant James Cook explored the east coast of a largely unknown southern continent in the Endeavour and ultimately claimed the entire land for the British. Despite significant protests, the Australian Government recently planned extravagant events and monuments at enormous expense to celebrate that history*.
Regardless of your views on settlement and the events leading to it, Cook’s journey of exploration was monumental in the development of the country that we now know as Australia. Like it or not, that visit by Cook was ultimately devastating for Aboriginal People and culture as British invasion brought death and destruction to our shores.
Reading through Cook’s journals we know that Cook wasn’t welcomed when he first landed and encountered the Aboriginal People of Botany Bay. We also know that he was heavy handed in his approach when he was unable to appease them with trinkets. He quickly decided that the people he met here did not meet his definition of “civilised”. Later, when stranded for seven weeks at Endeavour River (near today’s Cooktown) Cook and his men lived alongside a local tribe and witnessed a harmonious and fulfilled society who wanted for nothing. Despite interacting peaceably and benefitting from the hospitality of the locals Cook went on to declare Australia terra nullius (belonging to no-one) and claimed the land for his country.
However, this is not the story Australians have been taught. Cook, and the settlers that followed, have been given a heroic role in the history of Australia. In the 80s, when I was at school, I found myself participating in celebrations of Cook and his successors without any understanding of what these events meant for my People. There was never any inclusion of the Aboriginal perspective or a hint that these much-celebrated events had a negative impact on the existing population.
I often think about the day my mum sent me to school dressed as a settler. I wore a beautiful lemon dress that had long sleeves and a full skirt, very similar to the dresses that women wore back then. I was excited – that dress was pretty – the photos from the day are all about the dress as I showed it off, unaware of what we were really celebrating and how my mum must have felt sending her Aboriginal child off to school to celebrate the beginning of the destruction of her culture. It’s a feeling that I will not have to face as a parent. My generation, and those to follow, know it is our choice not to participate. And that choice is increasingly respected by the wider community.
However, imagine the possibilities if we, as a nation, had simply acknowledged the truth from the outset – that Australia was invaded and Cook’s visit began an onslaught that would change the Aboriginal way of life forever. Imagine where we could be if we didn’t spend centuries learning a false history and arguing about the injustices that occurred. If instead we accepted that the injustice happened and resulted in disadvantage; that the travesties occurred in another time when those actions were not seen as wrong; and that Australia was a result of all past actions, good or bad.
Would we have spent centuries compounding the damage? Would we, as a nation, be more willing to see the impact and acknowledge the resulting disadvantage? Would we be more willing to work towards a solution? Would we have made greater progress in the work towards reconciliation?
We will never know. But this week, as the nation talks about Cook and his great ship “discovering” this land, Aboriginal land, don’t forget to also talk about the People who were already here. You don’t need to assign a good role and a bad role. We just need to respect and acknowledge both perspectives and recognise the truth of our history. It isn’t pretty but it is only with truth that we that can move forward.
* Covid-19 has meant that these events have not proceeded in 2020.
Please be advised that this post contains the names of people who are deceased.
Anzac Day is usually an occasion where schools come together to remember those who fought for our country, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. Our children sit in assemblies and learn about the wars that Australia has been part of and how we continue to commemorate those events and the people who fought. Some children would also normally participate in Anzac activities with their families or extra-curricular groups.
This year, these activities won’t happen. Covid-19 means that we will honour our Anzacs differently and reflect on their sacrifices in isolation with the other people we live with.
Aboriginal Anzacs are often overlooked in Anzac commemorations and this year it is likely that fewer kids will hear about:
This year the telling of these stories depends on each of us. Talk to your children about what they have previously learned about Aboriginal soldiers and consider sharing some of the stories that I have included below. These are not my stories. They belong to the servicemen and women and their families. I am honoured to share these stories and privileged to share the attached resources to support your conversations about these great Australians
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.