Please be advised that this post includes names and images of people who are deceased.
Like most Australians, ANZAC day for me is a sad day but also one of celebration. We reflect on the sacrifices that people have made in the past and continue to make today, in order to keep our country safe, and we celebrate the people who made those sacrifices.
I think about my friends who have been deployed or have parents and grandparents who served and the impact it has had on their families. I think about the pride those families so rightfully feel for their generous and brave soldiers.
I often think about my friend Tracy who, as a soldier’s wife, has spent many nights not knowing where her husband is or if he is ok; not knowing where his latest deployment found him and knowing that he couldn’t tell her even if she asked. She told me once about a code they had so that if her ever called her and asked a specific question she would know he was in trouble. Apparently this is normal. I cannot even imagine a life like this.
Thankfully her husband has always returned safe. Others are not so lucky. I think of them too.
I also spend a lot of time thinking about the black diggers that defended this country even when they were not recognised as people. The men who persisted and in some cases lied about their Aboriginality to serve and stand for Australia despite the way Aboriginal people were treated. The men who returned only to be ignored and treated like they were nothing. Like their sacrifices didn’t matter. That they were beneath non-Aboriginal people.
I think about the families that lost their loved ones but didn’t get the recognition and respect that non-Aboriginal families suffering the same loss received. I am filled with anger and sadness on behalf of these soldiers and their families. But I am also filled with pride, because despite the horrendous way Australia treated our soldiers, they still stood up and fought for this country, our land.
One of the many Aboriginal people who stood up for this country is Uncle Phillip McLeod. One of Uncle Phil’s daughters, Kaylene, shared his story with me this week and I am honoured to share it with you now.
Born on 19 July 1947, Uncle Phillip was a Sapper under the Royal Australian Engineers and was 19 years old when he served in the Vietnam war. He spent 2 years fighting for Australia, serving on a ship known as the Clive Steel. He was the only Aboriginal person in the squad.
The Clive Steel was hit by two missiles during an attack from enemy soldiers. No one was killed during the attack but soldiers were understandably shaken. Uncle Phil told his family about the attack and the fear felt as the missiles ripped two big holes in the ship's side. Uncle Phil had many stories and in telling them, he shared stories of comradery and a respect that wasn’t often experienced between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in those days.
Uncle Phil returned from war with hearing loss due to the noise from the constant gunfire on the ship. He was just happy to be home safe and to be able to return to his beloved wife, Mary, his family and community.
While Uncle Phil marched in ANZAC marches over the years it was often difficult for Aboriginal Veterans because Aboriginal people, including soldiers, were not allowed into RSLs back in those days and there was a lot of backlash against Vietnam Veterans in general. Aboriginal soldiers didn’t receive the same respect and accolades as non-Aboriginal soldiers who had served along side them.
Uncle Phil marched in the first Black Digger March in Redfern in 2008. I was working with Kaylene at the time and Uncle Phil stopped by the office. I will never forget the pride in his eyes as we talked about the March. Every ANZAC day I think of Uncle Phil and his family and the pride they all showed that day. I am thankful that Uncle Phil got to experience those marches and be honoured for his service.
Uncle Phil passed in 2016.
I am honoured to share Uncle Phil’s story with you and extend the greatest of thanks to Kaylene for sharing her dad's story.
Aboriginal soldiers were for a long time forgotten soldiers. I hope that this week we have inspired you to share the stories of the many great black diggers.
Lest We Forget.
Over the last week we have been honouring Black Diggers for their service. I am overwhelmed by the response! Every single person who has served for this country deserves the highest respect and I have seen that this week. The pride the Aboriginal community has for our soldiers is heartwarming. It is great to see Black Diggers getting the recognition they deserve.
I have learnt a lot and been privileged to hear the stories of great people. I hope schools start to include Aboriginal soldiers in their ANZAC lessons and am proud of the resources we offer to support this.
I am fortunate enough to call Uncle Ken Canning a friend and am excited to share, with his blessing, one of his poems. You can download a printable version at the bottom of this post.
You will find more of Uncle Ken's work at https://vagabondpress.net/products/ken-canning-burraga-gutya-yimbama.
Author Burraga Gutya (Ken Canning)
Hail!! You brave men.
You gave your all,
Not for King or Queen
but for country.
in your heart.
All wars all battles,
the strong Black Diggers
stood tall proud
and gave honour
to all Peoples
of this land.
Fires of war
some came home
to be shunned
your fought for,
the brave Black Digger,
as brave as those
in our frontier wars.
You once more
were cast out by
a callous country.
allowed to speak
to those you fought
so valiantly beside.
humble Black Digger,
we your Peoples,
still amongst us,
stand tall in honour.
For at the going down
of every sun,
we shall always
BRAVE BLACK DIGGERS.
Burraga Gutya (Ken Canning)
This post may be upsetting for some readers.
Today is the anniversary of what has become known as the Appin Massacre.
On 17 April 1816, Aboriginal men, women and children were murdered after Governor Lachlan Macquarie dispatched soldiers to ‘rid the land of troublesome blacks’.
The victims were rounded up and forced over a cliff. Others were shot as they attempted to flee. The bodies of victims were hung in trees as a warning to the Aboriginal community. This was a common practice of the time.
Fourteen people are officially recorded as being killed during the attack, however reports from the night indicate that the death toll is much higher. Those killed were from the Dharawal and Gandangara Peoples.
The massacre occurred as part of a coordinated effort by Governor Macquarie to round up Aboriginal People in the area following conflict between the local Aboriginal People and the settlers in the area. Three regiments were sent out and they searched the area with deadly intent.
Rounding up and murdering Aboriginal people was not rare as the Government of the day and the settlers sought land and control. The Appin Massacre is just one example of the atrocities committed against Aboriginal People. Innocent men, women and children were hunted along with those who were accused of crimes against the new Colony. It is a part of Australia’s history that is often forgotten and many Australians are not aware of these events, nor the lasting impact this treatment has had on Aboriginal communities. Awareness and a shared understanding is part of healing.
We lost people. We lost language. We lost culture. We lost.
I’m really excited this week to have our new platform, Wingaru Bubs, available to early childhood education providers. It is a digital resource centre, filled with informative, engaging and flexible resources that support educators and children as they explore Aboriginal perspectives.
The Early Childhood Education sector has undergone considerable changes over the last few years. We are recognising the important role that early education plays and regulation provides a framework which supports quality early education programs.
The Early Years Learning Framework is a national framework that was developed by government in consultation with the early childhood sector. The Framework helps guide educators to support young learners engage in educational experiences that are both engaging and give our bubs a strong education foundation.
These quality improvements are good for both educators and children. The hard work and skill that educators bring to our children’s lives every day is recognised and programs have meaning, supporting kids as they develop a sense of self and take their first steps into the education world.
The Framework requires educators to develop cultural competencies in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and strengthen relationships with their local communities. The Framework acknowledges that building this competence is a process that is underpinned by relationships, evolves over time and must involve attitudes, skills and knowledge.
When we started talking to educators and families involved with early childhood education, a common theme quickly became apparent – many educators had never had any education about Aboriginal people and felt overwhelmed when delivering Aboriginal content. So where do educators who have limited knowledge about Aboriginal people, culture and history start?
Wingaru Bubs features four sections designed to support educators with information and resources which make Aboriginal perspectives more accessible than ever. Wingaru Education recognises that education environments are diverse, both in community and approach, and because of this our resources have been designed with flexibility in mind.
The educator resources include Framework-aligned Learning Guides, making educators’ jobs easier and freeing up their time to focus on the experience and learning with our kids.
The information included in the Guides is suitable for all educators, regardless of their previous experience with Aboriginal perspectives. Each Framework-aligned Learning Guide is written in plain language and is suitable as an introduction to a subject or as a foundation for an in-depth learning experience. By creating flexible resources we can support educators of all experience levels.
Educators are further supported with a range of culturally appropriate information, fact sheets and printable resources including activity sheets, posters, and colouring sheets.
For young learners, the platform includes digital activities that have been designed to be enjoyed solo or as a group activity where children work together to explore Aboriginal content and develop skills and knowledge to support their development as individuals and their understanding of a diverse community. The exclusive videos are designed to engage visual learners, delivering information while entertaining young learners.
Our educators, as always, have done a great job putting together a collection of videos, activities and experiences that support educators and engages learners. Please get in touch if you think your early childhood education provider would be interested in Wingaru Bubs.
I was an above average student throughout my schooling but was staggered one day to discover that I just couldn’t answer the questions in a certain test. The test was undertaken in a large hall and based on a tape recording of dubious quality but aside from that, I discovered that I just wasn’t a good listener. Without pictures and written text, the spoken words just didn’t sink in.
In the decades since that test I discovered Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and in my teaching studies I learned that students with different learning styles need to be catered for.
Differentiation involves providing different students with different avenues to learning in order to maximise each student's experiences and outcomes. Put simply, it is modifying classroom approaches and activities to cater to student needs. Doing this is not always easy but the payoff is worth it when you see a concept click for a child – that light bulb moment when a student understands and looks back at you with delight.
Differentiation can be achieved by modifying a range of factors, such as content, process or method, learning environment or difficulty level. Identifying what to modify and when is one of the many skills a teacher needs to have. It is another task in an already busy day but a necessary one when time has shown us that one size does not fit all in education. This is where tools can help support a teacher and student.
The Wingaru Kids’ platform has been designed with differentiated learning in mind. While all lessons start with an audio-visual presentation, students have the option to rewind and rewatch to engage with the information. In addition to this, many of our videos have printable transcripts as another version of the text. Each lesson has three types of learning activity including multiple choice questions, crossword puzzles, find-a-words, jumbled words and matching tasks. Teachers can assign different puzzles to different students or even assign a lesson or activity from a different year level for student who are beyond (or behind) the learning levels of the rest of the class. For non-readers, Wingaru Kids’ lessons can be played on an interactive white board with the teacher guiding the class through the learning activities as a group.
As a parent, it’s reassuring to know that my child’s teacher has his back in the classroom and is creating flexible learning opportunities. It’s an under-appreciated skill but the impact does not go unnoticed.
In a recent belly-dancing class I confirmed that I will never have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence! Don’t let your Wingaru Kids feel the same way. Take some time to discover the many learning styles that the platform caters for and assign the lessons according to the different abilities in your class. It may take more time at the start, but the platform does all the marking for you!
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.