NAIDOC is just around the corner and for many Aboriginal people, myself included, it’s a favourite time of year. It’s a time when Aboriginal culture takes a front seat, when we get to see our culture and our people front and centre. Australia gets to see us shine as we come together to celebrate our rich culture and communities. The coming together is the best part for me – I get to see mob and connect in a way which seems more and more challenging in the busy world we live in. Many NAIDOC events are community events where everyone is invited and I really encourage you to check out these events – go along, meet members of your local Aboriginal community and learn about the initiatives that are happening in your local area.
NAIDOC is also a time of year that sees many schools embrace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content. They celebrate our communities and get the whole school engaged in Aboriginal education. For many schools, NAIDOC Week is just one of numerous times Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content is included throughout the year but for others, this is the only time they include First Nations content. There are many reasons why a school may only include this content during NAIDOC Week, and I understand the challenges teachers face with an already overcrowded curriculum, but the reality is that Aboriginal education is something that should be included all year round and schools need to be working towards this.
This year’s NAIDOC theme, “Heal Country!”, provides the perfect opportunity to explore ways to include more Aboriginal perspectives and ways you can embed this vital content throughout your program.
Wingaru Kids includes over 43 lessons that align with this year’s theme. Our approach encourages teachers to firstly explore the concept of Country from an Aboriginal perspective and then use this understanding to consider ways that we can all contribute to healing Country. We have created a new lesson that shares an Aboriginal understanding of Country and explains why Country needs healing before considering 6 broad focuses from which healing could be approached. These focuses are:
Check out the NAIDOC category on the Wingaru Kids Platform for the lessons we have collected that explore healing Country.
Last year we teamed up with the amazing Mr J for a Challenge that highlighted how accessible Aboriginal content can be. Mr J shared his journey over the term as he explored ways to appropriately bring First Nations content into his classroom each week. If you aren't already, I suggest you follow Mr J's work on Insta and Facebook.
This NAIDOC we have another Challenge for you – the Heal Country Challenge.
For the Heal Country Challenge we are encouraging you to include one activity from each of the six healing focuses (mentioned above) in your classroom during term 3 and we have some spectacular support to help you.
Each week an amazing group of Aboriginal educators and allies will share their classroom activities, ideas and approaches to support teachers to identify and implement Aboriginal perspectives which support healing Country. They are each so generous with their knowledge and stories that I am busting with excitement to see what they share throughout the Challenge. Make sure you follow each of these amazing educators so you don’t miss any of the amazing knowledge they will be sharing.
@teachingwithtanna - Tanna is a passionate Byellee & Kanaka (South Sea Islander) woman, and graduate secondary teacher who teaches at a small government school on Wurundjeri Country in Naarm. Her passion for Aboriginal education is infectious and I am thrilled that she is going to be sharing her approaches for the secondary space. I walk away from every conversation with Tanna feeling so positive and inspired and I am so pleased she chose to bring her strength, energy and commitment to teaching.
@learning_to_ngangaanha – Jordyn is a Wiradjuri, Ngemba and Paakantji woman and primary teacher. She has over 6 years of teaching experience in both the New South Wales and Western Australian public education systems, and currently works as a classroom teacher on Bundjalung Country with the additional role of being the Aboriginal Education Coordinator for her school. Jordyn shares her passion for Aboriginal Education on her amazing Instagram account where she shares resources and advice to support teachers in genuinely embedding First Nations cultures, histories and perspectives in all learning areas of the curriculum.
@missgibbsau – Miss Gibbs describes herself as a Koorie Mum, teacher and blogger. You have probably seen her amazing blog where she shares her love of Aboriginal education including resources, thought leadership pieces and ideas to support teachers deliver Aboriginal perspectives. Like all of the educators sharing approaches in the Challenge, Miss Gibbs is super generous with her knowledge and her grounded approach really resonates. Her blog really is a must read so if you haven’t visited it yet I encourage you to head over and make sure you are following her throughout the Challenge because she has lots of ideas, resource recommendations and inspiration to share.
@mr.j.learning.space – if you have been following Wingaru for a while you probably know what an amazing ally Mr J is and how much I love working with him. Mr J is super inclusive with both his classroom content and his approach to school leadership and generously shares so much via his insta and facebook accounts. During last year’s Challenge so many teachers shared how helpful they found Mr J sharing his learnings so make sure you are following him to see his ideas for this Challenge.
@rainbowskycreations – The other allies joining us for the Challenge are Alisha and Ashleigh, or as you probably know them, Rainbow Sky Creations. Ash and Alisha are passionate about education and I love the support they offer to teachers as well as their openness in sharing their own learning journeys. I can’t do a better job at introducing them than they themselves can: ‘Together we love creating engaging, curriculum-aligned resources to inspire your primary classroom. Our aim is to help Aussie teachers save time while delivering lessons that make learning magic for their students! We believe in high-quality teaching and learning (for teachers and students) that is sometimes out of the box, we embrace creative solutions, we care for teachers and their wellbeing and are advocates for inclusivity in the classroom and beyond.’ You can check out their work at their insta and on their website.
We have some new planners to help you develop a term plan and some free posters and worksheets to use with your class to identify ways they can contribute to Healing. Download them below. We would love to see your planners and your class commitments to healing, so don’t be shy - share them with the #HealCountryChallenge.
Sign up to the Challenge here to receive hints, tips and information direct to your inbox to support you through the Challenge.
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
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