Like most western countries mainstream Australia has four distinct seasons, summer, autumn, winter and spring, with each of these beginning on a specific date marked on the calendar. But does this system accurately reflect the different weather experienced around the year in different parts of our vast and diverse country?
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities seasons are based on thousands of years of detailed observation of the surrounding environment. By studying the night sky and cycles of water, plants and animals communities were able to identify variations and accurately predict recurring seasonal changes. The seasons identified varied according to geographic location, ecological context and cultural interpretation. This knowledge of nature was recorded into stories, song, dance and ceremony and passed along to ensure sustainability for land and general well-being.
For the people of Dharawal Country, southwest of Sydney, there are six distinct seasons, Gadalung Marool (January-March), Banamurraiyung (April-June), Tugarah Tuli (June-July), Tugarah Gunyamarri (August), Murraiyunggory (September-October) and Goraymurrai (November-December). Each of these seasons is marked by changes to weather, plants and animals. This can be seen with Gadalung Marool, also known as the time of Burran, when male burra (kangaroos) become aggressive as the female burra start having babies.
To learn more about the different animal changes and weather patterns that signify seasons in the Dharawal calendar with your students download our Aboriginal Seasons Dharawal Language Group activity.
The Australian curriculum has broadened the definition of texts to include materials that are written, spoken, multimodal, and in print or digital form. It might be thought that the more modern texts are more relevant to the students of today. However, one form of text - that has existed in continuous use for millennia - lends itself to the teaching of all text types and KLAs – that is, the Dreaming Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Dreaming stories can be explored as an oral tradition or a written text and may include words from the originating Indigenous language (for example “waradah”).
Dreaming stories often contain aspects from three main text types, being imaginative, informative and persuasive. Their purpose was to pass on information about culture, language and custom from those with experience to a younger, learning audience. To this end the stories needed to entertain as well as to retell, to instruct, to explain and to argue.
Dreaming stories can be a great tool in sharing and teaching Aboriginal perspectives across a number of key learning areas. For example, in STEM subjects, Dreaming stories can be used to:
In History and Geography, Dreaming stories can provide an Aboriginal perspective on:
Being respectful of the stories you use as well as the people who own them is key to successfully including Dreaming stories in your classroom.
Traditionally these stories were used to share knowledge and pass information from Elders to the next generation. They carried lore, beliefs and practical knowledge so that culture and lifestyle could continue from one generation to the next.
In modern Australia, Dreaming stories continue to play an important role in sharing, maintaining and supporting the continuation of Aboriginal culture. They are still used today among Aboriginal communities to share knowledge as they have always been used but they are also a great tool in sharing culture and knowledge with non-Aboriginal people.
There are a couple of things to remember when using Dreaming stories as a teaching tool.
1. Choose stories that have been published or broadcast by reputable sources in conjunction with Aboriginal people
The stories shared with non-Aboriginal people may be varied to protect sacred knowledge that shouldn’t be shared beyond the Traditional Owners. Because of this there are often a few versions of the same story. The versions of stories that are shared in quality books or shared through well-known broadcasters have been developed in consultation with the owners of the stories and the appropriate versions used. When choosing sources for Dreaming stories look for acknowledgement of the story origin. Quality resources will list the Language Group and the people involved in the production of the resource.
2. Acknowledge the origin of the story and the people who own it
It is important when sharing Dreaming stories that you acknowledge where the story came from. The story belongs to the Language Group where the story originates. It is their culture, their knowledge and their intellectual property. Spend some time talking about the Language Group – name them, locate their country on a map and acknowledge that they have shared the story. Choosing quality resources will support you in doing this. Some stories originate from more than one mob, for instance a number of Language Groups have a story about a frog that drinks all the water. It is important to make sure you acknowledge the correct owners of the version you are using.
The month of September focusses on bringing awareness to suicide prevention with two key events, World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) and R U OK? Day (12 September).
This year both days will focus on suicide being a community issue and the role each of us play in coming together in collaboration to address suicide. Here in Australia suicide rates have increased by 13% over the last decade, and it continues to be the leading cause of death among young Australians. Of our youth dying by suicide, one in every four is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Causes of suicide are complex, even more so for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who are nearly three times more likely to be psychologically distressed than their non-Aboriginal peers. Contributing factors to their negative social and emotional wellbeing include racism, social exclusion, intergenerational trauma and separation from culture and identity issues.
As Australians, there is much we can do to work together in addressing these negative factors and to help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People feel safe, supported and part of the community. Two significant areas we all have the power to address, either as individuals or communities, are reconciliation and racism.
Reconciliation through Education
The truth about Australia's history since colonisation is difficult and confronting, but it is our shared story and while we are unable to change the pain and anger many experience we at least need to acknowledge it and understand the intergenerational trauma caused. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and younger generations about this history, building a shared understanding, so that as a nation we can achieve true reconciliation. Only from here can we can begin to reduce the impact of intergenerational trauma on the wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
Celebrating and reinforcing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s knowledge across our school curriculum and throughout community life also plays a large role in reconciliation. Providing all Australians with the opportunity to engage in respect and recognition of the world’s oldest continuous living culture and encouraging a sense of cultural identity and pride among Aboriginal children, enhancing their psychological resilience.
Racism. It stops with me
Racism is one of the main factors negatively impacting the social and emotional wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and appallingly, racism, both perceived and actually experienced, is increasing in Australia.
Stopping racism requires commitment and participation by everyone. We need to raise awareness of the issue and challenge our own behaviours and expressions of racial discrimination, particularly subtle racism. We also need to help kids identify racism and provide techniques for stopping it.
Within the workplace, cultural awareness training is required to ensure an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. By learning about the importance of family and community, cultural sensitivities, the impact of the Stolen Generations and the role of intergenerational grief and trauma, organisations improve workplace culture and are able to better service Aboriginal clients and students. For teachers, cultural awareness training gives them the confidence to bring more Aboriginal perspectives into the classroom, increasing the number of kids who get to learn and celebrate Aboriginal perspectives, reducing racism.
To learn more about how we can help you with including Aboriginal perspectives in your classroom or to book cultural awareness training email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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