Every Wingaru Kids lesson supports an understanding of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander perspectives. The following lessons talk directly to racism, stereotyping & cultural bias.
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.
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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:
Every time I hear someone say that racism is not a problem in Australia I am surprised because racism is an everyday factor in the lives of Aboriginal people. Regardless of our age, skin colour and social status we are disadvantaged every day due to attitudes and actions based on our Aboriginality. And I am genuinely surprised that people cannot see it. How do they miss it?
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.