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.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.