I asked him what he thought, about being taught proper blackfella stuff. He’s nine, just recently turned, and while he has a turn of phrase to rival the greatest orator when excepting himself from homework or feeding the Kelpie, I was genuinely unsure what his response would be.
His face – muscles appearing where hair will come, eyes growing wiser by the day – split into a joyous grin, and the words tumbled out un-thought, a stream of pure consciousness that is as authentic as it gets.
“Mama, I love it! It’s all the stories about this land, stories about the creatures that live here and stories that sound like songs… and the games are great: they’re funny and clever and it’s not like school work at all but I’m still learning. Do you want to see too? I can show you?”
If you knew my child, you would know that this is solid endorsement indeed. His bright little mind whirs continually, a powerful engine of curious thought. But school? He’s not so keen. I have seen him adeptly tap out a the theme tune to M*A*S*H using four pencils and a Lego ninja while failing miserably to take in what is being said about multiplication algorithms beneath the beady eye of his teacher. Big blue eyes and a freckled smile get him a long way, and he skirts through much of the required syllabus with a wily shrug and insouciant attitude.
And yet, when we roam – swags belted, truck torqued, tarps often unravelling in a dirt-road scene akin to Priscilla – he is fascinated by the world around him, the culture and story and the application of this on Country. He was taught to make animal tracks by Uncle Kev Buzzacott on the edge of Lake Eyre. He learned to pick and cook wild rosella fruit, sticky hands dipping in and out of the pot on the fire on the banks of a lazy green river. And he will happily eat roo tail with his hands, fur and all.
This child has absorbed everything he has been taught about Indigenous Australia, because it is relates to the very heart of this land. Ask him and he will say, “it’s Australia’s story Mama, so that means it’s everybody’s story”. And while he is lucky enough to have experienced the broadest reaches of this country, this tenet remains at the core of why I celebrate the opportunity he has to receive an Aboriginal education.
I have always taught him that knowledge is power: to understand and engage critical thought to situations is powerful. The understanding that he gains from an Aboriginal curriculum is equally and notably so, as it engenders shared understanding. It encourages recognition and respect, an embracing of diversity for its strengths as opposed to restricted, closed-minded colonial mythologies that breed discrimination, prejudice and inequality.
As the oldest continuous living culture on earth, the knowledge and lore of the traditional owners of this land is of seminal importance to Australia and globally. It is something to be innately proud of, to celebrate and to embrace with every part of our national identity. That it isn’t remains a mystery to me, but I have to believe that will change.
And I know that the chance to broaden his understanding of the world with an ancient knowledge will help him navigate his future and that of those he loves in an equitable, diverse and caring capacity, a capacity that engenders reconciliation and ongoing understanding between the many, many people of the land on which he grows.
In modern society Christmas is celebrated in many different ways. For some it's a religious holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, for others it's a holiday to celebrate with gifts. Whether for religious or cultural reasons, the common thread for all that celebrate Christmas across the globe is the coming together to spend time and celebrate with family and friends.
In traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture Christmas was not celebrated but coming together and celebrating as a mob was, and continues to be, an important aspect of culture. While held for varied reasons, these events helped in defining identity and a sense of connectedness to kinship and culture, strengthening the mob through feelings of spiritual and cultural belonging.
Traditional reason for coming together for ceremonies and gatherings included:
Welcome to Country: In traditional times an Aboriginal person would not travel between groups without permission. If permission was granted the mob accepting travellers would formally welcome their visitors with a welcome ceremony. This welcome would tell the spirits of the land that the traveller came in peace and asked them to protect the traveller while on the traditional lands.
Smoking Ceremony: Smoking ceremonies are traditionally a cleansing ceremony. Various native plants are collected and burned to produce smoke which is believed to have cleansing properties and the ability to ward off unwanted and bad spirits.
Corroborees: Corroborees are ceremonial meetings for mobs to interact with the Dreaming through singing, dancing, costume, and artistic expression.
Sorry Business: Sorry business refers to protocols around the death of an Aboriginal person. There are very intricate Dreaming ceremonies to help a spirit leave the earth after death. Traditionally the ceremonies around death varied between clans. How the body was prepared and farewelled was significant to ensuring the spirit made safe passage back to the Dreaming.
Trade: Traditionally trading was a time for sharing ideas, technology and culture, it was a time to catch up with other mobs for both business and leisure.
Download our free "Ceremonies and Gatherings" find-a-word PDF for your class to see what other ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people traditionally came together in celebration.
You can also explore this topic in more depth with the following lessons found on Wingaru Kids:
People often think that cultural awareness training is only for large organisations but the reality is organisations of any size can benefit from cultural awareness. This year our Butabuta facilitators have delivered our cultural awareness program to organisations with as few as 10 staff and across all sectors – private, public and not for profit. Each of these organisations had a different reason for organising training but each one was seeking to increase the knowledge of staff about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, our history and how we can all move forward and start addressing the outcome gaps our mob experience.
Over the last week I have been contacted by a couple of small businesses who are considering cultural awareness training but are unsure if they will benefit from it so I thought I would share, with their permission, about two of the small organisations that we provided training for this year - Kids Steps Speech Pathology and Tempe OOSH.
Kids Steps Speech Pathology
Kids Steps Speech Pathology is a private practice located on beautiful Gumbaynggirr Country in Coffs Harbour with services also offered at Grafton, Yamba, Macksville and into New England. The team offer a range of services to support kids who need support with speech and language disorders. The incidence of speech and language disorders is higher in Aboriginal populations and the Kids Steps Team, who work with a number of Aboriginal families, want to make sure that they can appropriately engage and support Aboriginal families in therapy to support our jarjums. The NDIS means more families can access the therapies they need and as an NDIS provider, the Kids Steps Team is well placed to support these families and it is encouraging to see non-Aboriginal businesses starting to recognise the need to modify practice in order to be culturally safe for our mob.
The team lead by Nathenya Fall, refer to their clients as friends. As a mum with a kid who has done his fair share of speech therapy, I love this approach. I know first-hand how important building a positive relationship between a child and their “speechie” is, so when Nathenya told me they were looking for opportunities to support their koori friends as best they could, I felt a rush of gratitude and excitement. The support we give kids in early years plays a huge role in shaping future outcomes for them. Having a private service that understands the importance of a culturally inclusive environment for Aboriginal people is amazing and the fact that they are willing to ask for help, acknowledging that Aboriginal people are best placed to provide advice on solutions to support our communities, is worth shouting about.
All of our cultural awareness sessions have been tailored to meet the needs of the participants and our facilitators were able to support the Kids Steps Team with a number of strategies they could introduce into their offerings that would help Aboriginal families to feel comfortable at the service. The Kids Steps Team were very keen to know how they could be more involved in the Aboriginal community so we spoke about opportunities to participate in events, community meetings and inter-agency events to connect with community outside of the Kids Steps offices. This conversation provided the Team with both the knowledge about where to connect with community as well as the confidence to join these events knowing that they were welcome. The respectful approach that Kids Steps has to working with our kids is amazing and the local community are blessed to have such a great service available. If only all small businesses were so welcoming of our mob!
Another session that really stands out for me this year is our visit to the Tempe OOSH. The team, led by Helen Pentecost, is very highly regarded by the community they service. Kids love attending and we all know how important it is knowing that our kids are safe and happy when we can’t be with them. We hadn’t had an OOSH contact us about training before and Helen’s approach is very refreshing and I hope an approach that is adopted by many OOSH providers.
Helen told me that she felt ‘Training staff in cultural competency to understand the unique history of Australia’s First Nations people provides not only enormous benefit in terms of helping them offer sensitive and appropriate care for children from Aboriginal, Torres Strait and other diverse backgrounds, but it helps everyone at our centre by deepening our connection to and understanding of the custodians of our land.’ She said ‘I believe the recognition of the vast and rich cultural heritage of Aboriginal people is a vital underpinning of all education in Australians, and helps us create safe and appropriate learning spaces for all children, of any background. For us, there was no question that this training was vital to our way of working, and how we see ourselves as educators’.
We talk a lot about creating culturally inclusive environments in schools so to have an OOSH embrace this and take steps to ensure their service is inclusive is all kinds of exciting. An approach which recognises that understanding Aboriginal people and our role as custodians of the land is important for all students and staff at the centre, for me really highlights Helen’s approach as best practice and I would love to see other OOSH providers work towards adopting this approach.
The benefits of cultural awareness training for workplaces are often spoken about. We talk about the role that cultural awareness training has in improving workplace culture; in improving both internal and external workplace communications; and in better servicing Aboriginal clients.
But we don’t often talk about the effects that extend beyond the workplace.
Reading social media these days is hard. Everyone has an opinion about everything, and people seem much more comfortable expressing racism from the safety of the impersonal internet. Just in the last few days, I've read comments online saying a young man in a remote Northern Territory community deserved to be shot to death by police, and how it was ‘totally wrong’ to close the Uluru climb because ‘it never hurt the rock’ and ‘the Aboriginals are lying about cultural significance’. Today, I read a post that could have been from 100 years ago: a man advertised that he and his wife ‘would like to help fire victims and have a spare room if you need it … no blacks or immigrants’. This is all on top of the everyday deluge of comments rife with racial hate and myths about Aboriginal people that are perpetuated by print and social media.
Fear of the unknown and a lack of education are the primary reason these types of posts are so prevalent. Often, keyboard warriors make these alarming statements because they've never had an opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture—they know no alternative to the myths and ignorance they enthusiastically spout. I've been delivering Aboriginal cultural awareness training for many, many years and I've found that most people become much more accepting of Aboriginal people and culture and open to Reconciliation, when they learn the story of the Aboriginal peoples, and how we got to where we are today.
Many participants have never heard about Australia’s history with Aboriginal people from an Aboriginal perspective. Cultural awareness training is the first time they've heard the stories of people from the Stolen Generation, or of families forced to live on missions, with no control over any aspect of their lives. ‘Why weren’t we taught this in school?’ is a common response when we talk about past government policies, about the denial of Aboriginal people’s rights to practice culture and the way they were treated by non-Aboriginal people—about how in the past racism was so systematic, and how in many ways it continues to be.
Cultural awareness training in the workplace can support people to take a stand against the culturally insensitive—or downright racist—posts that are put out into the world every day. It arms people with the knowledge to see through misinformation, so that they don't help spread the myths that fuel hate against our First Nations. By giving people knowledge, training gives people the confidence to challenge the racist rhetoric we all seem to have become so complacent about.
Often employers don’t think they'll benefit from cultural awareness training for their staff because they don’t service Aboriginal people or have any Aboriginal staff. But consider the wider impact: training your staff not only increases their capacity, which strengthens your business, but also, in the case of cultural awareness training, can help protect your reputation. Often, misguided racist comments are made by employees on their workplace social media profile, and I watch as offended readers tag the employers asking them to take action, or demand others boycott them. It's something to consider: if making a positive social contribution is not reason enough to consider cultural awareness training for your workplace, then the potential PR implications if you don't might be.
One of the most common questions we get asked at Wingaru is how to engage the Aboriginal community in projects. Whether it be getting someone to consult on a project or participate in classroom activities, it is clear that people want to have the input of Aboriginal people. Where we can, we support people to make these connections and approach this in the right way - that is meaningful consultation where Aboriginal people have a real voice at all stages of the project and are treated respectfully including payment when appropriate. This is a topic that is written about often - Aunty Tricia talks about this issue in this months Ask Aunty and Wingaru's friend Nathan “Mudyi” Sentance, a Wiradjuri man from the Mowgee clan, has previously shared his view about it on his blog 'Archival Decolonist' (https://archivaldecolonist.com/). With Nathan's permission I have shared his post below and I encourage you to head over and check out the rest of his blog where he very generously shares his knowledge and perspectives about the importance of the inclusion of First Nation voices in the cultural and historical narratives conveyed by cultural and memory institutions and the need to balance the biases and misinterpretations of Aboriginal culture and people that has been previously set by these institutions.
Follow Nathan's work on social media:
Collaboration or Exploitation
“Indigenous folks, be cautious of people who want to “pick your brain” over coffee and lunch. There are people out there stealing ideas and boosting their careers for the price of a double double.” (Monkman, 2017, tweet)
People often seek my feedback, ask me questions or want my opinion on projects they are working on that relate to First Nations culture, history and/or people and I am happy to help if I can, but only if I feel their requests or projects are not exploitative. Here are some of my personal suggestions on how to ensure your projects or requests for input are less exploitative and more collaborative. Note: this mostly directed toward research projects or projects in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector.
These are just a small number of suggestions I have to ensure your projects or requests for input are less exploitative and more collaborative.
By Nathan Sentance
DiAngelo, Robin. “White Fragility” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3, no.3, 2011, pp 54-70
Finch, Sam Dylan. “9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensive” Everyday Feminism. 29 May. 2017, https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/05/allies-say-this-instead-defensive/
First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNICG). “Pathways to First Nations’ data and information sovereignty” Indigenous Data Sovereignty, Edited by Tahu Kukutai and John Taylor, ANU publishing, 2016, pp. 137-156.
Justice, Daniel Heath. “All mouth and no ears: Settlers with Opinions” The Conversation, 20 Sep. 2017.
Monkman, Lenard (lenardmonkman1). “Indigenous folks,
Be cautious of people who want to “pick your brain” over coffee and lunch. There are people out there stealing ideas and boosting their careers for the price of a double double.” 4 Dec. 2017, 7:53 AM. Tweet.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. “whiteness epistemology and Indigenous representation” Whitening Race: Essays in social and cultural criticism. Edited by Aileen Moreton-Robinson. Aboriginal Studies Press, 2004.
Sentance, Nathan. “Reframing community consultation” Archival Decolonist. 8 Sep. 2017 https://archivaldecolonist.com/2017/09/08/reframing-community-consultation/
Sentance, Nathan. “Maker unknown and the decentring First Nations People” Archival Decolonist. 21 Jul. 2017 https://archivaldecolonist.com/2017/07/21/maker-unknown-and-the-decentring-first-nations-people/
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies : Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd ed., Zed Books, 2012.
Watson, Irene. Looking at you looking at me — : an aboriginal history of the south-east. Volume 1. I. Watson Nairne, 2002
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 email@example.com
We often hear the phrase “Australia’s dark past” in reference to unpleasant aspects of post-colonial history in this country. It includes the deaths of Aboriginal People through disease spread by Europeans; the injuries and deaths caused by conflicts between the expanding colony and the traditional owners; Indigenous incarceration at a rate far higher than their proportion of the population; the theft of wages for forced work and the stealing of children from their families in the pursuit of assimilation.
The conflicts between the European invaders and Traditional Custodians are commonly referred to as the “Frontier Wars”. It is another term used to describe conflict between the European invaders and the traditional owners and conjures a picture of frontiers the world over where territories have been disputed and fought for.
The advanced weaponry of the European invaders usually saw a higher number of fatalities on the Aboriginal side of the conflicts.
Many of these conflicts have now been declared “massacres”. The most heinous of these aren’t adequately described by the term “Frontier War”. They were the massacres that went beyond disputes over property or territory and saw white law enforcers exceed their legal duty and undertake murders of innocent, unarmed Aboriginal People. And while this occurred outside the limits of Australian law, the white perpetrators were rarely brought to justice.
It is hard to imagine now that massacres of Aboriginal families could have been officially sanctioned but that was the case less than a century ago near Coniston in Central Australia.
Coniston was a cattle station in Central Australia. 1928 was a time of severe drought which meant many people - Anmatyerr mob, Kaytetje and Warlpiri - migrated to an area near the cattle property known for water springs (Yaruku and Yurrkuru).
Randall Stafford, a pastoralist, had built Coniston Station and claimed the Yurrkuru spring as part of his land. The drought in 1928 had caused him to sell his cattle and lay off his worker, Fred Brooks. Brooks set up his camp next to Yurrkuru and was the first white man that many of the new arrivals to the soakage had ever seen.
But one of the men who arrived, an Aboriginal man known as Bullfrog, was familiar with white people and keen for some tobacco. He sent his wife, Napurrurla, to the white man’s tent to ask for tobacco. Brooks made her do jobs to earn the tobacco and when she didn’t return it was believed that Bullfrog had lost his promised wife to the white man. He was so angry he went to Brooks’ tent and killed him. He quickly buried the body and fled the area.
After Brooks’ body was found the police in Alice Springs sent mounted Constable George Murray (who was also Protector of Aborigines) to Coniston Station. He had orders to find who murdered Fred Brooks, and bring them into town so he put together a posse of station workers to help him.
They found a group of Aboriginal people near the waterhole and opened fire. A few escaped to the hills but everyone else was shot and killed. Murray was supposed to question witnesses and bring suspects into Alice Springs. But, unable to find Bullfrog, he undertook a series of reprisals killing between 14 August and 18 October. Over 60 Aboriginal men, women and children were killed over the following months.
This massacre was illegal by Australian law but the perpetrators were never charged and their actions were considered to be in “self-defence”. This August we remember the fallen at Coniston. Reflecting on one tragedy helps to personalise the staggering statistic that nearly 250 massacres occurred in Australia between 1788 and 1930!
A project to map the locations and scale of massacres across Australia is being undertaken by the University of Newcastle. You can view the results online at: https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres/map.php
The Guardian also has used the same data to create a map of sites where violence occurred on the Australian frontier: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/ng-interactive/2019/mar/04/massacre-map-australia-the-killing-times-frontier-wars
These tools can help to educate all Australians about the truth of the land we now share. We need to confront this dark past in order to make a better future.
Next Sunday, 4 August, is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, a day for all Australians to show their support for and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The weeks surrounding the day provide classrooms with a great opportunity to explore this year’s theme, “We Play, We Learn, We Belong”, and promote the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Here are 5 deadly activities to celebrate National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day with your kids:
Activity 1: Our FREE downloadable colouring-in sheet.
Get your kids thinking more about this year’s theme with our free downloadable colouring-in sheet. Have a discussion about what each of the topics mean as they colour in each section. Download available below.
Activity 2: Play traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander games with our FREE downloadable instructions.
Have a blast with your kids playing one or more of the traditional games using our detailed instructions. Download available below.
Activity 3: Learn more about traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander toys and games.
Log in to Wingaru Kids or Wingaru Bubs and watch our “Traditional Toys” video and discover what they were made from and how they were played.
For primary school teachers, complete the STEM activities with your students and test their knowledge with digital activities.
For early learning educators, print out our “Traditional Toys” poster and matching card game or play a digital matching game identifying if a toy is modern or traditional.
Don’t have a Wingaru Kids account? Primary schools can access our “Traditional Toys” lesson by requesting a free trial of the platform www.wingaru.com.au/wingaru-kids-trial.html
Activity 4: Celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people
What great things are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people doing in your school or local community? Celebrate these by creating artworks representing their achievements and display them in your classroom.
Activity 5: Celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture with storytelling
Invite a member of your local Aboriginal community into your classroom to share a Dreaming story.
For more Dreaming stories from around Australia log into Wingaru Kids or Wingaru Bubs and access videos, digital activities and printables.
Like most school parents, making sure my child gets a healthy lunch box and a breakfast that is capable of seeing him through a busy morning of learning is a challenge that I face daily. I worry about how much Mr 7 eats and also the quality of the things he is willing to eat. Hot dogs and happy meals just won’t cut it, despite what he tells me!
I am really lucky to have an amazing support network to draw on and when Mr 7 stopped eating breakfast I shared my frustration with the amazing Jenny Kahn, a Ngiyampaa Wailwan woman and the owner of the delicious breakfast cereal company: The Unexpected Guest. This is an Aboriginal owned company that produces the most amazing muesli and health bars. In her usual low-key way, Jenny told me about her kids, who are all grown up, and the things she did to get them through this same stage. And as has always been the way with Aboriginal People, her stories taught me some new approaches to breakfast and our mornings are much less stressful.
I mentioned the advice from Jenny (which I have shared below) to some of the mums at school pick up and they agreed that Jenny is a wise woman! And because I really do know the most amazing women, I wasn’t surprised when another mum, Tracey Pattison, a very respected cookbook author, offered her muesli slice recipe which we have been making a lot using the Unexpected Guest Gluten Freestyle Muesli, which is a staple in our house. I have attached Tracey’s recipe so you can share the goodness. We eat it for breakfast as we can’t send nuts to school but I plan to make a nut-free version for the lunch box any day now – I just really love the Unexpected Guest range so it’s what I always have in the house.
Healthy Breakfast for Busy Lives - Jenny Kahn
Getting organised for the school day is hard for most people (kids, teachers, mums and dads) which means fuelling your body with the best foods to get you alert for the day may be the last thing on your list.
Most people will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Back when my daughter was in school she didn’t like to eat early so breakfast was not a factor for her. Back then I was determined she should have something healthy in her tummy before school.
Our schedule was hectic and I had to drop her at Before School Care by 7.30am otherwise I would miss my train to work. Every morning I would give her a banana or carrot and we would walk into the Before School Care Centre with her happily chewing on either one and me feeling relaxed in my mind that at least her lunch box was full of goodness plus a banana or carrot for brekky, everyone happy!
My daughter is 25 now and we are both busier than ever. The variety of breakfast goodies has changed too and we have so many different options available like cereals, smoothies, protein shakes, eggs on toast (if time permits). The one thing you do not want to indulge is foods covered with refined sugars that will affect your focus and therefore your work performance. Our Freestyle Granuesli at The Unexpected Guest is 99.9% Australian Certified Organic and includes the most beautiful Australian Bush Honey from Queensland which is organic. Honey is our second ingredient and was a very popular food source and sweetener in Aboriginal/ First Nations communities before colonisation as well as nuts and seeds. The Aboriginal/ First Nations diet was simple but rich in every food group (meat, fish, fruits, vegetable and nuts).
In Aboriginal life we only take what we need to ensure vital balance in ourselves and the environment, therefore we believe the serving portions in our mueslis ensure you maintain balance in your food intake. Even if you are time poor in the morning, pour a portion into a reusable snap lock bag or go plastic free with a paper bag and eat it like a trail mix: no need for milk.
Another option is our Organic Oats & Nuts Bar which is a perfect grab-and-go food that has no refined sugars and includes the Australian Bush Honey.
Enjoy the school and work morning routine without the stress of missing breakfast!
You can follow Jenny and the Unexpected Guest at:
You can follow Tracy Pattison at:
Written by Tricia Wallace - Wingaru Butabuta Cultural Awareness Training Facilitator
In 2014 I was working for the Australian Government in an Aboriginal Liaison type position and I was also the President of my local AECG. The NAIDOC theme that year was about those who served. I received a study kit from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that had been released for schools about Aboriginal soldiers. I didn’t know much about the history of Aboriginal People and the armed forces. It was something that I was never taught at school and something that was not talked about in my family. I wasn’t actually sure that any of my relatives had served. My curiosity peaked, I did some further research.
I found a site with some letters sent to the authorities from Aboriginal families asking for information on the death of their loved ones and if there were any “keepsakes” in the government possession that could be returned to them. The Aboriginal writers were so anxious about their requests, their writing often came off as cold and self-serving instead of driven by grief. I wondered how many of the letter writers received a response that provided some comfort and how many were dismissed, their grief not recognised by the person responsible for managing such correspondence.
Imagine my surprise to find one such letter written by my own great-grandmother about a nephew to whom she was close and had listed her as his next-of-kin. Like many Aboriginal People, I was left to stumble on my own family history because our mob had lost so much that this was often the only way to find out about those before us. Many of our people are still searching for bits of information in an attempt to find out where they fit and who their ancestors were. For many of these people we know that culture is forever lost for them. Past policies ensured that.
In my research I read about pride – the pride that people feel for their relatives that served, many making the ultimate sacrifice. Relatives of soldiers proudly presenting their loved ones’ stories and marching in honor of them. Sadly, most of these stories were about non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people who served were not treated the same as the white soldiers. Like the rest of their lives, their military service often went under appreciated. Many struggled to be enlisted at all and those that were successful returned from war to once again be treated like second class citizens, a stark contrast from the experience of their non-Aboriginal comrades.
I was horrified to discover that 50 Aboriginal black trackers, men who were unable to enlist as soldiers because they were Aboriginal yet still wanted to fight for our country, were denied re-entry into Australia under the “White Australia Policy”, so were left behind in Africa after the Boer War. They served their country alongside white Australians only to be discarded because of their Aboriginality. In cultural awareness sessions I am frequently asked ‘why weren’t we told?’ and this was one of those moments for me. Why did I not know this? Why doesn’t the world know this? But in reality I knew why – Australian history is a carefully curated story that has for too long hidden the treatment of our First Nations People.
For Aboriginal soldiers who did return to Australia, they had no choice but to resume life on missions or reserves. They were not given land grants as non-Aboriginal soldiers often were. They were not eligible to enter pubs or even the Returned and Services League Clubs and were ineligible for the Veterans’ Affairs pension. Aboriginal servicemen and women received no recognition and many returned to find children removed, and were told their pay had been withheld from their families.
For those who did not make it home, there were no plaques placed on their graves and their families were not allowed to participate in ANZAC Day marches or other events that families of non-Aboriginal soldiers got to take comfort in.
Aboriginal returned veterans held their own ANZAC service behind the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Their shrine was a few hundred metres into bushland at a private ANZAC memorial plaque for Aboriginal Diggers.
In 2017, Aboriginal Servicemen and women led the ANZAC march for the first time. I was thrilled to see one of my favourite Elders finally strutting in the lead.
How is the end of term 1 here already?! 2019 is flying by!
We have had a busy term with lots of new schools joining us and new content being created by our educators. Look out over the next few weeks for some new Torres Strait lessons, and more lessons that align with the STEM elaborations released at the end of 2018. We are also preparing our NAIDOC lessons for 2019.
We have been assisting teachers with matching lessons to the units they are currently teaching in their classrooms. I love that teachers are reaching out for this support as it is why I started Wingaru. Changing the way people approach Aboriginal education and making Aboriginal content more accessible means more perspectives in the classroom and thats something I can get excited about! Sing out if you need a hand!
As Easter approaches, classrooms are busy with Easter activities. Easter parades, Easter craft and visits from the super Bunny himself, mean that eggs are a focus for many students. While Easter is not an Aboriginal celebration, eggs were a big part of customary life and looking at how Aboriginal people used eggs is a great perspective for all age groups. I have attached some worksheets that may help.
I hope the holidays are a relaxing time for you and your mob.
One of the things I am passionate about is supporting schools to make strong connections with their local communities. It brings a whole new dimension to Aboriginal education that all students can benefit from. Larry Brandy is an amazing storyteller who offers great experiences to support learning in schools and early childhood environments. He shares my passion for education, and I love the way he shares his knowledge and brings culture into the classroom. I asked him if he would share a bit about his approach to teaching culture and am delighted to share his blog post today.
I would like to introduce myself. I am a Wiradjuri man from Condobolin, central New South Wales. I now live in Canberra. I am passionate about sharing my culture with people of all ages and in particular children.
For the last few years I have been a regular performer in early childhood centres, preschools and schools around Canberra, as well as in Wiradjuri Country and Sydney.
I love performing with young children as they are so eager to learn about different cultures in a fun way. In my performance children become kangaroos, emus and hunters as they learn how we hunted and found food in traditional times. I use real artefacts as well as animal masks to involve the children. We always start a performance with an acknowledgement to the Traditional Owners of the Country we are on. At the end of the performance we do a short corroboree together using clap sticks and boomerangs for music. If the children want to I can paint their faces with ochre.
When I am a regular performer I use different themes each time. This could include the seasons, bush foods, where animals live and how Aboriginal children learn about animals and their tracks. I also introduce Wiradjuri language where appropriate. This could include counting to 10 in Wiradjuri, learning some Wiradjuri names for animals. Many names for Australian animals are based on Aboriginal words such as wombat, from wambad, kookaburra from gugubarra, galah from gilaa and so on.
Children are very open to learning and I love seeing them take an interest in Aboriginal culture and how that interest can lead to empathy, understanding as well as an appreciation for Aboriginal people and culture. Supporting teachers to deliver Aboriginal content is a great privilege and it is great to be able to support schools and early childhood centres become more culturally aware.
I am still learning my language so these are a way for me to learn more as well. Language is important because it helps keep our culture alive. I have published two books for children, introducing them to the Wiradjuri language. One is a colouring-in A to Z book and the other is an activity book. I like being able to encourage children’s interest in Aboriginal culture because it is important education for all Australian kids.
Adults and children of all ages benefit from learning about Aboriginal people and history. For groups of young children, I focus on being very interactive, getting children involved so as to ignite a love of learning about my culture. With older children I can talk more about the artefacts and what they were used for. I enjoy connecting with educators and encouraging them to continue the learning in their programs.
To find out more about what I do follow me on Facebook or check out my website. Feel free to message me with any questions you may have or you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow my journey at:
Video with children at an early childhood centre https://vimeo.com/202511207
My story on SBS https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/video/462757443751/Surviving-S2-Ep11-Larry-Brandy
Post by Cynthia O'Brien-Younie.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this post contains images of a person who is deceased.
I was glad when the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made the very remarkable apology to the Stolen Generation. I remember watching the apology in the office – it is a day I will always remember. I had a lot of mixed emotions as I watched Prime Minister Rudd speak, as my mother and many of my aunts and uncles are part of the Stolen Generation. That apology spoke directly to them and the impact it had on my family.
My Mother never got to hear this apology as she passed in 2005, three years before the apology.
My Mother, Betty O'Brien, was one of eight siblings that were removed as part of the Stolen Generation. She was in her teens when she was taken and was sent to a farming property in Armidale NSW where she worked as a house domestic. She was paid wages but never received them as they were taken and placed with the Aboriginal Protection Board. Her wages were never returned and became part of the widespread history of Stolen Wages. My Mother passed before any claim could be made for her wages.
My mother's four sisters were sent to Cootamundra Girls Home where they suffered abuse of all kinds. Her three brothers were sent to the notorious Kinchela Boys Home near Kempsey where they also suffered abuse. At the home they were given numbers and not called by their names.
My mother didn’t talk much about her experience but I can say that when I was growing up my mother was very protective of all her children. She made sure that we were always clean and the house was spotless so that when the Welfare Board came checking on her there would be NO excuse for them to take us away. This is a fear that never left her. She would never complain about the way she was treated and would simply say she had a good life but she couldn't say the same for her brothers and sisters.
The Apology and recognition of the trauma caused by the removal policies on the Stolen Generation and their families was an important day.
I was glad to hear the Apology.
Cynthia and her mum Betty.
How is the 2019 school year here already?
This week as families, including my own, get back into the swing of everyday life and remember the routines that come with having school age children, I can’t help but be excited about what the year may hold. How will my children grow and develop this year? What newly found knowledge will they share with me as they burst through the door eager to share the amazing facts they have discovered? How much bigger will their feet get and how many new pairs of shoes will I need to buy to keep up? With each year I see more of the great men they will be and watching them navigate who they will be is without a doubt one of my greatest privileges.
I am also really excited to introduce some new services to Wingaru as we introduce Wingaru Butabuta Cultural Awareness Training and education services for adults. The name Wingaru Butabuta is inspired by the teaming up of two amazing Aboriginal women who have come together to share their knowledge and experience with organisations looking to increase their cultural capacity. Tricia, a Darug woman, and Cynthia, a Dunghutti woman, share the Wingaru mission of creating a shared understanding about Aboriginal Australia.
Wingaru, a Darug word meaning 'to think' and Butabuta, a Dunghutti word, meaning 'together' is the perfect name for the services that Tricia and Cynthia will be overseeing and there are no words to express how excited I am to introduce the program that they have put together. Wingaru Butabuta offers programs for organisations of all types including government and non-government organisations, teachers and educators working across all stages as well as individuals wishing to increase their understanding of Aboriginal people. We are also able to support organisations in developing culturally appropriate education materials, programs and plans such a Reconciliation Action Plans.
We also have some great things planned for the coming year for Wingaru Kids and Bubs. We of course have new content for both platforms, including NAIDOC resources which will support kids of all ages to think about the importance of Aboriginal voices, the truth about Aboriginal history and our people, and of course treaty and the ways that we can best recognise the rights of our first nations. Our educators have been busy over the break working on Aboriginal perspectives for STEM. This includes revisiting many lessons on the Wingaru Kids Platform to highlight relevant Science outcomes and have included engaging new printables. We also have some new language lessons on the way in recognition of 2019 being the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
When I chat to the teachers whose classes use the Wingaru Platform the most, the thing they have in common is planning, whether it be yearly, termly or weekly. The curriculum is busy and it is difficult to find time for all the things we ask teachers to include in the classroom so having lessons where Aboriginal perspectives are combined with outcomes from Key Learning Areas such as HASS, Science, PDHPE or English is a big advantage.
Planning can also support more regular inclusion of Aboriginal content in the classroom so as you are planning for this term I encourage you to consider ways you can deliver Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives each week. I'd love to see your approach to planning - sing out if we can help!
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?
You need look no further than social media to see this. Read any post that relates to an Aboriginal person and you will see the plethora of racist comments based on myth, bias and ignorance. A white person dies and the world expresses sympathy and support for the family in an outpouring of grief. An Aboriginal person dies and the family is instantly judged as incompetent, criminal and disrespectful. The ignorant comments come thick and fast.
The recent comments on the death of the lads from Townsville is an example of this. It was instantly assumed they died committing a crime (that later reports revealed to be committed by a white man) and people felt it appropriate to write comments that are nothing short of disgusting, adding to the stress, trauma and loss a family is already facing. Why is the loss of an Aboriginal life not given the same respect as the non-Aboriginal person?
Australia Day is another example of the racism that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face daily. The belief that we do nothing but drink, wait for handouts and do nothing to better our lives feeds the hate that is directed towards us. Reading the comments is exhausting but I couldn’t look away because our country cannot go on the way it is. We need to find a solution and therefore need to understand where the hate comes from. Racism is complicated and I am not suggesting that the solution is simple but reading the comments it was very clear that most of the hate comes from misinformation and ignorance that continues to be spread due to fear. We can address this through education.
The reality is this – Australia was invaded and the country stolen from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who despite the atrocities committed against them have maintained a connection to land. Acknowledging this takes nothing away from non-Aboriginal people. No one is asking them to pay for the crimes of the past, but acknowledging that the past happened and had a lasting impact is important.
Educating all Australians will help address the misconceptions feeding racism. We need to start there.
Closing the Gap Day is next week and it is a great opportunity to start a conversation about Aboriginal disadvantage to inform an understanding about the issues impacting on Aboriginal people and what we can all do to start to address the gap. We had a great response to our Closing the Gap Activity last year so I have attached it again in case you would like to revisit.
It’s that time of year again. You know, when Australians come together to celebrate how great Australia is on the day that marks the anniversary of the beginning of the cultural destruction for Aboriginal Australians.
Weeks before the big day social media fights ignite – should we really be holding a national party on the day that was devastating for a culture? The media throws fuel on the fire, pitting people against each other and soon Australians are at each other’s throats, arguing for their view point. This year the PM added a new dimension to the fight and announced he would introduce legislation forcing local councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on the 26th January, a practice some Councils have abandoned out of respect for their local Aboriginal people.
The racist comments and hate that is thrown towards Aboriginal people at this time of year is horrific and as an Aboriginal person it is hard not to be offended. But as I read through the appalling hate and racism it is clear that many Australians have missed the point and we are arguing for different things.
Those who are asking for the date to be changed are not asking for people to stop being proud to be Australian. They are not asking for people to give up their public holiday or to stop celebrating the achievements of their families. They are just asking for us as a country to stop hosting the nation’s biggest party on a day that forever changed a culture, a day that mass murders, rapes and destruction began. They are asking us to remember the true history of the country and to respect the people that gave up their lives in order for us to live ours today.
Changing the date takes nothing away from anyone, despite what mainstream media has us believe. All it does is move the party to a day when all Australians can truly participate. It’s not a big ask given that the 26th of January is a recent date for the day to be held and 56% of Australians don’t mind when the day is held as long as we have one (read more about this poll here).
There seems to be this fear that changing the date somehow takes something away from non-Aboriginal Australia. That somehow Aboriginal people will be gaining something at the expense of their fellow Australians. Yet in reality all that would be happening is that we would be moving forward together, with respect for the real history of our country and acknowledgement of the journey that brought Australia to where it is today.
The date will change eventually, that I am confident of. Shouldn’t we just do it now and start a celebration that we can all be part of?
This week Australians focused on Harper Nielsen, a nine year old student who refused to stand and sing the national anthem because she feels that it excludes Aboriginal People. As the story appeared in the media Aboriginal people around the country braced themselves for the racist hate that would undoubtedly be thrown their way.
Sure enough social media quickly filled with people’s opinions, with the majority of people who commented suggesting that Harper is the problem, rather than the out of date song she is protesting. Accusations about her being brainwashed and her parents not teaching her respect were quickly followed by the usual vitriol about Aboriginal people needing to ‘get over it’, being ‘dole bludgers’ and other inaccurate stereotypes fuelled by misinformation and lack of education. It was exhausting to read. It’s hard to be an Aboriginal person in this country sometimes with so much disdain directed at our people.
Another common theme in the comments was the thought that Harper was too young to come up with this stance on her own and that adults, most likely her parents, were behind the political statement. This view completely underestimates the intelligence and ability of children. Kids are very capable of considering issues and choosing a stance themselves. They are ready to be given information and an opportunity to form and share their own views and they deserve for these views to be respected. They won’t always get it right, but none of us do. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be given the opportunity to express our views or that we should not take the stand we believe in.
Standing up for what we believe in is important. As long as it is done respectfully, I support students who want to make a stand, particularly when it comes to Aboriginal issues in this country. We need kids today to start thinking about these issues so that in the future we have a generation of adults who are informed and can drive change. We need to have open discussions about the tough issues and teach kids to have these conversations in a respectful way. We need to make sure we are arming them with facts and accurate information to back their views. We as adults need to be able to respond to the arguments that we don’t agree with in a respectful way, something that many adults have failed at this last week.
Harper is not alone in choosing not to participate in the National Anthem. Many people make that decision every day for a range of reasons and it doesn’t cause the upset that it has this week. She is also not alone in thinking that we need to consider how well the national anthem reflects who we are as a country now. Victorian Supreme Court Judge, Peter Vickery, has previously been vocal about the exclusion of Aboriginal People from the National Anthem, founding the Recognition in Anthem Project to drive a change. You can check out the work they are doing on their website https://www.rap.org.au/.
Regardless of your views on the Anthem, the exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from our national song is surely something that we need to address.
One of the challenges teachers face is how to bring more Aboriginal content into their classrooms. Alison Greenland, owner of Leap into Literacy talks about how she brings Aboriginal perspectives into her lessons, using Aboriginal stories to complement the topics here students are exploring.
The AR digraph and Stories in the Stars
In this blog we will focus on our week three class for some of our younger students in years K-1. The focus sound that the children worked on in the class was the /ar/ sound.
To begin the lesson, the students suggested words that have the /ar/ sound in them. They were encouraged to think of examples of the three different ways the sound can be pronounced such as “bark, collar or war”. The three different sounds (“ar”, “er” or “or”) that come from the digraph /ar/ were listed on the whiteboard and in the children’s notebooks. Examples of words with the focus sound were given and the students were tasked with putting them into the correct column. The students then wrote a sentence or two using one or two of the words. A fun game was played and a video presented to help consolidate these concepts.
How to Catch a Star
Next, the students were asked if they had read or heard of the book How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. Discussions were had about what sound is at the end of the word ‘star’ and how they thought it would be spelled. The children had great fun sharing what they knew about stars before listening to the story.
How to catch a star is an inspirational story of a boy who just loves stars. The boy decides to catch a star of his very own and a beautiful journey unfolds. At the end of the story, the students discussed why the boy couldn’t catch the star in the water as it was merely a reflection. They also pondered the type of star that actually washed up for him (the starfish). The teacher questioned the students on what they would do if they actually caught a star and they noted a few ideas down.
Now it was time for the students to write their own short story or a sentence depending on age level. The children brainstormed as a class ways that they could catch a star of their own. They were given a head start for their story with the opening line, “One day, I tried to catch a stay by…”
Stories in the Stars In keeping with the stargazing theme, the next part of the lesson introduced students to the Aboriginal stories in the stars. The constellations in the night sky are of great significance to Indigenous Australians. The night sky could serve many purposes, some more practical like seasonal changes and some more spiritual in nature. The class discussed how these stories were told by generations of Indigenous Australians and that each constellation has a story behind it. Examples were discussed including the story of Bunya the Possum from the Boorung People in Victoria. Bunya is the possum that can be seen in the constellation otherwise known as the Southern Cross. The tip of the Southern Cross is the nose of the possum and its tail hangs down to the left. The tree that he sits completes the other elements of the constellation. The story explains that Bunya ran away from Tchingal, the evil emu, and hid in a tree for so long that he turned into a possum. Bunya is a story of the Boorung People from Victoria.
After exploring these Aboriginal perspectives on the stars, the students were then invited to design their own “constellation story”. They were asked to draw a creature on their paper and then draw a few stars inside it to make the creature in the night sky. Students were encouraged to write a sentence or a short story about their chosen star constellation and why it came to be. You can see below the wonderfully creative examples of their constellation stories.
The Leap into Literacy Great Book Swap supporting the Indigenous Literacy Foundation
The Great Book Swap is a fantastic way to celebrate reading in our local community, and raise much-needed funds for remote Indigenous communities. The idea is to swap a favourite book in exchange for another, for a gold coin donation. Last year, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation raised over $190,000 from the Great Book Swap and this year their goal is to raise $300,000 to gift 30,000 new books to remote communities who have few to none. After all, how can you learn to read without books ? Help Leap into Literacy help them by making a donation to our Great Book Swap page and sharing it with your friends! And come along on September the 5th to our Great Book Swap event at our Drummoyne and Balmain locations!
DONATE TO THE GREAT BOOK SWAP
Want to know more about Leap into Literacy?
Leap into Literacy provides small tutoring classes with a focus on reading comprehension and writing. Using techniques that allow students to become creative in the learning process, sessions are fun and achieve maximum results. Classes are held in our Drummoyne and Balmain centres, Chatswood and other Inner West locations. Classes are available for children in Years K-6 and we now offer preschool classes for children aged 3-5.
We offer a FREE TRIAL CLASS so contact us to find out how Leap into Literacy can help your child.
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Last week I was excited to share my views on Aboriginal education in a piece for the Guardian. If you missed the piece, you can view it here.
It is always a little scary to put yourself out there but I am really glad I did. The response has been amazing! I have been contacted by teachers seeking more information about how they can include more perspectives in the classroom; parents wanting their child to have access to more Aboriginal education; and people from Aboriginal and non Aboriginal backgrounds sharing their support and views on this important issue.
Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of support or shared their story with me over the last week. It is always great to hear how other people think about Aboriginal education and their experiences with Aboriginal content.
The feedback has been really positive, affirming my decision to four years ago to start Wingaru and focus on supporting schools to not only include more Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom but to change the way that we think about Aboriginal content.
The message that came through loud and clear is that there are many Australian’s seeking more Aboriginal education in their lives but are unsure how to go about it. I think part of the solution is looking for opportunities to add perspectives to units already being completed in the classroom. For example, my sons class is currently looking at toys and exploring how they have changed over time, this is a perfect opportunity to include traditional Aboriginal toys. My niece is learning about farming, it would be great to see her teacher include pre 1770 farming approaches.
The inclusion of Aboriginal perspectives is a positive no matter how you look at it. It contributes to the development of understanding and a shared knowledge amongst Australian’s about our country as well as enhances the learning experience for students - considering approaches of other cultures is not only interesting, it gives kids an opportunity to consider the world from an alternative view and critically reflect on the world they live in.
As with all change, breaking down the barriers for changing Aboriginal education will take time but it’s a change that I can already see happening.
Including an Aboriginal perspective gives students the opportunity to consider concepts from another angle as well as adding interesting content that kids enjoy.
One of the things that has become clear since I started Wingaru is that there is a lot of confusion about what exactly an Aboriginal Perspective is. Many people think of adding Aboriginal perspectives as introducing whole units of work. As you can imagine, this becomes very overwhelming when you consider how crowded the curriculum is. It is not surprising that so many teachers put Aboriginal Perspectives in the too hard basket.
If we start looking at Aboriginal perspectives as simply looking at a topic from an Aboriginal point of view, the task becomes less daunting. Adding an activity exploring the Aboriginal point of view to an existing unit of work is an easy way to add more Aboriginal content to your classroom.
The lessons on Wingaru Kids are an easy addition to existing units being taught in classrooms every day. Here are a few examples of how we can help you add more Aboriginal perspectives.
Saturday the 4th of August is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. It is an opportunity for all Australians to celebrate our kids, and consider the impact that community, culture and family play in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.
Aboriginal children play an important role in carrying our culture into the future and our communities work hard to raise strong and resilient leaders. We give kids a voice and teach them not to be afraid to use it. We send them off to school to be educated and gain skills that we hope will complement the lessons we have given them and encourage their growth.
But often this is not the school experience for Aboriginal kids. Many struggle in the school environment. This is hardly surprising given that many schools are not culturally friendly and children are expected to operate in an environment that doesn’t understand them. Not only do many of our kids struggle with navigating the school system and trying to find their feet, they often face racism, bias and bullying because of their Aboriginality.
I regularly speak with teachers who are looking to support their Aboriginal students, many of whom are disconnected in the classroom and struggling to find their voice in the school environment. I love that these teachers are reaching out – it shows they care and that someone is looking out for our kids. I am always happy to have a yarn and see if I can help.
Many teachers who contact me for support are looking to bring our resources into their school, not for all students but just for one or two Aboriginal students. The request is made with genuine good intentions but I can hear the frustration of teachers as I explain that is not how our platform works. Sticking the Aboriginal kids on a computer by themselves is not going to help them. It is not going to help them connect in the classroom.
Aboriginal kids need us to create culturally competent and safe school environments. They need schools that celebrate their communities, acknowledge the resilience of their people and provide opportunities for them to connect and feel included. They need classrooms that include genuine Aboriginal perspectives and peers who are gaining a shared knowledge and respect for the journey Aboriginal people have travelled and the confidence to stand in solidarity to challenge the misconceptions that they hear in mainstream society everyday. Like all students, Aboriginal kids need to feel secure in order to flourish. This can’t happen when every day is a struggle to fit in, to navigate a system that is culturally incompatible and where you are on the defence due to misconceptions fuelling negativity from peers.
I remember starting a new school when I was 14. I knew no one and they didn’t know me. During those first few days I was given lots of advice from my new peers intended to help me navigate my new environment. I learnt which teachers were tough and which were fun; I learnt which kids ruled the playground and which were considered uncool; I learnt what food to avoid at the canteen; and I learnt that I should try to be friends with the Aboriginal kids because they were scary and better to have onside than not.
If you had asked me then I don’t think I could have articulated why that advice made me uneasy but I certainly didn’t offer information about my own Aboriginality and I wondered what would happen when it was learnt that I was one of the ‘scary Aboriginals’ I had been warned about. The school had a large Aboriginal population – there were about 40 of us – and we had an amazing Aboriginal Education Assistant, a committed Aboriginal Support Teacher and an active parent committee supporting us. Despite this, there were so many misconceptions amongst the student body about Aboriginal people. There was resentment for the perceived entitlements we received and an underlying fear which I now know permeates society.
I doubt I would have received the same advice had Aboriginal education been approached differently and students were armed with knowledge to start breaking though the misconceptions that contributed to students feeling that such warnings were necessary. It is time that we start to approach Aboriginal education in this way.
When you are considering how to support your Aboriginal students I encourage you to look at the great initiatives designed to support Aboriginal kids but also look beyond our kids at the environment and see how you can help build a culturally competent environment for our kids to thrive in. And as always, if you think I can help, get in touch. I am always up for a yarn.
If you are looking for resources for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children Day check out the SNAICC website http://aboriginalchildrensday.com.au.
I am really excited to announce this month's Wingaru Teacher of the Month is Sonia Layton from Tempe Public School. Sonia is an amazing Aboriginal teacher who makes a huge contribution to Aboriginal education and her school community.
Selecting the Teacher of the Month is not an easy task. We work with so many great teachers, it is hard to select just one. However this month it was easy - we have had so much positive feedback from parents at her school that there is no doubt that Sonia is this month's selected teacher. Thank you to the parents who went out of their way to tell us how fantastic Sonia is and let us know how great her contribution is.
We first met Sonia at Edutech last year and have loved working with her so it is no surprise that students and parents think she is amazing. She is a great advocate for Aboriginal education, goes above and beyond for her students and is recognised by her school community as a great educator.
This month we have been honouring Aboriginal women and the contribution they make and I am privileged to highlight the contribution that Sonia makes. Because of her, we can.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.