Janine Kitson

Welcome to Country

By Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Black Dog Books, 2016

Distinguished Liwik (Elder), Aunty Joy Murphy AO, of the Wurundjeri People of Melbourne shares her Wurundjeri Wominjeka (Welcome) ceremony that one receives before entering Aboriginal land.

Joy Murphy is the descendant of well-respected and courageous William Barak (1824–1903) who protested about the removal of his people living at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, Victoria in the early 1900s.

Indigenous artist Lisa Kennedy’s illustrations reveal just how beautiful, resilient and productive the Wurundjeri people and its land are.

The book includes a poignant publisher’s dedication — “In memory of Joshua Robert Hardy”, who was a young Aboriginal man who died in an unprovoked attack in 2014. On the news of his death, his family asked that two candles be lit — one for their son and one for his alleged killer.

This warm and embracing book describes a beautiful civilisation that nurtured the land for thousands of years, a matter of pride to all Australians.

Protest in Australia: What Do We Want?

By Sue Lawson
Black Dog Books, 2016

Protest is a collection of defining moments in Australia’s history when people have collectively come together and demanded reform. Their protests have manifested in many ways — revolt, signing petitions, going on strike, civil disobedience, calling for referendums, making public statements, illegally blocking bulldozers and rallying for justice, equality and a fair go.

A healthy democracy requires citizens to be active and prepared to protest in order to have their concerns addressed by politicians.

Milestone protests that the author, Sue Lawson, includes are the Battle of Vinegar Hill, the Rum Rebellion, the Eureka Stockade, the Shearers’ Strike, the 1965 Freedom Ride, the Wave Hill Walk-Off, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Mabo and Land Rights, the Stolen Generation, Sorry Day, Women’s Suffrage, the Aboriginal Vote, the 1967 Referendum, Vietnam War and conscription, No Dams — Lake Pedder and the Franklin River, and saving whales.

The book challenges the reader not only to think about why protests are important but also about the courage and determination that past generations took for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.

Dark Emu Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?

By Bruce Pascoe
Magabala Books, 2015

This powerful and insightful book challenges the notion that pre-colonial Aboriginal people were hunter-gatherers. Instead, Bruce Pascoe asserts that Aboriginal nations practised agriculture, lived in villages and had sophisticated and sustainable farming and aquacultures. Much of this evidence was tragically destroyed by the 1860s with colonial expansion.

Pascoe relies on the evidence found in the diaries and journals of European explorers and first settlers. Colonial explorers were, however, so blinded in their determination to possess the land that they failed to appreciate Aboriginal civilisation. Pascoe also argues that the myth that Aboriginal people were “mere” hunter-gatherers has been used as a political tool to justify dispossession.

Dark Emu offers an exciting new vision for the nation’s agriculture by re-introducing Aboriginal farming practices — particularly harvesting the two crops that Aboriginal Australia was dependent upon — yams and grains.

Pascoe’s exciting pre-colonial history celebrates just how amazing Aboriginal agriculture was and how it has the potential to restore the health of Australia’s soils and biodiversity that existed before the onset of the hard hooves of sheep and cattle.

Dark Emu is riveting history because it celebrates the enormous achievements that Indigenous Australians made in caring for the land. In our present ecological crises this could be the answer we are desperately in need of!

All three books are all available from Federation Library.

Janine Kitson is a casual teacher

Classroom activities

Welcome to Country
History K-6 Syllabus
Volume 1



A student:

  • identifies celebrations and commemorations of significance in Australia and the world HT2-1

Key inquiry questions:

  • Who lived here first and how do we know?
  • How has our community changed? What features have been lost and what features have been retained?
  • What is the nature of the contribution made by different groups and individuals in the community?
  • How and why do people choose to remember significant events of the past?


The importance of Country and Place to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples who belong to a local area. (This is intended to be a local area study with a focus on one Language group; however, if information or sources are not readily available, another representative area may be studied.) (ACHHK060)


  • identify the original Aboriginal languages spoken in the local or regional area
  • identify the special relationship that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples have to Country and Place
  • respond to Aboriginal stories told about Country presented in texts or by a guest speaker

Small group/pair discussion

  1. How does your Aboriginal community say Welcome to Country?
  2. Who can give Welcome to Country? Who can’t?
  3. What words do you like best in this book?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Invite an Aboriginal Elder to come and give Welcome to Country and explain it.
  2. Research the Aboriginal nations of your area. Find out about its language? Agriculture? Food? Beliefs? Clothing?
  3. Make a dictionary of Aboriginal words and phrases based on the book and other materials.
  4. Write your own ‘Acknowledgement to Country’ for the school assembly. If possible, check it with your Aboriginal community. A helpful resource is Federation’s ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ brochure available online
  5. List the things you have learnt about Aboriginal culture from this book.
  6. Draw a gum leaf and design a pattern on it.
  7. Write a letter to Joy Murphy Wandin and Lisa Kennedy thanking them for their Welcome to Country and telling her what you have learnt from her book.
  8. Choreograph a dance based on ideas in

Welcome to Country
Geography K-6 Syllabus
Volume 1



A student:

  • examines features and characteristics of places and environments GE2-1
  • describes the ways people, places and environments interact GE2-2
  • examines differing perceptions about the management of places and environments GE2-3
  • acquires and communicates geographical information using geographical tools for inquiry GE2-4

Key inquiry questions

  • How does the environment support the lives of people and other living things?
  • How do different views about the environment influence approaches to sustainability?
  • How can people use places and environments more sustainably?

Content focus

Students explore the climate, natural vegetation and native animals of places in Australia and Asia. They examine the importance of natural vegetation and natural resources to the environment, animals and people and learn about the ways people value environments, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Students identify sustainable practices and recognise that there are different views on how sustainability can be achieved.


Significance of environments


investigate the importance of natural vegetation and natural resources to the environment, animals and people, for example: (ACHGK021, ACHGK022, ACHGK024)

  • identification of types of natural vegetation eg forests, grasslands, deserts
  • explanation of the importance of natural vegetation to animals and the functioning of the environment eg provision of habitats
  • discussion of the importance of natural vegetation and natural resources to people eg provision of food, medicine, fuel, timbers, fibres, metals

Perceptions of the environments


investigate the ways people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, value environments, for example: (ACHGK022, ACHGK023, ACHGK024)

  • discussion of why people value environments differently eg cultural, agricultural, commercial, recreational values
  • description of how custodial responsibility for Country/Place influences Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ views of the environment

Protection of environments


Investigate sustainable practices that protect environments, including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, for example: (ACHGK023, ACHGK024, ACHGK025)

  • examination of how the practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples support the sustainable use of environments eg use of resources

Small group/pair discussion

  1. Look at the inside cover – what does the circles and winding curves tell you about the Country of the Wurundjeri People?
  2. How do the Wurundjeri People keep themselves warm?
  3. What would happen if sheep and cattle came onto their land?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Find and copy an Aboriginal map of Australia.
  2. Choose a page from the book. List all the things you can see on this page. Find examples of agriculture, fish channels, farming, and use of fire.
  3. Identify the foods on the platter. Design a bush tucker meal.
  4. Describe the state of the Wurundjeri country – its rivers, its water, its air, its soil. Who kept the environment so healthy, productive and beautiful?
  5. What does the Welcome to Country tell you about language, sustainability, religion, and way of life of the Wurundjeri people?
  6. Write about going back in time and entering the Wurundjeri Country as their guest.
  7. List the different birds, animals, marine life that you can find in the Wurundjeri Country.
  8. List questions you want to ask Aunty Joy Murphy. Then role play the conversation. Ask what she means by ‘But you must only take from this land what you can give back’?
  9. Biodiversity is about how life is connected. Describe the biodiversity in this book.
History Syllabus
Volume 1



A student:

  • Identifies change and continuity and describes the causes and effects of change on Australian society HT3-3
  • Describes and explains the struggles for rights and freedoms in Australia, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples HT3-4
  • Applies a variety of skills of historical inquiry and communication HT3-5

Key inquiry questions

  • How did Australian society change throughout the twentieth century?
  • What contribution have significant individuals and groups made to the development of Australian society?


Experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, women and children. (ACHHK114)


  • examine Australian human rights, past and present, affecting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrants, women and children
  • explain how Australian society has changed throughout the twentieth century for these groups
  • investigate the significance of ONE of the following in the struggle for the rights and freedoms of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
    • The Stolen Generation
    • the right to vote federally in 1962
    • the 1967 Referendum
    • the Mabo decision

Small group/pair discussion

  1. What qualities does it take to protest?
  2. What happens if you protest in your family or at school?
  3. How do you decide what a ‘good’ and/or a ‘bad’ protest?
  4. Why are some unwilling to protest?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Listen to some protest songs eg ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’ - that was written about the Wave Hill Walk-Off.
  2. Draw a column and put the protests into different categories – Aboriginal Rights, Women’s Rights, Workers’ Rights, Environmental Rights, other.
  3. Make a timeline that lists the protests in this book. Then in groups decide which protests are the most significant. Put the protests in order of importance. Share and discuss.
  4. Invite a guest speaker to come in and talk about a protest they were involved in.
  5. Imagine you are a . . .
    - citizen who writes a letter about the issues of a protest . . .
    - TV news reporter at a protest. . .
    - TV current affairs reporter who interviews a protest leader . . .
    - barrister in a court room defending a protester . . .
    - child of a Prime Minister who argues why the cause of a protest is so important . . .
    - protest leader who writes and delivers the protest speech . . .
  6. Debate: Protests should be banned.
  7. Project based learning - choose one protest and:
    - commemorate it at a special school assembly
    - make a powerpoint presentation about it
    - research and present a talk about current protests
    - choreograph a dance that reflects the protest.
Reminder of Federation’s Centre for Professional Learning Environmental Education Conference: “Empowering Students to Create a Better Future”, Monday, 7 November 2016, Sydney, Hope to see you there!