Indigenous perspectives can be taught through literature and stories, not just through “art lessons in the afternoon”, says Ross Hill Public School teacher and Federation’s relieving Aboriginal Education Coordinator Russell Honnery.
He uses a unit of work he developed to incorporate the teaching and learning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into his school’s English program for Year 6 students as a case in point.
The unit covers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events and a novel on the Stolen Generation and life in Sydney in the 1930s, My Story: Who am I? The Diary of Mary Talence.
Key concepts are class discussions, using appropriate terminology and symbols, plus greater understanding of Aboriginal history and special events. The unit was taught over five weeks in Term 2 to incorporate Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week, and links to History and Creative Arts/Visual Arts outcomes.
Classroom activities include writing diary entries, constructing a timeline based on the events in the novel being studied and researching the Stolen Generation on the internet.
Russell spoke to the local Aboriginal community and the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and Lands Council before developing the unit. He says it is important to ask the local community what they want students to know.
One task asks students to write from the perspective of a child, adoptive family member, mission worker, Aboriginal Protection Board officer, police, parent or welfare worker about an Indigenous Australian being removed from family and community.
Russell sent a note home with students outlining the unit ahead of its implementation and invited caregivers to discuss it with him.
“Teachers don’t have to reinvent the wheel to teach Indigenous perspectives,” Russell says.
He looks to Federation’s “Aboriginal Education Profile — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy” contained in the document Aboriginal Education — 25 Year Approach: The Way Forward Action Plan Kit (available here) and resources available online. Websites Russell recommends are:
Russell encourages all teachers to incorporate Indigenous perspectives in their teaching, recommending they start with a tiny slice: a single lesson plan. “To start, get the students to find out what country they are in — there is an online interactive Indigenous map of Australia) — teach them Acknowledgment of Country and why it is important,” he said.
“Use technology: I use an Indigenous language app,” he also said.
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