• Josie from Waibene (Thursday Island) in the Torres Strait at her primary school. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A new teaching resource designed to embed First Nations histories and cultures within the Australian curriculum has been developed.
Claudia Farhart

31 Jul 2019 - 7:12 AM  UPDATED 31 Jul 2019 - 7:16 AM

A new educational series has been released in a bid to provide teachers with a wide variety of resources to help them teach Indigenous culture in the classroom.

Our Land, Our Stories was developed over three years as a collaboration between more than 40 Indigenous people and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. 

AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie said the series includes about 450 items, including books, lesson plans, and online galleries, with contributions from communities right across the country.

“Each item not only speaks to the diversity and the richness of our cultures but also to our resilience as first peoples of this nation,” he said.

“The series provides a valuable opportunity for teachers and students to learn about our rich histories and cultures and to celebrate our achievements, because we have much to be proud of.

“Importantly, the Our Land, Our Stories series offers an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to see themselves in the curricula – a critical step to engaging our young people in the journey of learning.”

Parliament launch

Elders, contributors and ministers gathered for the series’ launch at a special event in Parliament House on Tuesday, including some writers as young as eight.

Yilka boy Orlando Murray, 9, flew across the country from his Western Australia town of Cosmo Newbery to celebrate the series’, which includes a story he wrote himself.

“I wanted people to know about my Country, my people, and my culture,” Orlando said.  “It makes me feel good that all the kids will read the books in their classrooms.”

Fellow contributor Sally Lawrence said the series was all about giving teachers the tools to feel confident teaching Indigenous culture in the classroom.

“In our talks around the country, educators have agreed that currently embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures within the Australian curriculum is not being realised to its full potential,” she said. 

“Our Land, Our Stories supports all Australian teachers to build their cultural capability to ensure that the generations of bright minds in our schools learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures than the majority of us did throughout our own primary, secondary, and teacher pre-service education at university.”

The series is aimed at primary school-aged children, with books designed for lower, middle, and upper-primary school children included in the set. 

Ministerial support

Education Minister Dan Tehan said the series would be “an incredibly important development” in teaching Indigenous history and culture.

“We do know, as part of the curriculum, that we need to teach Indigenous history, Indigenous culture, Indigenous stories there, but if our teachers don’t have the resources to do it, it’s there in word only,” he said.

“As Education Minister, one of the things that I will do is ensure that these stories are part of our curriculum and the teaching of our curriculum in our schools.”

Labor MP Linda Burney also attended the launch, reflecting on how Indigenous history and culture used to be taught in the classroom.

“I remember absolutely distinctly everyone at the age of 12 or 13 in year seven just being made to feel absolutely ashamed of being an Aboriginal person, being made to feel that my world was collapsing,” she said. 

“And that wasn’t because Ms Rigney was a bad teacher, she wasn’t: she was a caring, kind, good teacher. She didn’t have the information and the resources that she needed to make my identity sing, to be proud of me being in her classroom ... She taught from an old textbook that taught that Aboriginal people were savages, that we were the closest example of stone-age man living on earth today, and that we had no culture and just roamed around randomly.”

Ms Burney said it was “thrilling” to see these resources made available to children in the youngest years of their schooling.

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