In Allen and Unwin’s 2009 interview with Indigenous author, poet and social commentator Anita Heiss, she tells us that the main difference between Aboriginal writers and non-Aboriginal writers telling ‘Aboriginal’ stories is that Aboriginal writers aren’t just telling a story: they “use writing as a form of catharsis. They use it as a means to make sure that their voice has a place in Australian literature. They use their writing as a means of having a political voice in a country where we still remain voice-less in a political system…”
Our local public library has a large and varied collection of Indigenous Literature, albeit in the adult collection. This seems to be a reflection of the lower publication rates for Indigenous literature targeting the children audience.
Ensuring Aboriginal voices are heard in our schools, from a very young age is vital. As a K-6 Librarian it can be difficult at times to access Indigenous texts that are not tokenistic representations. Our school is committed to developing a Library Collection that reflects the diversity of our student population and this includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
Thankfully, more and more picture books and primary novels are being written by Indigenous people, telling authentic stories of their family, community and spirituality.
The Cross-curriculum priority area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture from the Australian Curriculum calls specifically for “all learners to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the world’s oldest continuous living cultures.” [so that] “This knowledge and understanding will enrich their ability to participate positively in the ongoing development of Australia.” (Education Services Australia, n.d. Par 3).
This priority interconnects aspects of Country/Place, People and Culture. Texts that I recommend for investigating these aspects with K-6 children include:
Collecting Colour, by Kylie Dunstan (All ages). This gorgeous fiction picture book is based on the author’s experiences in Arnhem Land of collecting vines and reeds for the Aboriginal women to use for weaving.
The Memory Shed, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Illustrated by Craig Smith (All ages). This is the story of a young girl helping her Grandmother clean out the shed for a garage sale. Each item has a story. It references the Depression and bush tucker.
Stradbroke Dreamtime, by Oodgeroo Nunukul & B Bancroft (All ages) contains 27 short stories. It is a particular favourite as a read aloud, providing insight into Old and New Dreaming stories with beautiful illustrations. It can be applied to a variety of student investigations in English, Mathematics, Science and Technology.
- Allen &Unwin. (2009). Anita Heiss – Aboriginal writing: literature as a political tool. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x_34uJww_E
- Education Services Australia. (n.d.). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and culture. In Australian Curriculum [website]. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/crosscurriculumpriorities/Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-histories-and-cultures
- Dunstan, K. (2009). Collecting Colour. Sydney : Lothian Children’s Books
- Morgan, S., Kwaymullina, E. & Smith, C. (Illustrator). (2015). The Memory Shed. Parkside, SA : Omnibus Books
- Saffioti, T. & MacDonald (Illustrator). (2011). Stolen Girl. Sydney : Lothian Children’s Books
- Oodgeroo Nunukul & Bancroft, B. (1999). Stradbroke Dreamtime. Pymble, N.S.W. : Angus&Robertson