It is the most comprehensive record of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander publications available, recording information about the lives, careers, and works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers and the literary cultures and traditions that formed and influenced them. BlackWords covers all forms of creative writing, plus film, television, criticism and scholarship, both by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and literary and storytelling cultures. The database also records details of works that contain stories or oral narratives that relate to relevant aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience such as mission histories, some works of anthropology, educational texts, journals and correspondence. As such, it contains a great deal of material that will be useful for teachers in a range of different school subjects.
In BlackWords, ‘Black’ refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers. While the word ‘Black’ has historically been used negatively against the Indigenous peoples of Australia, in recent times it has been reclaimed by Indigenous communities, and used in preference to terms such as ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Indigenous’, which are viewed as colonisers’ terms.
Go here for detailed, background information about BlackWords.
With reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, ACARA states that the Australian curriculum is working towards two distinct needs:
• that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are able to see themselves, their identities and their cultures reflected in the curriculum of each of the learning areas, can fully participate in the curriculum and can build their self-esteem
• that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority is designed for all students to engage in reconciliation, respect and recognition of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures.
To further assist teachers, ACARA makes a range of suggestions for how aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives can be incorporated into a broad range of curriculum areas, including English, Maths, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Arts, Technologies, Health and Physical Education, and Work Studies.
As such, BlackWords provides teachers with access to curated lists of authentic black writing from Australia and the Torres Strait Islands. The resources can be used flexibly to complement a range of curriculum learning goals and assist teachers with implementing ACARA’s suggestions. Moreover, these resources ensure that teachers can include authentic, diverse perspectives of First Nations and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their teaching.
BlackWords is a sprawling database that seeks to be as comprehensive as possible in curating publications by black writers and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To facilitate ease of use by teachers, the resources have been specially curated for the primary and secondary school context by identifying resources most relevant and appropriate to their needs. To this end, relevant trails and exhibitions from the larger BlackWords database have been grouped according to four concepts:
• Culture and People
• History (which includes material related to the Stolen Generation)
• Issues and Themes.
These align roughly with ACARA’s suggested concepts for including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture in the school curriculum.
Several resources exist to help you use black writing (including creative writing, film, television, criticism and scholarship) in a sensitive and respectful manner.
• Teaching with BlackWords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers and Storytellers by Dr Janine Leane
Written by the National Coordinator of BlackWords, this article provides valuable background about the selection of resources for the database and provides useful commentary about how the resources can be used. Importantly, Dr Leane provides specific advice on how to avoid teaching indigenous and Torres Strait Islander culture in a way that reinforces stereotypes and misconceptions. The article finishes with a helpful list of further readings and resources.
• Getting Indigenous Voices into the Classroom by Ellen van Neerven (for ABC Splash)
In this fairly brief blog, the author outlines some of the reasons that studying works by Indigenous writer is important for both indigenous and non-indigenous students (especially young readers). She recommends several specific resources, including BlackWords.
• Protocols for Producing Australian Indigenous Writing published by the Australian Council for the Arts
If you intend to ask students (especially non-indigenous students) to create writing about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture, then it is worth being familiar with these protocols and principles, including: respect; indigenous control; communication, consultation and consent; interpretation, integrity and authenticity; secrecy and confidentiality; attribution and copyright; continuing cultures; and recognition and protection. Even school students should be aware of and debate the sensitivities and ethics of potential cultural appropriation. Similar protocols exist for the performing arts, visual arts, media arts and music.
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