'When non-Aboriginal Australians talk of “stories of place” with an Aboriginal context in mind, many immediately think of traditional stories, stories used by our old people to pass on cultural information and knowledge, or the history of a specific geographic region, and the significant sites of such areas.'
'For Aboriginal writers, stories of place include those where families in the past were removed to, once their traditional lands were taken. These ‘created spaces’ (for example missions and reserves) became places of significant meaning for many, while at the same time they were physically disconnecting them from their own country.'
(Heiss, Anita, BlackWords: Writers on Country. 2015)
The resources listed here will take you to writings and other resources that explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ diverse experiences of ‘country’. In the essay BlackWords: Writers on Country, Dr Anita Heiss breaks down stereotypes about Indigenous relationships with the land and provides valuable background for teachers wishing to explore this concept further with their students. The essay BlackWords: Children’s Literature About Country explores children’s and young adult literature by aboriginal writers who focus on the meaning of place.
Teachers can easily search the BlackWords database for locally relevant literature and other resources – or, of course, for resources related to any geographical location in Australia and the Torres Straits.
Instructions for conducting general searches of BlackWords can be found here.
In order to locate geographically-relevant literature and resources, first consult the interactive map of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander countries produced by the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. This map attempts to represent all the language, tribal or nation groups of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.
Then, go to the Advanced Search page. Under ‘Project’ select ‘BlackWords’ and in the ‘Keyword’ box type the name of the relevant country (although you can also type the name of a specific town, city etc). The example below – showing only two of the possible search parameters - was completed for the country (Bundjalung) on which modern day Byron Bay is located. Of course, the search can be refined in the usual ways.
“When ngapaki (non-Indigenous people) come to Bawaka they wear shoes to protect their feet. But they take them off when they walk on the beach. That’s when they start learning. When they’re walking on the beach, they’re learning the land.” (pxii)
Extract from p.5 of Teaching notes: A message from the authors.
"First of all we want to tell you about Bawaka. This is important. Bawaka is our wäŋa, our place, our homeland, what we call in Aboriginal English Country. Aboriginal people all have particular relationships to certain areas of Country and these determine our obligations and responsibilities. Our knowledges and what we do in attending to Country, all relate to our particular areas of Country. Our knowledge is localised and we would never, ever presume to speak for someone else’s Country. This is different to the Western science taught in schools, isn’t it? There, children are taught about knowledge that can be applied generally, in all situations. They tend to learn from the top down if you like, from the broad knowledge of how things ‘work’, down to the particular situations. We learn the other way round, we learn from feeling, doing and knowing the connections and relationships on the ground. So remember, everything we tell you in the book is from Bawaka and about Bawaka. But the lessons you learn from this book have importance beyond Bawaka. Maybe these lessons will help you to think about your own ways of teaching, learning, thinking and doing....
"We all feel strongly that this book and these teaching notes are important for sharing Yolŋu knowledge and Yolŋu culture. It’s how Bawaka people are, sharing knowledge with the world, learning from each other, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. So now we hand it over to you, as teachers ourselves we know it is a big responsibility. We hope you will carry the knowledge carefully and respectfully and that you will share it with your students so that they too can learn and share this knowledge with others."
Young Dark Emu - Bruce Pascoe
In Interview with Bruce Pascoe (Fricoe, 2019)
Bill Gammage’s book, The Biggest Estate on Earth, is dense but it has great info. There’s really not much else around but if they could look at the bibliography of Dark Emu they will find interesting information there that they can get stuck into.
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