There are two key weeks dedicated to celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history, and raising awareness about the issues faced today by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Reconciliation Week is celebrated from 27 May to 3 June and NAIDOC Week is celebrated 3–9 July. This year the 27th of May has extra significance – it is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum when the population decided that Indigenous people would be recognised as citizens.
Below we have three books for primary students and three books for secondary students, each with the resources you need to teach them to your classes.
‘We call him a dox so that people won’t kill him, but he’s a fox and one day he’ll go’. This award-winning Young Adult novel by Bruce Pascoe explores the themes of acceptance, prejudice and friendship through Fog, the little fox they call a dox because he was raised by a dingo – and because it might help protect him from those who might want to harm him just for being what he is. Pascoe’s wonderful language choices and his well-crafted dialogue makes this a great text for examining vocabulary and figurative language.
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is the first in a dystopian series called The Tribe, set 300 years in the future after the world has been devastated by natural disasters and a disregard for the environment. Ashala is an Aboriginal Australian teenage protagonist and the leader of the Tribe, a group of people with special abilities who are hunted, locked in detention centres and experimented on. Like all excellent dystopian fiction The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a commentary on contemporary social issues, exploring environmental damage and the refugee perspective.
Life for the young Aboriginal narrator of this novel is tough – during the day he has to deal with bullies at school, and during the night he is fearful of the Hairyman spirit who creeps into his home. One day a Girragundji appears on his windowsill and teaches him how to be brave. This book offers so many opportunities for students to explore and ask questions about different aspects of Aboriginal culture, for example, discussions could be had around the narrator’s use of Aborignal English, and the legend of the Hairyman could lead to further research on Aboriginal myths and stories.
David Unaipon’s collection of Aboriginal stories is a work of historical and literary importance. Though it was written by the extraordinary Unaipon – inventor, scientist, activist and Australia’s first Aboriginal author – it was originally published in 1930 under the name of a white man. Unaipon finally received recognition when the book was restored and republished under his name in 2001. Particularly fascinating is the way Unaipon used the language and structure of classical and biblical texts to write about Aboriginal myths and customs, suggesting Indigenous stories should be valued as part of that same literary canon.
Kirra Somerville, descended from the Martu people of the Western Desert in Western Australia, wrote The Lizard Gang when she was, incredibly, only nine years old. Four lizards, Boo, Zoro, Eliza and Zed, who live in the Australian bush are constantly trying to outdo each other until one day they must come together as a team to overcome a flood. The unit of work for this picture book encourages students to practise their own creativity by creating characters and plotting stories. Paired with beautiful illustrations by Grace Fielding, this is a wonderful story about bravery, teamwork and friendship.
No Sugar is the first part in the First Born trilogy and is considered to be Jack Davis’ most celebrated play. Set in 1929 in Western Australia, it is about a Nyoongah family forced to leave their home and move to a Native Settlement. While it is a depiction of the systemic racism and marginalisation faced by Aboriginal people, it is also a story about resilience and survivial told using humour. Bernadette Brennan has written a brilliantly engaging and insightful essay about considerations of performance and context, useful for students studying the play.