Introductory activities

Research Oodgeroo of the Noonuccal’s biography as a way of understanding her life, her main concerns and significant achievements. Ask students to create a timeline on which they can note some of the important events in her life. Students could focus on:

  • her young life
  • early adult life
  • political activity leading up to the 1967 Referendum
  • her achievements as a poet.

Note 1

An author-centred approach to reading a text is based on the idea that the meaning of the text can be found by studying the auto/biography of the writer and explaining the text by referring to events in her life. This approach is not accepted by many literary theorists, but students may find a close correspondence between Oodgeroo’s life and her poetry.

Note 2

In 1988 Kath Walker changed her name to Oodgeroo of the tribe Noonuccal, both as a protest against the 1988 bicentennial celebrations and also to signal more fully her Indigenous identity. In this unit she will be referred to as Oodgeroo or Noonuccal when referring to both her and her poems, but when referring to the source from which these selected poems are drawn, the text’s title will be used: Kath Walker in China.

  • Show students the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia and locate on it the place known to white Australians as North Stradbroke Island. Note the Aboriginal name for this island, Minjerribah, and for the islands of Moreton Bay, Quandamooka. Also tell students that Oodgeroo decided to call her home Moongalba, ‘the Sitting Down place’.
  • Explain to students the importance of Country to Indigenous people, the attachment to a very specific territory, despite the belief of white people (often self-serving) that Aboriginal peoples were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Show students the NITV program, ‘AWAKEN: Talking Country’ on the Aboriginal concept of Country, which helps all of us understand the depth of feeling in Oodgeroo’s commitment to her country.
  • Show students a copy of the book Stradbroke Dreamtime, written by Oodgeroo and her son, Kabul (born Vivian), after she had moved back to her traditional country to establish a home and a learning centre. This is a book for young readers and this will make it easily accessible to older students. Read some of the stories in Stradbroke Dreamtime (they are traditional Aboriginal legends from Stradbroke Island, Mount Tamborine and the old and new Dreaming) to give students a feel for the Aboriginal culture of this area.
  • The Dreaming Creation story of the Rainbow Serpent is an important aspect of Aboriginal culture. In her poem ‘China…Woman’ Oodgeroo compares the Great Wall of China to the Rainbow Serpent as a way of linking the cultures of China and Aboriginal Australia.
  • Research the story of the Rainbow Serpent and if possible show students a copy of the book written by Oodgeroo and her son, Kabul.

(ACELR001)   (ACELR003)   (EN11-7)

Poetic legacy

Read with students several of Oodgeroo’s best-known poems as a way of understanding the issues that were of most concern to her. (There is no need to study these poems in depth. They are not the focus of this unit. However, they are the poems on which her reputation as a voice for Aboriginal Australia rests.)

  • Begin with ‘We Are Going’. Consider the poem as:
    • a lament for the past
    • a celebration of the Aboriginal culture that has now been destroyed
    • a challenge to white readers
    • an example of Noonuccal’s manipulation of ‘voice’ (e.g. ‘They’ moves to ‘We’) to affirm Aboriginal identity)
    • the close identification of Aboriginal people with nature.
  • Then read ‘United We Win’ and discuss:
    • the ‘double voice’ in the poem that urges reconciliation between well-meaning whites and Indigenous people but also names white pioneers as ‘murderers’
    • the challenge to the myth of Terra Nullius and W.E.H. Stanner’s ‘Great Australian Silence’ about the past of European Australia.
    • the ironic use of the ballad form, the poetic form used by Henry Lawson, a socialist and promoter of ‘mateship’ (but not for Aboriginal Australians).
  • Next read ‘No More Boomerang’. Discuss:
    • the use of the form of a children’s nursery rhyme to disguise the very serious issue of nuclear destruction
    • the use of the poem as a critique of white civilisation.
  • Finally read ‘Aboriginal Charter of Rights’ and consider:
    • the poem was written as a reflection on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    • it is an overtly political poem challenging the power of white government
    • the power of the poem being based on a series of binary opposites.

Some critics of the time dismissed Oodgeroo as a poet because they said she wrote propaganda or protest pieces. For those conservative, classically minded critics – no doubt often commenting with racist and political undertones also – the ideal poetic form was the lyric, a poetic form that focused on personal emotions and individual experiences of nature that could then be extended to the universal.

Discuss with students whether they think that Noonuccal’s poems are indeed poetry or something else again.
(ACELR001)   (ACELR002)   (ACELR003)   (ACELR004)   (ACELR009)   (EN11-1)   (EN11-4)   (EN11-5)


Kath Walker in China

  • Explain to students that in 1984 Noonuccal (then Kath Walker) was invited to take part in a cultural exchange with China led by the famous Australian historian Manning Clark. Explain the nature and purpose of a cultural exchange and discuss why Oodgeroo would have been invited to take part.
  • Give students a simple overview of Chinese history from the early twentieth century onward to provide a context for the cultural exchange. (Of course, this is a very complex topic even today when the Australian government regards China as both an important trading partner but also a defence and security threat.)
  • The route the Australian visitors travelled along in China was as follows: Hong Kong > Shanghai > Beijing > Xian > Shanghai > Hangzhou > Guilin > Guangzhou > Hong Kong. Ask students to map out the route of the group’s itinerary using Google Maps, and to use the internet to find information and photographs about the places visited.
  • Have students read the Foreword by Manning Clark to the text, Kath Walker in China, which explains how important this trip was to her in re-igniting her poetic creativity and giving her renewed hope for the future of her people.


Personal response on reading the text

Teacher’s note

The following approach to ‘The Past’ in both these Initial Response activities and those which follow in the Close Reading section can be applied to each of the seven poems in this selection of Oodgeroo’s poetry from Kath Walker in China.

Ask students to prepare a personal response to the poem ‘The Past’ which is the first poem in the Kath Walker in China collection (even though it was written in 1970).

Give students a paper copy of the poem and ask them to read it aloud at least several times.

Then ask them, using their prior knowledge, to annotate and make notes on the poem about all the things that they find interesting, important, surprising, puzzling or confusing in the poem.

  • These comments might relate to:
    • the subject matter and main idea
    • the structure
    • the technique
    • the metre
    • the language used in the poem
    • imagery and symbolism
    • the mood of the poem
    • the movement or rhythm
    • people, places, events and things and their deeper significance;
  • and advise them that their responses will consist of:
    • appreciative comments (e.g. ‘Great image!’)
    • interpretative statements (‘This image relates back to…’)
    • questions (‘Is this the “voice”of the poet herself?’)
    • explanations of words and phrases (‘This word could have several meanings.’)
    • short paraphrases of parts of the poem to make them more understandable.

Show this PowerPoint slideshow (PPT, 111KB) as a guide and model for how to respond to the poem. Ask students if they agree with the annotations and other notes about the poem in the slideshow.

Outline of key elements of the text

(The approach taken here through to the writing of a critical essay has been informed by a process outlined in Studying Poetry by Brian Moon (Chalkface Press, 1998.)

Now that students have responded as fully as possible to the poem, ask them to create a first summary of their reading using these headings:

  • Subject
  • Main ideas
  • Structure
  • Language
  • Technique

Share with students the following sample summary. Ask them whether they agree with the summary and invite them to add their own ideas to it.


The subject is the poet’s reverence for the past. The poet reconstructs in her imagination an unspoiled past time for her people, a past now shattered by the coming of the white invaders.

Main ideas

  • the past is important in shaping who we are in the present
  • Race is an important aspect of a person’s identity
  • a spiritual connection with nature is an important aspect of Aboriginal culture
  • these aspects of the past have become part of the poet’s very essence as a human being: ‘in my blood’.


Three stanzas of varying lengths, the first an introduction to a lengthier second section that describes the poet’s dream of the past and then a short conclusion that repeats the main idea.


The poet uses a number of contrasting images to illustrate the difference between her comfortable but spiritually empty life and that of the thousands of generations of her people living in harmony with nature.

She uses the metaphor of ‘blood’ to express how deeply the Aboriginal past has influenced her very being.

The poet has used imagery that appeals to at least several senses to engage the reader in the poem.


The poem is written in first person (‘I’) so that it seems the reader is listening in to the poet’s thoughts. This creates a personal, intimate tone.

  • Ask students to think of any questions they would still like to ask about the poem.
  • Ask them to list any words or phrases that they are still not clear about, e.g. ‘accidental present’; ‘all old Nature’s lives’; ‘Known and unknown’ and so on.

(ACELR001)   (ACELR004)   (ACELR005)   (ACELR009)   (ACELR010)   (ACELR014)   (ACELR016)   (EN11-1)   (EN11-3)   (EN11-5)   (EN11-8)


Synthesising task

Now that you have created a first summary of your reading of ‘The Past’ it would be a good time to make a first response to the poem and try to come up with a meaning or ‘reading’ of it. Do this by completing a ‘quick-write’. That is, write as quickly as possible for a few minutes to get down your initial thoughts about the poem, what you think it means and how you feel about it.
(ACELR003)   (ACELR004)   (ACELR005)   (ACELR009)   (ACELR012)   (EN11-1)   (EN11-5)

The writer’s craft

A second reading and summary

Now that students have completed a first reading and summary of ‘The Past’ and responded to the poem through a ‘quick-write’, ask them to return to the poem, do a second reading and then write another summary (or add to the first summary), as has been done here – consolidating earlier observations and adding such dimensions as:

  • metre
  • sound
  • mood and atmosphere
  • themes.

Then show students the completed summary notes below. Use the notes as a further guide to students and also to generate discussion.


  • The subject is the poet’s reverence for the past. The poet reconstructs in her imagination an unspoiled past time for her people, a past now shattered by the coming of white invaders. 

Main ideas

  • the past is important in shaping who we are in the present
  • race is an important aspect of a person’s identity
  • a spiritual connection with nature is an important aspect of Aboriginal culture
  • these aspects of the past have become part of the poet’s very essence as a human being: ‘in my blood’.


  • three stanzas of varying lengths, the first an introduction to a lengthier second section which describes the poet’s dream of the past and then a short conclusion that repeats the main idea.


  • use of a number of contrasting images to illustrate the difference between her comfortable but spiritually empty life and that of the thousands of generations of her people living in harmony with nature
  • emphasis on the metaphor of ‘blood’ to express how deeply the influence of the Aboriginal past has on her very being
  • use of imagery that appeals to at least several senses to engage the reader in the poem.


  • written in first person (‘I’) so that it seems the reader is listening in to the poet’s thoughts, creating a personal, intimate tone.


  • The poet has used free verse. However, this is not the same as conversation. The poet has created rhythmic cadences to emphasise certain words and to control the rhythm of the poem.


  • personification of the ‘tall surrounding trees’ as they make ‘their own music’
  • ‘soft cries’ in the night-time
  • images that represent nature as a powerful but benign presence.

Mood and atmosphere

  • wistful; also regretful at a sense of loss
  • an expression of reverence for the past
  • a hopeful atmosphere as the poet asserts her belief that there is a continuity between past and present.


  • the poet’s commitment to her people
  • her belief in the importance of nature to human life
  • the importance of the past to a largely contingent (‘accidental’) present
  • the poet as a ‘song man’ giving a voice to her people.

(ACELR001)   (ACELR003)   (ACELR005)   (ACELR007)   (ACELR009)   (ACELR010)   (EN11-3)   (EN11-5)

Critical essay

Explain to students that the next step in responding to this or any of the other six poems in the selection is to write a critical essay. This will require students to make a plan in response to a set question or task. For this exercise students should create a plan in response to this task:

  • ‘Outline the main ideas in Oodgeroo’s poem “The Past”, and show how these ideas have been developed. Give your own opinion on the poem’s effectiveness.’

Below is a suggested plan on which to base the critical essay.

First paragraph 

  • Introduce the main ideas of the poem and name those aspects of the poem that contribute most to their development.

Middle paragraphs

  • Show how the ideas are developed through the poet’s use of:
    • structure
    • language
    • imagery and symbolism
    • mood and atmosphere.


  • Provide a summary of your argument including a statement about the poem’s effectiveness.

Students should now brainstorm ideas from the poem to state their argument and supply material for the middle paragraphs in the critical essay. Students may want to refer to this sample plan (PDF, 102KB) as a guide to completing this exercise.

Explain to students that the Introduction should state their thesis or argument, and then foreshadow the arguments to be made in the four middle paragraphs.

Each of the middle paragraphs should be structured as follows:

  • a topic statement
  • an explanation of the topic statement
  • examples to support the topic statement.

The conclusion is a re-statement or confirmation of the writer’s thesis.

This approach may be applied as appropriate to class context and choice to the other six Noonuccal poems in the selection:

  • ‘China…Woman’
  • ‘Reed Flute Cave’
  • ‘Entombed Warriors’
  • ‘Visit to Sun-Yat-Sen Memorial Hall’
  • ‘Sunrise on Huampu River’
  • ‘A Lake Within a Lake’

The Guide to responding to the poems in the Kath Walker in China collection (PDF, 297KB) provides a set of approach questions, contexts, ideas and features that could be looked at closely for each of the poems in the collection (also for use with the Rich assessment tasks).


Synthesising task

Now ask students to write their own critical essay about ‘The Past’ (or one of the other poems from the selection) based on the plan that they have created. They can refer to this model critical essay (PDF, 102KB) as a guide.
(ACELR011)   (ACELR012)   (ACELR013)   (EN11-1)   (EN11-3)   (EN11-5)

Ways of reading the text


Voice is a particularly important concept in Oodgeroo’s poetry. She herself felt that hers was not an individual voice but rather a collective voice for her people. (However, she was careful not to appropriate the voice of male Aboriginal leaders.) She said that her mission was to produce a pan-Aboriginality to restore pride for all Indigenous people.

For example, in the poem ‘The Past’ there are a several ‘voices’ in and around the poem:

  • the poet herself – the individual writer
  • the ‘I’ who speaks. (Is this the same as the voice of the poet herself? How would you know?)
  • the ‘no one’ who is urged not to say the past is dead. (Is the poet talking to listeners in the poem or is the poet addressing herself to readers of the poem?)
  • the implied/ideal reader/listener who will produce a preferred reading of the poem
  • the real reader who may or may not produce a preferred reading of the poem.

Students should decide whose speaking voice they are hearing in the poem. Is this voice the same as the real poet’s voice? Is it an individual voice or a voice for all Aboriginal people? (The dream of an idyllic past could perhaps belong to all Aboriginal people.) Students should also decide to whom the voice in the poem is addressed. (A general readership? Aboriginal people? White people?)

These questions can certainly be asked of the poems in the Kath Walker in China collection.

Reading positions

The concept of reading positions is also a complex one when responding to Noonuccal’s poems. Just who is the implied/ideal reader constructed by each poem? There may be an answer in her poem ‘United We Win’ in which she unequivocally describes early white pioneers as:

Murderers honoured with fame and wealth,

Won of our blood and tears

and yet acknowledges that:

There is mateship now,

and the good white hand

stretched out to grip the black.

Thus, Noonuccal is constructing a readership that includes Aboriginal readers but also well-meaning white people who may be racist, despite themselves, and yet want to support Indigenous people as an act of reconciliation.

This, of course, presents a challenge to students:

  • What seems to be the preferred meaning of a selected poem?
  • What sort of person would be prepared to make this meaning?
  • As the ‘real’ reader of the poem is the student prepared to make this preferred meaning?
  • If not, what alternative meaning of the poem is the student prepared to make? How does it differ from the preferred meaning?
  • Why has the student made this alternative meaning? What is it about the student that has led them to resist the preferred meaning?

A profile of an ideal reader of the Kath Walker in China poems would refer to the values promoted in those poems: love of the Australian landscape; a belief in living in harmony with nature; a hope for peaceful co-existence among all peoples; an end to the cruelty visited upon Aboriginal people by white people and a preparedness to see value in Indigenous culture.
(ACELR001)   (ACELR003)   (ACELR004)   (ACELR006)   (ACELR008)   (EN11-3)   (EN11-7)   (EN11-8)

Noonuccal and the Kath Walker in China poems

  • It is highly likely that Oodgeroo (then Kath Walker) felt so much optimism and excitement about China on this cultural exchange trip in 1984 because she was aware of the humiliation that China had suffered at the hands of Western powers throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and likened this to the destruction of Aboriginal society and culture by white settlers in Australia. Perhaps she saw in the modernisation and reform of China the possibilities for an Aboriginal renaissance.
  • The connections that Noonuccal made between China and Aboriginal Australia are quite explicit: in ‘China…Woman’ the Great Wall is compared to the Rainbow Serpent that re-appears in ‘Reed Flute Cave’; the physical aspects of the cave (‘the cool air’, ‘The slippery earth stone floor’) remind the poet of Stradbroke Island.
  • The poem ‘China…Woman’ is explicitly political. (Oodgeroo’s earlier poetry was criticised as ‘protest’ poetry). In this poem she celebrates the rise of ordinary people and the demise of the ancient dynasties. Unfortunately her faith in the ‘new’ China was cruelly disappointed when, in 1989, Chinese troops massacred hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protestors in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. She considered withholding permission for her publishers to sell the book, Kath Walker in China, and wrote a poem, ‘Requiem’ (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the poem), to denounce the men of power in China.
  • Post-colonial reading of Oodgeroo’s poetry is appropriate. She saw a link between the struggle for change in China and her own activist campaign for Aboriginal rights in Australia. She used her poetry as a way of pushing back against the power of the colonial oppressor who, of course, had not actually departed but continued to maintain control over the lives of so many Indigenous people in Australia – a control that continues in many ways right up to the present day. Because the invaders had destroyed her own language, she chose to write in Standard English but argued that although she used white language she nevertheless did not ‘think white’.
  • Ironically Noonuccal has been criticised for using the English language and English poetic forms as evidence that her poetry was not sufficiently ‘Aboriginal’. However, the counter-argument has been made that she used white language and forms against whites because she had such a strong sense of her own identity – one that was unbreakably linked to the land and her people.
  • The Australian anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner argued that a distinctive feature of Aboriginal culture is the profound appreciation of the Australian landscape and a feeling of one-ness with the land (with Country). (This fundamental belief has powered the land rights movement throughout its history.) The love of natural beauty can certainly be seen in the imagery deployed in the China poems.

(ACELR003)   (ACELR004)   (EN11-7)   (EN11-8)

Comparison with other texts

When Oodgeroo published her first book of poetry as Kath Walker (We Are Going) in 1964 reviewers did not believe that an Aboriginal woman had in fact written the poems – such was the racism and sense of cultural supremacy of those times. However, in more recent times there has been an explosion of Indigenous writing including prose fiction, poetry, history and biography.

  • A substantial number of Aboriginal poets have succeeded Oodgeroo since the 1960s. Their concerns are many and include criticism of the dominant white culture of Australia to expressions of regret at the loss of identity and heritage, dispossession, and the loss of pride and autonomy.
  • A potential problem for Indigenous poets has been the need to use the English language, the language of the invader, to express themselves. Some poets like Jack Davis (e.g. ‘Desolation’) have chosen to write within the conventions of traditional English poetry, including contemporary poets such as Ali Cobby Eckermann (e.g. Inside my Mother and Ruby Moonlightand Kirli Saunders (e.g. ‘Wildflower’ and ‘Mother’). It is well worthy of note, however, that there is currently a very strong push, especially in this Year of Indigenous Languages (2019), to promote and publish poetry in First Nations’ languages.
  • Others like Lionel Fogarty (e.g.‘You Who May Read My Words’) have borrowed from the Aboriginal oral tradition. Fogarty uses the speech of fringe dwellers, the phonetic spellings of words and colloquial expression to marginalise the white reader, to give the white reader an experience of exclusion.
  • Kevin Gilbert (‘Kill the Legend’) also uses Indigenous colloquial speech patterns in his use of language. The challenge is to appropriate an alien language and modify it so that it can become a vehicle for ‘writing back’ against the dominant culture.
  • As a riposte to those who believe that only traditional tribal culture is an authentic expression of Aboriginal culture, Samuel Wagan Watson has written poems that address the urban landscape from an Indigenous perspective. In his poem ‘Last Exit from Brisbane’, for example, he opens the contemporary readers’ eyes to the fact that the Boundary streets around the city of Brisbane were literally the boundaries that marked the city limits for Aboriginal people in colonial times, beyond which points they could not enter the city.
  • Aboriginal writers like Alexis Wright (Carpentaria), Kim Scott (That Deadman DanceTaboo) and Ellen Van Neerven (Heat and Light) have continued the themes of the Aboriginal poets, the telling of stories from a distinctively Indigenous perspective. These also include from the past to the present: David UnaiponRuby Langford GinibiAnita HeissBrenton McKennaJared ThomasSue McPhersonJane HarrisonDavid Spillman and Lisa Wilyuka – whose works and words are currently featured on the Reading Australia site.
  • In Taboo, for example, Scott has included a verbal confrontation (pp. 219–23) between an Aboriginal woman character, Aunty Nita, and a white farmer, Dan Horton, in which each gives a personal version of a significant historical event in a way that denies primacy to the white perspective.
  • In 2018 Alexis Wright, interviewed here on The Garret, won the Stella Prize for her innovative biography of a famous Aboriginal activist in the land rights movement, Tracker Tilmouth, entitled, Tracker.
  • White writers in Australia with a special interest in Aboriginal culture have generally adopted one of two approaches to Indigenous Australian writing. One approach could be called ‘Aboriginalism’, basically a belief in a mythical pre-contact Aboriginal essence that has now been lost. Writers such as Katharine Susannah Pritchard (Coonardoo) belong in this category and treat Aboriginals more as symbols than as real people. Others, such as Les Murray (e.g. ‘The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle’ – a work based on a translation of a traditional song of the Wonguri-Mandjiagai people of North-Eastern Arnhem Land) reflect a poignant regret for the extinguishment of life and culture. On the other hand, poets such as Bruce Dawe (‘Nemesis’) and Judith Wright (‘At Cooloola’) acknowledge white ‘conquest-guilt’ and represent Aboriginal people as individual human beings.
  • Judith Wright had a special relationship with Oodgeroo, which began when Judith Wright sent her the poem ‘Two Dreamtimes’. This relationship is reflected in the film Shadow Sister by Frank Heimans.
  • Recently Aboriginal historian Bruce Pascoe has written an alternative history about Australia’s pre-colonial past, Dark Emu, which challenges the self-serving stereotypes of white colonists and indeed white Australians in general that Aboriginal people were nomadic hunter-gatherers who made no use of the land. Instead Pascoe, argues that Indigenous people were involved in cultivating, settling and working the landscape using engineering, crop-raising, irrigation and horticulture.

(ACELR001)   (ACELR006)   (ACELR007)   (EN11-6)   (EN11-7)   (EN11-8)


Evaluation of the text

Representative of Australian culture

It is ironic that as far back as the 1968 Boyer lectures the white Australian anthropologist, W.E.H. Stanner, referred to Australia’s ‘cult of forgetfulness’, ‘the great Australian silence’ about the realities of the modern founding of the nation. He described the wilful refusal of white Australians to acknowledge their historical and ongoing relationship with Aboriginal Australians as ‘a view from a window which has been carefully placed to exclude a whole quadrant from the landscape’. The excluded quadrant is, of course, the ‘truth telling’ story of the First Australians.

As the first Aboriginal poet to achieve a wide audience, Oodgeroo paved the way for many other Aboriginal writers to open the fourth quadrant to view. In a country in which the national government still today refuses to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution or to consider an Indigenous ‘voice’ to parliament, this project is unfortunately unfinished. The way forward is for Indigenous writers to continue to educate non-Indigenous Australia in the truths about the nation’s history, to offer a different perspective about the past. In fact, the theme of the 2018 Garma Festival in the Northern Territory was ‘truth telling’.

Significance to literature/the world of texts

Kath Walker in China is significant for its hopes for a transcultural understanding that will embrace equal relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, its descriptions of the beauty of nature, an implicit Aboriginal love of nature and reverence for the past.

A post-colonial reading of Indigenous Australian texts generally would see the emergence of Aboriginal writers as a very positive sign that the nation has reached a level of maturity where it could be able to confront its history and achieve some reconciliation between the descendants of colonial settlers and the First Nations’ peoples. It would also signal that the dominant culture is on the point of acknowledging a different worldview of the nation’s past and present.


Synthesising tasks

  • Students, working in small groups, should be allocated one of the remaining six Kath Walker in China poems for close study according to the process that they have just used to respond to ‘The Past’. (The six poems should be allocated so that later the whole class can share their findings and produce a synthesis of what they have found common across the complete Kath Walker in China collection: themes; symbols and images; use of language; metre; and so on.) These guiding notes (PDF, 287KB), previously referred to in the Close Study section of this teaching resource, will be helpful to students in thinking about their allocated poem.
  • Now that students have worked through the process they should create a plan for a critical essay on their allocated poem as modelled earlier.
  • Students in their groups should collaborate in the writing of a critical essay. Perhaps each member of the group could take responsibility for the writing of one paragraph of the essay based on the group’s plan.
  • Finally, the whole class should contribute to a summary of Oodgeroo’s Kath Walker in China collection. Discussion should focus on those elements that are common to all of the poems, ranging from subject matter and themes to the various poetic techniques that are typical of Noonuccal’s poetry.

(ACELR006)   (ACELR009)   (ACELR011)   (ACELR012)   (EN11-1)   (EN11-3)   (EN11-5)   (EN11-6)

Synthesising task

You have been invited to the Quandamooka Festival, which is a celebration of the Quandamooka Coast and its peoples, held from June to August each year.

The organisers have asked you to give a short talk (about five minutes) about one of Oodgeroo’s Kath Walker in China poems, explaining in some detail the background to those poems, presenting a close reading of the selected poem and explicitly linking it to Noonuccal and her attachment to Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island).

Prepare a PowerPoint slideshow to accompany your talk, including not only references to the poem itself but also slides showing the landscapes in both China and Australia that inspired her.


Rich assessment task 1: Responding

Oodgeroo’s Kath Walker in China poems express her emotional and intellectual responses to her experiences on a cultural exchange to China, but also forge constant links back to Aboriginal Australia. Her optimism about the emergence of a ‘new’ China obviously fed into an optimism about a possible renaissance of Aboriginal society and culture after the destructiveness of over two hundred years of white settlement.

Create a Prezi presentation that explicitly makes the links between Noonuccal’s observations and thoughts on her China trip and her hopes for Aboriginal Australia. Include photographs of significant places in both countries, quotes from the poems and short commentaries that express your own insights.


Rich assessment task 2: Creating

The publishers of Kath Walker in China have decided to issue a new edition of this book. They have asked you to write a foreword to the new edition (600–800 words).

In the foreword they want you to include the following:

  • information about the poet, her life and political activism in support of Aboriginal rights (one paragraph)
  • a brief overview of the poems that made her famous as the first widely recognised Aboriginal poet (one paragraph)
  • her life on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and her work at the Learning Centre that she set up at Moongalba after she retired from public life (one paragraph)
  • information about the 1984 cultural exchange to China (one paragraph)
  • a detailed overview of the seven poems examined in this unit that feature in the Kath Walker in China collection, covering aspects such as subject matter and themes, along with poetic techniques including language use, metre, imagery, symbolism, rhyme and rhythm.

(ACELR011)   (ACELR012)   (ACELR013)   (ACELR014)   (ACELR016)   (ACELR017)   (EN11-1)   (EN11-2)   (EN11-3)   (EN11-5)   (EN11-6)