Connecting to prior knowledge

These introductory activities are designed to acknowledge students’ prior knowledge and build students’ field of knowledge about the concepts of Aboriginal culture.

Begin by focusing on the title of the book, Welcome to Country. Invite students to identify where they have heard this phrase before.

Ask: What does it mean?

Invite students to talk about ways we can welcome people using think-pair-share. In this strategy, students are given time to think about their ideas and answers. They then turn to a partner and discuss. Partners then share with the whole group.

Encourage students who speak languages other than English to share how they say welcome. Make a list of ways to say welcome to display on the wall. You may want to try using these phrases as part of your morning roll call and introduction each day. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman is another book that celebrates diversity aimed at letting children know that their school is a place of welcome. It concludes with a list of ‘welcome words and phrases’ in different languages. Other books that focus on multicultural greetings are listed in the More Resources section located at the bottom of this unit.
(ACELA1475)   (EN2-6B)   (ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)

Flip learning

As a home learning task, ask students to investigate the ways other countries or cultures celebrate traditional welcoming ceremonies. Students then bring what they learn back to the classroom and share. Make a display with these words and events, identifying the different languages and cultures. Baby Business by Jasmine Seymour is a beautiful book published by Magabala books that tells of the tradition of welcoming a baby to country with a smoking ceremony.
(ACELA1475)   (EN2-6B)


Read the author and illustrator biographies at the back of the book. The author is Aunty Joy. Aboriginal elders are named Aunty and Uncle as a symbol of respect. In some Asian and African cultures children refer to extended family members as sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers. In European cultures they often use Aunty and Uncle. Ask students:

  • How do you address friends and family members?
  • Can you suggest why teachers are often referred to by their last name and with the title of Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms?

Explain to students that the information provided about the author and illustrator enables us to be confident that this book has authentic Aboriginal connections, which is important to ensure we protect the integrity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and peoples. The author, Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin, is a senior Aboriginal Elder of the Wurundjeri people of Melbourne and surrounds. The illustrator, Lisa Kennedy, is a descendant of the Trawlwoolway people on the north east coast of Tasmania and lived close to the Maribyrnong River as a child. Within the class library, identity other books that have authentic connections. You may also want to look for books written about other cultures by authors and illustrators from that culture.
(ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)

Putting it in context

Read the explanation at the beginning of the book that appears before the title page and provides cultural context. In small groups, have students predict what this might tell us about the book. The blurb welcomes you to ‘the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People’. Wurundjeri country extends from the inner city of Melbourne, across the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, west to the Werribee River, south to Mordialloc Creek and east to Mount Baw Baw. Explore an Indigenous map of Australia and identify the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People.

Look through the book, scanning the illustrations. Can students identify any significant landmarks? Invite students to identify the traditional owners of the area they live in, where their school is situated or places they have been. Overlay this map with a map indicating Australia’s states and territories. Allow students to discuss what they notice about the boundaries.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELA1475)   (EN2-6B)


Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’

Welcome to Country

Read what Joy Murphy says about the importance of Welcome to Country here.

Watch the YouTube video, Wominjeka (Welcome to country) with Joy Murphy, as a Welcome to Country example. In this ceremony example she explains what she is doing and why. Other Wurundjeri examples of Welcome to Country and various examples for different custodian tribes can be found in the More Resources section at the end of this unit, as you may want to compare this welcome with one from your local area.
(ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C)

Welcome and Acknowledgement – what is the difference?

Explain to students that a Welcome to Country and an Acknowledgement of Country are very different and can be performed by different people.

Share this short video with students. Clarify that an Acknowledgement of Country is where visitors may acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which they are and the Indigenous people’s long relationship with country. It can be performed by non-Indigenous people. A Welcome to Country is when an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander elder has the opportunity to formally welcome people to their traditional lands. It can take many forms and it can only be performed by traditional land owners or Aboriginal people who have been given permission.

The Australians Together website has a good explanation that you may want to share with students. Invite students to identify where they have seen or heard a Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country before such as community events, school assemblies, conferences. Share the text for a Welcome to Country and an Acknowledgment of Country with students. Discuss the differences in the wording. Complete a venn diagram (PDF, 108KB) identifying the similarities and differences between the two.
(ACELA1475)   (EN2-6B)   (ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C) 

Now read the book, Welcome to Country, aloud for enjoyment.


Rich assessment task

As a class, construct an Acknowledgement of Country. Share this as part of your daily routine. Guidelines and resources for constructing an Acknowledgement of Country can be found in the More Resources section below.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)

Responding to the text

‘I see, I think, I wonder’

After completing a shared read aloud of the text, students complete a ‘I see, I think, I wonder’ (PDF, 108KB) task. Using the Clips app, students record their answers. Clips is a free video editing app in which students can make and share simple videos with text, graphics, audio and effects. This task also familiarises students with an app they can use later in their assessment task. In small groups, students listen to each other’s responses. Discuss what each person noticed and the similarities and differences between their own responses.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELY1675)   (EN2-11D)

Reading comprehension with QAR

If possible use a digital copy of the text on a large screen. Links can be found in the additional resources section. Complete a reading of the text, focusing on QAR questions (Question-Answer Relationship is an active comprehension strategy where students use four different types of questions to interpret a text at a deeper level).

Use Right There and Think and Search questions to find literal answers in the book. Use Author and You and On My Own questions to develop students’ ability to answer inferred questions. Some examples could include:

Right There:

In the Wurundjeri tradition:

  • Who or what is Bunjil? (double-page spread 4)
  • What did Bunjil create? (double-page spread 4)
  • What is the language of the Wurundjeri people? (double-page spread 10)

Search and Find:

  • At what time of the day does the book begin? What indicates this? (double-page spread 1 and 2)
  • Why do the Wurundjeri people respect and acknowledge their elders? How do Aboriginal people refer to their elders? (double-page spread 3 and the dedication page at the back of the book).
  • What is the condition of our welcome to the land? (double-page spread 7)
  • ‘We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the white river gum.’ Is this (a gum leaf) really being offered or does this phrase mean something else? (double-page spread 7)

Author and You:

  • Look at the end pages. From what you know about Aboriginal culture and artwork, what do you think the image means?
  • Why has the illustrator included transparent images of animals and plants on the double page spread? (double-page spread 6)

On your own:

  • Look at the last double-page spread. How does the image make you feel? Describe a time you felt a similar way.
  • What does the image remind you of? Describe a time when you went to the river, or you’ve seen a river represented in another text.
  • How do you pay respect to other people?
    (ACELY1679)   (EN2-4A)   (ACELY1680)   (EN2-4A)   (ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Describing settings through noun groups (PDF, 117KB)

Choose a double-page spread. Spend some time looking at the illustration.

Discuss the setting.

  • Where might it be?
  • What can you see?

Invite students to complete a looks like, feels like, sounds like chart (PDF, 172KB). An example using the first double-page spread in the book is provided as a model text. A noun can be an individual word or a group of words that work together to give lots of information about a main idea. Use these words and phrases to build noun groups about the setting. An example is provided here as a model text (PDF, 175KB).
(ACELT1599)   (EN2-1A)

Verbs and tense

Complete a shared reading of the text. Identify the verbs in the text. Sort them in to a verb chart (PDF, 123KB) template.

Identify the common tense (present). Take five of the verbs listed and find their past tense comparison. Locate the sentences from which these verbs come and rewrite these sentences using the past tense verb.

Three of the sentences in the original text are written in the past tense. Discuss why these are different to the rest of the text and why this is important.
(ACELA1481)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1482)   (EN2-9B)

Exploring themes within the text

Discuss the concept of ‘theme’ as the important messages within the text. Consider the themes evident in the text:

  • Welcome to Country of first custodians
  • Sustainability and care for the land
  • Connectedness between Indigenous people and the land
  • Creation (Bunjil)
  • Respect for the land and elders.

Why are these themes important to Indigenous people from the past and the present?

Complete a padlet with students’ ideas.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)

Ask students to consider the phrase, ‘you can only take what you can give back’ as a sustainability theme. Look at what the book tells us about the land and ways to be sustainable. In the book, Aboriginal people are depicted as using the land; using spears, boomerangs and shields made from natural resources, fishing and collecting foods like wattleseeds, hunting for emu and digging for yams. The Djeri or grub, mentioned on the fourth double-page spread, is a sustainable food.

Invite students to discuss how the land and water connect? Water provides a connection between people and places. It is a meeting place in Aboriginal tradition and provides a source of sustainability.

We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the white river gumBut you must only take from this land what you can give back
(double-page spread 7).

Discuss the meaning of this sentence. Brainstorm ways students can be respectful in their use of the land and give back to the community by building a school community garden, recycling plastics, using a bin system for recycling or building an ant farm as examples. Students research and action one of these. It could be a local recycling program, participating in a Clean Up Australia event or donating their garden’s produce to the community.
(ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)

Illustration layout

Choose a double-page spread. Invite students to consider the placement of people, animals and land across their chosen spread. Consider how the land is always foregrounded in the image and bigger than the people.

  • Why has the illustrator done this?
  • What do you think the people shown are thinking and feeling?
  • Have you ever felt like this?

Complete a 6-3-1 discussion to consider the way connection between land and people is represented in the illustrations on double-page spreads 2–3, 4–9 and 10. (Strategy 6-3-1 is similar to Think-Pair-Share. Students think independently, then form a group of three to share ideas. Two groups then join together for a final discussion. Ideas are then recorded or shared with the whole class.)
(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1675)   (EN2-11D)

Illustration techniques and representations 

Aboriginal art uses repetitive patterns and symbols to create a sense of networking and connection. As a class, look through the book and identify the common repetitive patterns and what shapes and lines are used to create these patterns.

Many images in the book show people wearing possum skin. Look at a copy of Jenny Murray-Jones’s painting, Possum Skin Cloak which is available at CultureVictoria. Compare the lines, folds and textures in this image with those on the people wearing possum skin cloaks on spreads 1–6 and 9–11. What do you notice? Discuss the importance of possum skin to the Aboriginal people and what they symbolise (clan, identity, spirituality).

In a similar way, look at a copy of Mandy Nicholson’s ink artwork of Bunjil, ‘Here is my country – Creation and Country’ (also available at the same website) with the representations of Bunjil the eagle on the first and sixth double-page spreads of the book. In the Wurundjeri tribe, Bunjil is considered their creator and spiritual leader. Bunjil guided his people to change their ways to save their land. You may also want to compare the image of Bunjil in Lisa Kennedy’s other illustrations in Wilam: A Birrarung Story, on spreads 1 and 11.

Watch the Wurundjeri | Welcome to Country video. This video provides an example of Welcome to Country, in which Aunty Di Kerr also explains the importance of Bunjil and possum skin cloaks.

Using repetitive symbols, patterns and lines, students create a representation of something important to them.
(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)


Rich assessment task

We are called to give back (double-page spread 7). Through a group discussion, students consider:

  • How can we ‘action’ this?
  • How can we care for the land?

Remind students of some of the ways explored in the Exploring themes within the text lesson. Students create a poster to demonstrate how we can be sustainable and respect the environment.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)

Discuss the themes of Welcome to Country. Prompt with:

Why it is important for others to read this book?

What did you enjoy most about the book? This could include the text, illustrations or the key message.

You might like to:

  • Watch various book trailers on youtube.
  • Identify their key purposes and features.
  • Make a checklist of what is required in a book trailer.
  • Consider what types of pictures, symbols or words they would need to share the book’s message and to be persuasive, encouraging others to read it.

In small groups, students create a book trailer using the Clips app or something similar like iMovie, windows movie maker or powtoon. Links to useful resources are in the More Resources section.
(ACELY1685)   (EN2-3A)   (ACELT1601)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELY1677)   (EN2-6B)

Use the students’ reflections during the QAR and ‘I see, I think, I wonder’ tasks to assess their comprehension and understanding.

Examining text structure and organisation

A focus on visual literacy

Read the book focusing on the illustrations. On each double-page spread there is a lot to notice so read and re-read the text as needed. Discuss what the illustrator’s purpose is.

  • What do you notice in the image?
  • What does the picture make you think about?
  • Where is it set? What makes you think that?
  • How is the image connected to the text?

(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

Representation of setting 

Display the first double-page spread. Ask students to identify what they see in the setting. What details of the illustration reveal this?

Model recording this in a template. An example is provided for the first three double-page spreads (PDF, 133KB).

Divide students into small groups. Allocate each group one of the double-page illustrations and provide them with the Elements of Setting template (PDF, 152KB).

Students identify what they notice in their given illustration (animals, people, trees and plant life).

Can students correctly name the fauna and flora?

Now look at the text on that page. Are there Wurundjeri words in the text for what they have noticed?
(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

Page layout 

By now students have read the book a number of times and should be familiar with the illustrations. As a class, consider the page layout. Consider why the illustrator has chosen to only use double-page spreads. There are also many long shots showing people, animals and their surroundings.

Show a close-up of one section of an illustration.

  • How does this image make them feel?
  • Can students predict which illustration it is from?

Reveal the complete illustration.

  • How does the complete illustration make them feel?
  • Is it different?
  • Where is the text in relation to the image on this page?
  • Could the text go somewhere else?

In pairs, give students another illustration. Together students consider how the connections between land and people are represented and which elements are foregrounded or in the background.

In small groups, student discuss what they might see in an image representing their school and local area. Students draw a page for their own book about their own area.
(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

Illustration techniques 

Discuss the use of line, colour and pattern in the illustrations.


  • Horizontal lines can indicate peace and movement.
  • Vertical lines can represent strength or power.
  • Curved lines may indicate a feeling of flow.


Wassily Kandinsky, painter and art therapist believed colours communicate feelings and values in various ways:

  • brown meaning dull, hard
  • red meaning warmth, glowing, passion, solid, alive, stability
  • orange meaning radiant, healthy, serious
  • blue meaning peaceful, heavenly, calming
  • grey meaning balanced, hopeless, stillness
  • yellow meaning warm, cheeky, cheerful, earthy, happy
  • violet meaning sad, fragile

Colour has cultural significance for Aboriginal people as seen in the Aboriginal Flag:

  • red representing the earth, and the ochre used in ceremonies and spiritual land relationship
  • yellow representing the sun, giver of life
  • black representing the Aboriginal people

Colour can also be inspired by the environment:

  • the blue greens of the eucalyptus
  • the flame-like orange of the desert
  • the olive green of the dusty dry outback shrubs
  • the pink orange hues of the twilight summer sky

Complete an illustration analysis (PDF, 145KB) of the use of lines and colour in one of the illustrations.

Some points that you may want to highlight are:

  • In Welcome to Country, the colours are vivid but smooth and earthy. Why might Lisa Kennedy have used these colours?
  • Why are the rivers and trees represented through curved lines? Why are the rivers highlighted with dots? What is the purpose?
  • Layers within the artwork combine symbols and representations of nature. How does the shading of colour give depth to the texture?

(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

Spend some time looking at picture books illustrated by other Indigenous illustrators such as Bronwyn Bancroft and Gregg Dreise. As a class, discuss and compare the similarities and differences between the artworks and style of illustrations.

Bronwyn Bancroft designed the backdrop on the Playschool ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ episode (July 2019) available on ABC KIDS iView. How do the trees in this design compare to the trees illustrated by Lisa Kennedy?
(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

On Lisa Kennedy’s websiteshe explains how she drew from her relationship with the Wurundjeri country, having grown up near the Maribyrnong River as a child. She remembers experiencing the land through her senses and tried to recreate this sensory experience through her illustrations. The rough textures of rocks and tree bark are seen in the patterns and created through layering of paint, while rivers and landscape lines are curved, representing flow and direction.

Spend some time outside. Have students close their eyes and sense their environment. What does it sound like, feel like, smell and taste like?

Opening their eyes, have them look closely at their surroundings and identify what they can see – the colours, shapes, textures. Invite students to sketch their experience and surroundings.
(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Deconstruct the text

Community – as one

Welcome to Country is written in first person plural, using we not Iour not my. Show students examples of this from the text.

Reflect upon how this represents the Aboriginal understanding of community. Support students to rewrite a page in first person singular voice and discuss how this changes the text and its message.

Describing setting

Focusing on the elements of setting, model using the noun groups from a previous lesson and the language discussed about illustration lines, colours and patterns to write a simple description using the first double-page spread. Begin with a sizzling start. In the reverse pattern from the ‘Page Layout’ lesson, take one illustration and create a descriptive adverbial phrase, then focus in on another element of the image and create a new adverbial phrase; finally, complete the sentence by including a verb and noun.

Example one: Past the gently rippling water with rows of trees at its edge, over the rough textured rocks, stood an Aboriginal elder warming himself by the campfire.

Example two: High above the crackling campfire, over the Wurundjeri lands, Bunjil the eagle took flight.

Complete writing a description of the image as a group construction. Highlight that a description usually includes an introductory statement and systematic description of different elements through nouns, adjectives and adverbial phrases. Identify the elements that will be covered in an agreed upon structure. This may include colour, line, pattern, fauna and flora, foregrounded elements of setting and theme. Students then repeat this activity in pairs with another illustration.
(ACELT1599)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELA1481)   (EN2-9B)

Sentence structure and variation – simple, compound and complex sentences

Place three hoops on the floor, one named simple sentences, one named compound sentences and one named complex sentences. Each pair of students is given a sentence from the text. Taking turns, students place their sentence in the correct hoop, giving reasons for their decision. Provide students with a copy of the text. Identify and highlight the conjunctions throughout the text.
(ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELA1481)   (EN2-9B)

Look at several sentences from the text – expanded simple, compound and complex.

We are part of the land and the land is part of us. 

We feel the roots of this land beneath the soles of our bare feet.

We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the river gum.

If you accept a leaf, and we hope you do, it means you are welcome to everything, from the trees to the roots of the earth.

Provide students with these sentences cut into phrases or clauses. Ask students to sequence each sentence. Compare differences in structure between groups. Discuss how often one clause must proceed another where at other times the order of clauses (and the adverbial phrases) can be reversed.

The land is part of us and we are part of the land.

Beneath the soles of our bare feet, we feel the roots of this land.

From the branches of the river gum, we invite you to take a leaf.

You are welcome to everything, from the trees to the roots of the earth, if you accept a leaf, and we hope you do.

(ACELA1481)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1478)   (EN2-8B)


Rich assessment task

Using one of the illustration styles explored previously, students create an artwork to capture their own area. Allow students time to consider and plan what symbols might be repeated and their use of line and colour. In their picture they should try to include three or four significant elements such as landmarks, objects or symbols. Once completed, students then share with the class the elements of their artwork and why they have included them.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELT1601)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

Students then choose one of the complex sentence patterns identified in previous lessons and construct a sentence for their own illustration. Students then independently write a description for their image as modelled above in previous lessons.
(ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)

Different illustrations represent different times of day. Consider how day and night are represented in the illustrations. Look at the relationship between colour, line and pattern. Table the difference between two illustrations.
(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)


Complete ‘quick writes’ to develop vocabulary. ‘Quick writes’ are a short written responses to a visual prompt used to motivate willingness to write and fluency in writing. The focus is on getting your thoughts on paper rather than the editing or revising process. Using a concept of five in five, encourage students to try different sizzling starts for the image.

Provide students with a double-page spread from the book.

Students then have a minute to write a sentence starter. Repeat four times, encouraging students to try a different type of sentence each time; a moment of change, dialogue, humour, a question and finally a description.
(ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)

A personal reflection – culture map and illustration

Students create a personal culture map about their country, culture and families’ connection to the land. Students should consider elements such as:

  • their definition of country
  • key events or landmarks in their country
  • family values and cultural beliefs
  • how they connect and respect the land.

Ask students to draw a scene from ‘their’ country. Students then write a description of their country and then give reasons for the elements included. Remind students of the structure and key language features of a description as identified in the ‘Describing Setting’ lesson. Assess students’ ability to use descriptive language including noun groups and adverbial phrases of time and place in their description. This illustration may become part of the book completed in their assessment task.
(ACELT1601)   (EN2-2A)


Rich assessment task

Students create their own book. Encourage students to consider the elements explored throughout the unit when planning their book; cover page, blurb, dedication, page layout including placement of illustration and text, theme, illustration techniques, sentence types. It can be written as a narrative or informative text. Students may find their work from the previous ‘personal reflection’ lesson useful in their planning of their book. The aim is for students to demonstrate a connection between their country and self and demonstrate an understanding of the concepts covered.
(ACELT1601)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)