Ways of being

This unit of work, Ways of Being, allows students to explore ideas of cultural identity — specifically Aboriginal identity — and belonging, and how these are embedded in language.

Texts used include Aboriginal English resources, Indigenous poetry and rap, the books My Girragundji and The Binna Binna Man by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor, and Aboriginal storytelling in a range of media and forms.

Fragment of The Binna Binna Man cover reproduced with permission of Allen & Unwin publishers

Above: Detail from The Binna Binna Man book cover reproduced with permission of Allen & Unwin publishers

Australian curriculum links

The general capabilities emphasised in this unit of work are literacy, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability and intercultural understanding. This unit addresses the cross-curriculum priority Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

See how this unit relates to Australian Curriculum: English content descriptions and NSW Syllabus outcomes.


This unit provides opportunities to explore the ideas that:

  • Aboriginal English is a valid, expressive and potent statement of Aboriginal identity
  • cultural identity is strongly expressed and developed through shared language and stories
  • maintaining cultural identity is very important to Indigenous peoples
  • Indigenous culture does not have to be seen as either ‘traditional’ or ‘contemporary’, that ‘old ways’ can be expressed in new.

Teaching and learning activities

  1. Introduce the unit with the idea that naming something is a powerful event
  2. Aboriginal loan words into English
  3. Aboriginal English in cultural identity and in fiction
  4. Aboriginal stories and connection to country

For the teacher

ABC Indigenous has broadcast and community content. Students can interactively learn about the relationship of the Burarra people to their land and hear Burarra language and Aboriginal English at Burrara Gathering. Read Aboriginal stories from astronomy; find animated Dreamtime stories at Dust Echoes, or illustrated stories from the ABC’s awaye. Read an interview with Aboriginal Storyteller Pauline McLeod.

Find key resources on Australian Indigenous cultural heritage, or access the Indigenous Resources section (now archived) at Aussie Educator for extensive links. Learn more about embedding Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives into classroom practice using the 8ways framework. BlackWords: Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers is a searchable database and a forum for communication. Protocols for working and interacting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and with the use of knowledge are important. The protocols (.pdf 165 kB) used by Oxfam Australia provide useful information.

Note that print downloads do not include updates applied online, including curriculum changes over time and should be used with caution:  .doc 534 kB    |    .pdf 445 kB    |   Copyright