1—Introduce the unit through song
Activity — talking and listening
‘Among the many markers of indigenous cultural identity, the attachment to land and the use of an indigenous language are two of the most significant.’
‘Language is at the core of cultural identity. It links people to their land, it projects history through story and song, it holds the key to kinship systems and to the intricacies of tribal law including spirituality, secret/sacred objects and rites. Language is a major factor in people retaining their cultural identity and many say: if the Language is strong, then Culture is strong.’
Song has always been an important part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
‘Traditional Aboriginal music is a vocal art — we sing ...’
Aboriginal people believe that the country was sung into existence in the Dreaming. Songlines criss-cross Australia both creating and describing the country.
- Seat students in a yarning circle with a large map of Aboriginal Australia on the floor in the centre and oriented to cardinal compass points.
- With traditional Aboriginal music playing softly in the background explain to students the way song is integral to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
- Refer to the map and talk about Aboriginal language groups. It is believed that prior to 1788 there were between 200 and 250 Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia and many dialects of each of these. Most Aboriginal people were multi-lingual, speaking their own language plus the languages of adjoining language groups. Today fewer than 50 Aboriginal languages are spoken.
- View film clips of a range of contemporary Aboriginal music artists, such as Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Yothu Yindi, the Warumpi Band and Tiddas. Include some sung in Aboriginal languages and draw students’ attention to these.
- Discuss the various forms of music and how they relate to traditional music.
- Discuss instruments used and how traditional instruments are still used by many contemporary artists.
- After brainstorming, read about traditional instruments.
Create a class popplet (web based, collaboratively constructed mind map) with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as the central organiser and four sub-organisers of People, Place, Language and Song. If popplets are not available, a large paper-based mind map could be constructed and placed on a wall in the classroom. Talk about how a mind map is constructed and show the pre-view video for popplets, linked from the home page. Videos and photographs can be inserted into popplets. Explain that all students will be expected to contribute as they learn new information throughout the unit.
If the class meets weekly to review the unit, the teacher, who will have editing rights, will make agreed changes to links or modify conflicting information after checking sources. Discuss why conflicting information arises.
Ask students to look for connections between and among ideas and information and seek out the big ideas that underpin Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.