My Island Home by Neil Murray is illustrated by children from Papunya and Galiwinku, and with paintings by Peter Hudson. It contains the lyrics to the song, ‘My Island Home’, written by Neil Murray for his friend and fellow musician, George Burarrawanga when they were both members of the Warumpi Band.
To explain the context of the lyrics the author has included both a foreword and a preface in the picture book. A foreword provides an introduction to a text and is generally written in the third person and a preface, while similar to a foreword, is usually written autobiographically, by the author, in the first person.
- Discuss these organisational features and their importance to the overall understanding of the text.
- Introduce the grammatical terms ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third person’ and identify personal pronouns in the text. Why are these pronouns needed? Which one has the highest frequency? Why is that?
Foreword to My Island Home
- Refer to maps of Australia and Aboriginal Australia throughout the treatment of the book.
- Before reading, provide groups of four students with the text cut into paragraphs. Ask the students to read the paragraphs then arrange them into the correct order. Number the students in the groups 1 to 4. Re-form groups as 1, 2, 3 and 4 and provide each numbered group with one paragraph of the foreword.
- Ask students to read the paragraph and discuss the meaning at word, sentence and text level. What is the main idea? Underline three instances of interesting, unusual or unknown vocabulary — try to figure out what it means — how could/did you do this? Have students record their thoughts and any questions that they have about the text. Make a copy for students to take back to their original groups.
- Students return to threir original groups and briefly report the agreed meanings of the paragraph that they each worked with. Read the questions asked by the numbered groups and attempt to answer them in light of the new information from the whole text.
- As a class, discuss the meaning of the text and the relationship of Neil Murray and George Burarrawanga. Especially refer to ‘a mighty gulf’ in the first paragraph and the first sentence of the second paragraph. Locate and mark Papunya, Elcho Island and Lake Bolac on the map of Australia. Cross reference with the map of Aboriginal Australia. Add the information to the class popplet.
Preface to My Island Home
In this preface, Neil Murray uses the metalanguage of the music industry.
- Create a glossary of terms that will be used, to assist younger students when reading the preface. These terms are often used in the booklets that accompany music CDs.
- Provide groups with appropriate CD booklets and ask students to read the material and find terms they have recorded in their own glossary. Students may wish to add other terms that they find or have heard.
Neil Murray wrote ‘My Island Home’ for his friend and fellow band member, George R Burarrawanga. Compare the places that they came from — the freshwater country around Lake Bolac in Victoria and the saltwater country of Elcho Island. Locate them on the map. Explain that a sense of direction and awareness of place are important aspects of Aboriginal culture.
- Discuss saltwater/freshwater people. Saltwater — from the coast and freshwater — the rest (for reference see The Little Red Yellow Black Book: An introduction to Indigenous Australia page 7).
- Put place markers in the room for cardinal points on the compass. Refer to these in discussions about place.
- Divide the class into three research groups and set them the tasks of finding facts about Papunya, Elcho Island and Lake Bolac under the headings of place, people, language and other interesting facts. Groups create poster presentations to share with the class.
- In a yarning circle, students then use information from their research to discuss similarities and differences between and among places and communities.
- Create a timeline starting in January 1980 and finishing in 2010. Use the text in the preface to plot significant events on the timeline. Direct students to the title page for information about the significance of 2010 (date of publication) and take this opportunity to explain the information presented on the title page and how it can help when deciding which sources to use.
Read the lyrics to the song and watch the Warumpi Band performing ‘My Island Home’. Remind students of the cultural warning in Nyuntu Ninti. Point out to students that symbols in traditional paintings should not be reproduced without permission of the artist and the custodians of the symbols, following cultural protocols (.pdf 165 kB).
- Discuss the symbols used in Joy Maxwell Nampitjinpa’s painting and how they are used to tell a story. Create story maps using the students’ own symbols to represent the ‘two month tour’ described in paragraph 2 of the preface.
- Symbolism is also used in other artforms. How has the relationship between Neil Murray and George Burarrawanga, and the relationships between all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, been portrayed in the YouTube video?
- Students work in small groups to create a video clip using MovieMaker, Photostory, PowerPoint or similar software, to accompany the song ‘My Island Home’. To do this they will need to discuss the way the lyrics evoke images, then search for photographs or create drawings or dramatic pieces to tell the song in pictures.
Neil Murray and George R Burarrawanga knew each other for 27 years. Read paragraph 8 in the preface and the dedication at the front of the book. Discuss ways that we pay homage to significant people in our lives. Is the book My Island Home a fitting tribute? Why?
- Review the popplet. Discuss the connections and information and modify as necessary.