Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Deadly Ways - Democracy & Politics

Here is the first of the Deadly Ways presentations. It currently sits at 5 Deadly Ways to Explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives of democracy, politics and civics in your classroom, but will definitely grow in the coming months.

I did want to note that Annabel Crabb, political commentator and journalist, made an important point on the 1st day of the opening of the 43rd Parliament. On the Drum on the ABC, her and Chris Uhlman were discussing the recent changes to the opening procedures where from now on a Welcome to Country would happen and also changes to the Standing Orders which now instruct the speaker at the start of every sitting of Parliament an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners must happen. Annabel Crabb while noting that this was a significant step forward, it was still a 'step' that was 'given' by the Parliament (and one that could be taken away).

Seeing the invisible frames

Today's lecture I'm delivering at QUT for EDB007 pre-service teachers is about being able to identify the 'invisible frames' that we live within. Like my lecture for Indigenous Art Protocols & Practices, the lecture will explore what we know and how we know it.

I'm inspired by the recent election to focus this year's lecture on democracy and how teachers can incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into their studies of democracy, civics and society and politics and the political system.

As a result I've developed the first of my Deadly Ways presentations that I will present in the second half of the lecture. These are a bit of a rip-off of Tom Barrett's 'Interesting Ways' presentations that are a fantastic resource for teachers all over the world. Of course I'm using 'deadly' ways. I've been thinking about creating a series for a few months now so thanks for Jean Phillips (EDB007 Convenor) for giving me the opportunity (and deadline) to get it done).

You can get a copy of the lecture notes for today's session, as well as a copy of the first of our Deadly Ways presentations.

** Please note: I use Google Docs for my presentations. You should be able to access it without a Google Account. But I highly recommend a Google account  (its free!) and Google Products (including Google Documents, Reader, Blogger, Picase and a whole suite of other products) for develop, collaborating and sharing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Teaching digital learners

I really want to explore this more. I know I do a bit of this now, but I know that there is so much more out there. I love the work of Gadj & Jodi from Sharing Culture Online.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning from Yellow Rage

In two of three of my 1213QCA Indigenous Art, Protocols and Practices lecture last week I showed this video, and I wanted to provide all the students with an opportunity to engage with this powerful and confronting (and very effective) work again.

Warning: Course Language

bell hooks in her essay Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance argues
The commodification of Otherness has been so successful because it is offered as a new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of do-ing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture. Cultural taboos around sexuality and desire are transgressed and made explicit as the media bombards folks with a message of difference no longer based on the white suprema-cist assumption that "blondes have more fun." The "real fun" is to be had bybringing to the surface all those "nasty" unconscious fantasies and longings about contact with the Other embedded in the secret (not so secret) deep structure of white supremacy. 
In the video, Yellow Rage seek to challenge stereotypes and assumptions of "Asian" and "Asian-ness". To interrogate mainstream positions and assumptions the artists explore:

  • mainstream assumptions (and entitlements) about language
  • appropriation of Asian imagery ("fake Asian tattoo)
  • assumptions about the cultural and sexual behaviour of Asian women
  • the power of the knower to know about the Other, including the impact of on-going colonisation by the West
  • the centring of the mainstream
 Some questions for discussion:
  • What are the key themes the artists are exploring?
  • What do you think of the way that they express their point? Does "confronting" work? How does it make you feel?

Research: Seeing, Knowing & Doing

Last week I explored the idea of research for students in 1213QCA Indigenous Art, Protocols and Practices at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. In the context of the student's work, I focused on the idea of research as not being about the stereotypical idea of research (thinking here - lab coats, clip boards, pen in pockets etc), but about how we, each of us, engaged in:
  • seeing
  • knowing 
  • doing
Seeing: we explored how each of us "see" the world depending on our we see reality. The way we see reality is often programmed by our upbringing, and our culture. This video helps to illustrate this simple point:

Obviously "seeing" is much more complicated than in the video above, but it gives a bit of a starting point. In relation to looking at the visual arts, Vincent Lanier, an arts educator identified 9 filters through which we "see" art:

1) What other people say bout art and the particular work2) The setting of the art work
3) How we have learned to see
4) How muchw e know about the elements and principles of design
5) What we know about the particular symbols that are used
6) What the art work reminds us of
7) How much we know about the history of the work
8) How we judge the work
9) What relationship the work has to our life.

Knowing:When we explore the idea of knowing in relation to research, I asked the students to answer two questions:

1) What do you know about Aboriginal art? (just list them)
2) What are the sources of that knowledge (how do you know what you know, where did you get that information from).

Looking at knowledge and knowledge production, we identified that the majority of our knowledge about Aboriginal Art (for most of the students), was knowledge that was written down and passed on by non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - teachers, curators, arts writers, art academics etc. This leads us to explore power - and the power of knowledge production.

When we explore doing, we explore our role within the research process. I really love to think about critical theory as an approach to exploring this. I find it really empowering. What Critical theory does is:
  • Challenges accepted norms and truths
  • Challenges privilege and power
  • Is explicitly about liberation & democratisation
  • Acknowledges that there are no absolutes/truths

Has exploring seeing, knowing & doing helped to unpack the process of research? Can you think of additional filter's to the nine identified by Lanier?

Friday, August 20, 2010

How my able-ism stuffed me up: A reflection on my practice

For years now, when I lecture, I rarely stand still. I wander up and down the corridors of the lecture theatre. Sometimes I get students up to interact, I ask them questions. I have been known even to move them around physically to illustrate a point. I don’t use paper notes. I’ll have a few PowerPoint slides that prompt the thread of my session. I have a big voice and I don’t use a mic because everyone can hear me. Or so I thought. 

My "performance" was rudely interrupted on Wednesday when a minute into my lecture two students told me that they couldn’t hear me. They were hearing impaired. Completely thrown, I ended up having to stand behind the lectern, something I almost never ever do. The position of the lectern in the Central Theatre at South Bank campus of Griffith Uni, is in the corner of the theatre, and IN THE DARK!!! As it turned out, my brain froze, and if how I felt about my deliver is anything to go by, for the students surely the lecture was sub-standard.

So what happened? 

I realised afterward that it was my own able-ist assumptions that stuffed me up. Roving mics are available in that lecture theatre, but it never occurred to me to get one because this “problem” had never presented itself before. Actually, writing this, it occurs to me that it probably has, and I was just too self-absorbed and inside my own head to see it.

I’ve always been committed to providing lecture notes and follow-up on the web for my students. I’m aware that economic access issues can prevent students from getting campus. Family commitments can impact student’s study opportunities - a sick child at home can mean that you miss the lecture where “they talk about the assignment”. In the past I’ve tried to provide additional support to international students whose lack of prior knowledge and understanding of the Australian context alienates their learning opportunities. I’ve encouraged them to relate the Indigenous issues work we do in the course to their own country. I’ve provided additional learning opportunities to student’s whose cultural capital meant that their ability to engage with the academy is hindered. And it’s funny, sad and pathetic (on my part), that in a lecture about re-thinking how we see the world and challenging assumptions, I was unable to do that for student’s whose physical needs impacted on their access.

What a wake up call! Thanks to the students who stopped me on Wednesday. It peeved me at the time. And I was cranky that I’d got thrown. But you have now allowed me to see what I didn’t see before. I've never used the term ableism before, though I've heard it used by others. My personal interests have always been in issues of race and culture and occasionally gender and sexuality. But the lesson i've learned this week is that privelige and needs transcend categories. My promise is that  I’ll do everything I can to ensure that I work with the needs of ALL my students.

Note: I've created a new category here on The Critical Classroom called Curating Your Thinking. This idea came to me in a lecture this week. For me, its about not letting other discourses determine how I will think about something. Or, probably more importantly, its about having an awareness of how prevailing discourses are influential and are present when we think. Still playing with this idea.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Indigenous Science in P-3 Project with CSIRO

Earlier in the year I headed off to the launch of a partnership between the CSIRO, as part of their Indigenous Engagement Strategy and Education Queensland - P-3 Indigenous Science project. Teachers are trained to deliver Indigenous perspectives in their science curriculum for the early years. Here are my images from the evening. As part of the teacher's training, they went on an excursion to Tully to undertake Uncle Ernie Grant's training at Echo Creek.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Letters Patent: A legal studies case study to keep watch

The ABC reported today that 
The Ngarrindjeri people have been asked by the South Australian Government for a clearer idea of what they see as the legal consequences for SA from what is known as the Letters Patent of 1836.
Founding Docs stated that 
The Letters Patent used the enabling provisions of the South Australia Act 1834 to establish the Province of South Australia and precisely define its boundaries. They also went beyond the strict provision of the Act by including a significant guarantee of the rights of 'any Aboriginal Natives' or their descendants to lands they 'now actually occupied or enjoyed'.
ANTAR SA provides a number of links to this issue.

What does it mean? The consequences of this. Let's keep watching.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frameworks and Critical Thinking

A week or so ago, a Principal was telling me how wonderful Uncle Ernie Grant's Tully based cultural awareness workshop based on his learning framework was. She had attended his workshops in Tully, North Queensland, and was in awe of what she'd learned. She seemed to be convinced that she was now set to always use this framework in all parts of the curriculum.

I found another framework - 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning from New South Wales this week.

Both frameworks look fine. But my concern, and the reason for this short post, is to warn users not to suspend critical thinking in the process (I do love that the 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning refers to Critical Consciousness!). Stick to your effective teaching principles of encouraging critical thinking, and of applying critical thinking to your own teaching. Don't blindly accept a framework because its the only one you've seen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Racism: Do you know how to have the conversation?

This week's news cycle (at least in Queensland and New South Wales) has been filled with the Andrew Johns racism saga.

It is alleged that Andrew Johns, the assistant coach of the New South Wales State of Origin team, told a player that he needed to stop Greg Inglis (from the Queensland team) by saying he needed to "stop that black c***" as well as other offensive remarks about Tongan-Australian player Israel Folau.

It ended when Timana Tahu angrily left the training session and ultimately the State of Origin team for 2010, offended and disgusted (and rightly so) at the language and the racism behind it.

Over the last few days there have been endless articles & TV spots by professional sports commentators, commentators in general as well as by former and current rugby league players. Some articles and opinion pieces have dealt with the issue well, but unfortunately mostly not. Here is a small collection of a few online newspaper/magazine articles on the topic -

As an Australian who has witnessed and experienced racism, reading & listening to the commentary is frustrating to say the least. But listening to Dr Chris Sarra from the Stronger Smart Institute today, it became clearer to me why I am/was so frustrated. It wasn't just because the commentators disagreed with me, or didn't share my point of view. It wasn't just because those in charge were silent on the issue (ie, NRL headquarters), or too quickly forgiving (ie. Channel 9).

What it is that makes this topic so frustrating, is as Chris Sarra points out, because most Australian commentators (professional & armchair) are unable/unwilling/un-skilled to have this type of conversation, ie the conversation about race and racism.

But we need to be able to have this conversation. Earlier this year, nearly every Murri I knew headed down to the Gold Coast for the NRL All Stars vs Indigenous DreamTime team. People were absolutely busting with pride. If you weren't at the game you were watching it! As Preston Campbell has said, what was the game for, if wonderful young men like Timana Tahu feel unsafe and excluded.

We have to learn to have the conversation about race & racism.

And this isn't just about cleaning out the racist-potty-mouths of people like Andrew Johns and Mal Brown. Its about getting square with the idea that the Australian "way of life" is founded on racism - the racism that led to the British Government declaring the continent terra nullius, which made way its colonisation and all the pain and suffering that colonisation brings with it.

Discussions around racism do NOT have to end in tears and finger pointing - though sometimes they do.

Racism - overt/covert, externalised/internalised, systemic/hidden - prevent our classrooms from becoming safe, engaged, innovative, creative, free, and empowering places of learning. Racism in all its forms inhibits a student's self-expression and their learning.

Do you know how to have the conversation about racism? No? Then take the time to learn it. Read, Think, Engage. Don't be afraid. Be daring. Be bold. Be humble. Listen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Free Resources from the Sydney Morning Herald

Popped into Our Lady of Mount Carmel school yesterday at Waterloo, Sydney and spied Part 1 of the Indigenous Australians Educational supplement from the Sydney Morning Herald. Looked pretty deadly too.

The Sydney Morning Herald have also provided a number of online resources for teachers. Click here to access them.

Have contacted SMH to see if they'll be digitising the supplements and making them available online for teachers in the future. Will let you know what happens.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Indigenous Studies Research Network

The Indigenous Studies Research Network at Queensland University of Technology publish the International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies.

With authors from around the world, this resources is a must for your own professional development. All issues are currently available free as downloadable pdf.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rembering the Mabo Decision


Ever since Captain James Cook's declaration of possession in 1770, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have fought against the dispossession of their lands, food sources, waterways, families and homelands.

Remembering the Mabo Decision - Student Links

Mabo Day is the held each year on the 3rd of June. It remembers the historic Mabo decision in 1992. Use your Remembering the Mabo Decision booklet, learn about this day at the following links:

ABC - Schools - Eddie Mabo

Torres Strait Island Regional Authority (TSRA) - Mabo Day

About Eddie Mabo (Wikipedia)

Mabo: The Native Title Revolution

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sydney's engravings on Google maps

How deadly is this?

A Google map of Sydney's engravings.

I was lucky enough to visit to sets of engravings earlier this year - one set at Berra Hill and the other at Bondi beach.

Like my Aboriginal Place Names of Brisbane, this new map is a great resource for teachers as well as hopefully an inspiration to other folks out there to document their knowledge using Google Maps.

Have you got any ideas about creating a Google map?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NAIDOC Poster 2010

The 2010 NAIDOC Poster is available from The poster was created by Sheree Blackley and is titled Unsung Heroes - Leading Through Example

Description of work: The artwork depicts an Aboriginal mother who is an 'unsung hero' leading her children through example, showing that actions can speak louder than words. The dot work illustrates nurturing and teaching from birth, always guiding our children towards 'closing the gap', towards 'success' for those who choose to stay on the path.

You can order copies of the poster from the National NAIDOC organisation at

The Stronger Smarter Institute (SSI) is also holding a NAIDOC Poster competition for 2010. Check out the details here. Entries close 25th June. There are prizes for individuals and schools.

Friday, May 21, 2010

ACT Schools teaching Aboriginal landcare knowledge

This article this morning announced that all ACT schools with be teaching Ngunnawa landcare knowledge. Wow!

What a fantastic initiative. The biggest hurdles I would anticipate would be ensuring that schools are provided with the budget to ensure that Ngunnawa teachers are paid appropriate wages and ensuring that there are enough teachers to be able to provide all ACT schools with the service.

Looking forward to hearing how this initiative pans out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Bama Way

A new commercial website enterprise, The Bama Way is now available. While specifically targeting the tourism market, there is a deadly map that features information about Bama country.

Great for geography, and history.

Echo Adventure & Cultural Camp

Found this today, via an Education Qld staff member. Its Echo Adventure & Cultural Camp in North Queensland. South of Cairns and West of Tully, this is Jirrbal country.

So if you're a staff group seeking cultural awareness training, or even with your own students, consider this one.
Looks deadly!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Aboriginal Place Names of Brisbane

Using Google Maps + Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland: Dating from 1837 by Constance Campbell Petrie (1904), I've started creating a map of Aboriginal Place Names of Brisbane. Its in its earliest of days yet as I add in a couple of names each week.

I'm also looking for other sources I can use (aside from Campbell Petrie's) including local community people.

If you've never used Google Maps before, just go to If  you get stuck (which I often do if its been a few weeks since the last time I worked on the map, just click "help" in the top right hand corner. There are short videos as well as questions & answers from other people.

Extending your Google Map - here is an article about how to work further with Google Maps. I'll be looking for more ideas over time.

Don't forget you can embed the map into your wiki or class blog as well.

(This post also published on

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying business?

Yes? Why not check out my other blog "On The Ground" which is business from an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander perspective. There are a number of entrepreneur profiles with links (a growing list). I've currently organised the site into:

  1. Indigenous Business
  2. Being in Business
  3. Marketing
  4. Business Planning
  5. Copyright and Intellectual Property
  6. Law & Taxation
  7. Accounting & Finance
  8. The Creative Business
  9. Society and the Economy
There are then numerous sub-topics including social media, having fun in business, pricing, innovation.

The blog is accompanised by the wiki - artist-as-entrepreneur (which is on wiki spaces) which is a second semester course I teach to Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art students at Queensland College of Art - Griffith University, Brisbane.

Avatar - watch with one eye closed

29 January - Update - for more analysis, commentary & opinion on the gender/race/colonising politics/themes of the film, go to Sociological Images (Thanks SRP for the link)
Update 2 - Another analysis on Avatar on the blog - As The Teaching Drum Turns blog.

Just a quick blog to start myself blogging again. Went to see Avatar on Christmas Eve with the kids. It was good. Everyone loved it. Everyone seems to love it. I guess I liked it. But there's a couple of ways I'm reading it - or maybe there's a few different perspectives I'm viewing it from.

The first view is that it was visually very good. You couldn't tell where the animated beings started and human beings ended. The "real landscape" which must have been animated because there are no landscapes like that on earth - was completely convincing.

The second view is that its probably a good text for students who are wondering about the experience of Indigenous people. There are two completely different world views/systems fighting for the same piece of land - they're are and always be completely incompatible. Yes, Invasion Day is coming up soon in Australia - so its kind of fitting - not a bad text for stimulating discussion.

The third and problematic view however is that, do we really need a whiteman to fix the problem again? Just like Dances with Wolves and a host of other movies I've seen. Or its like the movie where despite there being much more capable women & men in the landscape - apparently only this new dude is capable of saving the day? Its actually pretty offensive, though a popular Hollywood/Western theme.

Of course, most Indigenous people are still fighting have their sovereignty recognised and unlike the Avatar ending - there is no happy ending.

I supposed I liked it - but only with one eye closed.

Essential Reading

Here is another selection for the other resource for the non-institutionally-affiliated-student or Life-Long Learner.

The Australian Critical Race & Whiteness Studies Association examines Whiteness in an Australian context, exploring the racialised nature of our country.

They hold regular conferences with a regular journal published that you can access from the website.

10 Incredibly inspiring self-taught learners

Amber from Online Universities Weblog sent this link to 10 Incredibly Inspiring Self Taught Scholars this afternoon.

It made me think about how we as adult learners/teachers fail to engage with what we're learning/teaching and we underestimate the role of self-teaching. I gave a guest lecture yesterday at QUT for pre-service teachers. It was in one of those gigantic lecture theatres (you know the ones that are kind-of cost-effective because they fit all your first years, but don't really allow you to really connect?).

What I noticed though, is that the majority of the students were sitting up the back of the theatre and there were many not even present. What I wondered today as I was reflecting on yesterday, is "what kind of teachers will these learner make?"

If you're learning something because you "have to", because the university is "making you do it", then that's one heck of an uninspiring place to engage.

I've been guilty in the past of prefacing an upcoming lecture with a 'you just have to learn this because the course outline says you have to' statement. Thinking about that today, I can't believe that I would say something like that. How dare I influence another person's engagement with a topic simply because I've not bothered or had the energy to find a point of engagement.

I think that's the task - find a POINT OF ENGAGEMENT. A place where you can connect with the subject.
When I was teaching Indigenous Art, Protocols and Practices at Queensland College of Art, I would have many international students in my class struggling to understand concepts of appropriation of Aboriginal iconography and cultural knowledge. But I tried to relate it to their own culture. Many of the "Asian" students could understand cultural appropriation because they could see it in every second Hollywood blockbuster - where every leading man is a martial arts expert who had appropriated the surface of the art, removed it from its context and altered it.

This, relating the learning to your context is a POINT OF ENGAGEMENT. The students, many of whom would return to their countries and more than likely never engage with Indigenous Australians again, were able to connect with the course.

We can take a lesson from the inspiring self-taught scholars - find a POINT OF ENGAGEMENT. Something that draws you in to a subject and allows you to develop an intrinsic motivation to learn.
That's the kind of learner-teacher I'm trying to be.

Knowledge & World Views in the Critical Classroom: A journey of on-going inquiry

These notes are to accompany a lecture given on 31st August, 2009 for pre-service education students enrolled in EDB007 Culture Studies: Indigenous Education (mid-semester) at Queensland University of Technology. This post can be conjunction with the slides on

So far in this semester, students have explored concepts such as standpoint, epistemologies, the power & privelege of knowledge.

In this lecture we expand these concepts, but also include the idea of the critical classroom & inquiry to highlight the importance understanding & incorporating different knowledges and world views into your practice.

In the past I've regularly used a quote by Gale about the impact of book on Indigenous readers. She states:

"books can be dangerous to Indigenous readers if they
  • do not reinforce our values, actions, customs, culture and identity;
  • when they tell us only about others they are saying that we do not exist;
  • they may be writing about us but are writing things which are untrue; &
  • they are writing about us but saying negative and insensitive things which tell us we are not good."
Re-reading this quote this morning, I've realised that above is most certainly true, but less true in a critical classroom. In a critical classroom, you're not just interested in "what the knowledge says" but "how did we get that knowledge in the first place".

A critical classroom expects a constant tenor of inquiry that questions and reflects on what is written/said, who wrote/said it and why.

Many parents of Indigenous children in Australian clasrooms do not see this idea of the critical classroom in practice. For many parents, the singing of the national anthem & the flag is problematic. In addition, many schools in Australia still only have a single flagpole (for the Australian flag).

What impact (for better & for worse) does our world view have on our education practice? How can we "alter" our practice to make it more effective?

Two examples in the key learning areas of art/SOSE and science show that it is possible to incorporate different ways of seeing into the everyday classroom, not just at NAIDOC week.

Some links for your PLN

(Originally published on InquiryBites blog on August 31, 2009)

Free Range Scholar

I'm making up an acronym -  Free-Range-Scholar (I think I've plagarised it from @blogdiva - but because we're free-range its okay). I've referred to myself in recent years as an academic refugee - its like a Life-Long Learner, but kinda not, because despite ourselves, we do look for the rigour of academia (even if we don't always achieve it).

But I think we FRS' love reading academic texts - newspapers really are not enough & some stuff on the web is dodgy (not all - but some. This is fine if you're a university student or staff member, then you will have access to that stuff through your library's databases.

However, if you're NOT then its really hard to access some journals. They cost $$.

So, under the blog category of free-range-scholar, I'm linking good quality writings from the web (readings, journal articles & ejournals) about all kinds of topics.

The first is the International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies. They're based at the Indigenous Studies Research Network based at QUT, Brisbane, Australia.

If you know of any good journals on the web, drop me a line.
Thanks, Leesa

Birrguu Matya: A Wiradjuri board game

Birrguu Matya. Have you heard of this game before? Its great. My kids love this game. It comes wrapped in a little foldable felt mat (which doubles as the game board). I hang it up so it doesn't get lost.

I've not been able to find very much information at all about the game, nor its creator Donna Hensen. Well, when I say creator, I mean creator in its current format, as its based on a traditional game from the Wiradjuri people.

I highly recommend this game for students. I'd purchase one or two sets at least for the classroom, then inspire the students to make their own games using whatever is around them.
Here is a summary of the information that I can find about the game, including where you can purchase it.
  • here is a link to a unit on Mathematics in Indigenous contexts at Quirindi School (NSW Board of Studies)
  • you can purchase it from Dreamtime Kullilla Art Products , Echidnas on the Loose,   Eco-Toys,    Gecko Educational,  Kangaroo Valley Woodcrafts,   Bud's Toys , and many others. The prices are probably all very similar once you take into consideration credit card fees and postage. Though I've bought mine from Dreamtime Kullilla Art Products as they are an Aboriginal Owned Company (some of the others listed above may be as well, but i've not researched them).
I've not been able to find any further information on the internet about Donna Hensen the designer. But I thoroughly recommend this game to every family.

(Originally published on InquiryBites blog on August 4, 2009)

How to start a successful Aboriginal Business by Neil Willmett

Neil Willmett's How to Start a Sucessful Aboriginal Business published by Brolga Publishing (ISBN 1-92122-146-1) is available for business students. 

A very quick google search found these suppliers -
(Originally published on InquiryBites blog July 23, 2009)

- Amendment - you can check out Artist As Entrepreneur Wiki a 1 semester undergraduate commerce course. Neil's book is the text book.

Blak History Month - Connect

In its second "official" year, Australia's Blak History Month is steadily gathering momentum and is being helped along by social networking tools.

There is -

And importantly, there is a "buzz" as more people start talking about this new celebration.

Of course, a big shout out goes to Sam Cook from @kissmyblakarts for kicking the whole thing off in 2008 (and for the initial logo design).

So keep sharing folks, what you're doing? what you want to do now and/or in the future?

It will also be interesting to watch as non-Indigenous Blak Australians start participating from their own communities.

Late addition to this post:

Follow @kissmyblakarts on Twitter to get the link to your Great Moments in Blak History downloadable worksheets (or join the facebook group where they are also available).

(Originally posted on InquiryBites on TypePad on June 30, 2009)

Children See Children Do

Embedding Indigenous Knowlege - What's Your Investment?

Picture this scenario. Kids in bed, its quiet and peaceful, nothing’s happening just sitting in front of the telly, my partner and I reading the weekend papers, drinking tea. And there’s a story on the front page of the paper - a football player (or coach) has managed to get himself into trouble (a spear tackle perhaps? a real cruncher? swapped codes? jumped ship & went off to France?). Its all over the paper, there’s letters to the editor, an editorial, every-one’s got an opinion. Will he be suspended? Will he be allowed to play? Can he keep his contract? Will the club be fined? What should/should not the NRL do about it?
Inevitably, as an avid reader (though in general a sports loather), I’ll get caught up in the issue, and I’ll ask my partner questions and we’ll engage in an interesting conversation (at least for me anyway, I can’t attest to the interest level for him) about the issue. I’ll have an opinion. Then I’ll go to the arts section, and promptly forget the issue, who was involved, what it meant for the game and so on. And this scenario is repeated a couple of times every season and then again for the cricket season.
At every conversation though I’m very much aware that I frequently forget players names, the issues, the rules and my partner (bless ‘im) is forced to repeat the same information over and over again (kind of like when I’ve had a few too many & I constantly have to ask “what’s trumps again?”).
The issue is that I have not embedded new knowledge about the game. I know that any serious embedding of knowledge would require years and years of committed study. My partner has been following Rugby League since he was a boy, first as a junior player, he reads Rugby League Week & other publications, watches games (though not as many as he would like), and discusses issues with his peers. He has invested time, energy, thinking, and a little money into getting to a point where he can have an informed, meaningful and critical discussion about the issues that come up each week and each season.
I’m telling this story, because it fascinates me that many people believe that they can devote the same shallow-curiosity that I have about sport to developing their own understanding and awareness of Indigenous issues.
I am frequently asked simplistic questions in relation to Indigenous issues that indicate to me that the questioner has not given more than a passing thought to the topic. Questions like, “Do Aborigines really want an education?”, “what do Aborigines think about …..” etc etc. Prefacing your question with “I know I’m ignorant but…..” really doesn’t help. And in my experience, “I know I’m ignorant but …” folks generally already have an opinion in their mind anyway.
Of course, being a super polite person, I’ve not yet learned how to “death-stare” these people out of my existence (oh how I wish I could sometimes), and I’ll inevitably attempt to address questions that actually require hours and hours of discussion to get anywhere near to a meaningful answer. But that’s actually not fair on the questioner or me, because I quite honestly do want to answer these questions. I am deep down someone who believes that it’s the small opening of minds that will change the world.
But my request is, if you want to know about Indigenous people, if you’re really truly interested, then you need to think about what you’re willing to invest in embedding new knowledge. Think about how you’ll be challenged in addressing your assumptions, values and pre-existing ideas about Indigeneity and Australian-ness. There are thousands of books, hundreds of movies, many websites that you can use to start your journey. There are many Indigenous voices out there in EVERY level (from children’s literature through to top-tier academic works), but it ultimately is up to you to decide What’s Your Investment?

(Originally posted on InquiryBites blog on March 16, 2009)

created? ....what the???

Its a pink flower but is it really?
I think I talk alot about the idea of everything as/being "created". I thought I'd try to explain it a bit more. If you're confused after reading this, tell me, because this is the first time i've ever tried to write about this stuff. 
Well, basically, pretty much everything we know is "created", its not natural or truthful. 

For example:
  • The colour pink is only pink because there are humans who identified, distinguished and named it pink.
  • A flag is really just a rag with patterns on it. It only becomes a "flag" because we make the patterns on the rag mean something.
  • The noise of the mower is only noisy because I'm here to call it noisy.
  • The killing of one person by another is murder and therefore a bad thing, because we say it is.
Do you get what I mean when I say created? We don't live the same way we did one thousand years ago, because as humans, we're constantly creating it (by it I mean life, society etc) as we go along.

The rules change as we change as the rules change. Its circular.

Thus, its all created, we make it up as we go along.

Another aspect of all this is that we all agree about the creation. I could suddenly start calling the pink flower blue, but its pretty useless unless other people agree with me and start calling it blue as well.

So, what's the point of this?

Well, I think knowing that its "all made up" helps keep things in perspective. It should make us a little less precious, give us a bit of flexibility. Like the Blak History month I posted about earlier today. It can (and I believe will) become part of our celebrations, because there will be more and more people agreeing that July and Blak History is meaningful. (And we should probably also acknowledge Web2.0 for facilitating this - though thats for another post I think)

There's probably a brilliant thinker who has a seriously meaningful quote that would really work right now. I don't know what it is. I'll look for one, if you find one, let me know hey?

Blak History Month 1 - 31st July

All the days we know of as important and meaningful are created. Here is a worthy event to celebrate. It started small in 2008 but can grow into whatever we want it to. This announcement is from Sam Cook, initiator of Kiss My Blak Arts.

Public Announcement
As we mark this day as a moment of Indigenous Survival, let us note that it has been one year to the day, that the message was sent to Australia and the World, to recognise and celebrate JULY as AUSTRALIA'S BLAK HISTORY MONTH. 

From a humble grassroots pledge - to what continues to gain momentum daily - let us collectively look toward how we can each play a role in promoting a month of positive pride to share, celebrate and carry forth the history of the 1st Australians - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Please encourage more people to join the group and/or talk about it in your local community, amongst family, your mob and people of ALL backgrounds and heritage, so that they too, can Celebrate with Us.
By breathing life into BLAK HISTORY MONTH, you will each take your mark as founders of a lifelong legacy, itself a moment in BLAKISTORY. 

In Unity, Strength and Pride. Sam Cook (More information about Kiss My Blak Arts available from 

(Originally posted in InquiryBites blog on TypePad on March 9, 2009)

Australia Day Part 2

Michael at Brisbane Invasion Day 2009 march. He asked me "Mum, all the people who celebrate Australia Day, don't they know about the Aborigines?"

Mick Dodson, Australian of the Year 2009 in his acceptance speech told how he believed that 26th of January should not be Australia Day. Linda Burney, in an interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National, told how while she was unable as an Aboriginal woman to celebrate Australia Day in the past, today she believes that we should stick with the day. She argued that it is possible for the meaning of the day to evolve to one that is more inclusive of others (including Indigenous People). Her and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are on the same page.

Is it possible to continue celebrating on the 26th of January with a clear conscience? 

Today (this year in particular) has shown an increased display of patriotism. The Australia Day committee ( should be proud that they have been able to create in Australians a degree of reverence for this date. I remember when I was a kid (in the 70s), no one bothered about the 26th, it was barely worth mentioning. Mind you, we still sung God Save The Queen back then. (We should also thank the "grog" shops and newspapers that gave away car flags, as well as the "cheap" shop suppliers who mass-produced Aussie flag undies, boxers, boardies, thongs, shirts etc) 

Are we just being difficult? Just being wowsers? Does it really matter that a) on the 26th of January the soveignty of our nation was stolen and b) we didn't actually become a nation, only a colony of Great Britain? 

Perhaps I'm just being pedantic. 

Isn't it enough that the PM said Sorry, the Australian of the Year is an Indigenous person, there a numerous Indigenous politicians (in states/territories), a couple of Indigenous people have a few gold medals now. Can't we all rally around the flag?? Can't we just get over it??? 

Well - I guess that's the beauty of being human. We get to create our symbols. The flag, the day, everything is created. None of its natural or truthful. 

So bugger it, I think I'll stick with marching on the 26th of January, and fight and wait, patiently and non-violently, for the CHANGE. 

Always was, Always will be…. Aboriginal Land.

Appropriating Aboriginal Art: To Be or Not To Be

Students will ask "why can't we use Aboriginal images?" Particularly if they see the work of artists like Richard Bell, who is deliberate in his appropriation of "western" artists like Lichtenstein or Tillers.
"If he's apppropriating, why can't we*?
Well there are a couple of responses you can offer that may assist students to get to the core of the issue:
  1. Firstly, Aboriginal art was never "given" to the western art industry as a school of art to be appropriated. Picasso knew what he was doing when he first exhibited cubism - he was well aware of the impact of his use of this style and what it meant. However Aboriginal artists, when their work was first being installed as art objects into galleries (and out of museums as ethnographic cultural objects), in the last quarter of the century, would have very little idea about the Western art market and its conventions. Many "traditional" artists still are not aware of their rights (and responsibilities).
  2. Secondly, the imagery/iconography may have spiritual significance and by re-producing the image you may inadvertently "call-up" something you're not meant to.
  3. Thirdly, why use the image in the first place? The fact that the image is not from your country, your people, your culture, your heritage, meants that you have completely de-contextualised it. You would be hard pressed to create a new meaning for existing cultural icons that would "hold-up" to a critical analysis.
Above all, CREATE FROM WHAT YOU KNOW - don't look for inspiration in the foreign exotic interesting native. 
"Be responsible for your aesthetic." Vernon Ah Kee, 2008
* Yes I have assumed that the "enquirer" is non-Indigenous.

(Originally published on InquiryBites blog on March 9, 2009) 

Australia Book Pt 2

Thinking further about "The Australia Book" written by Eve Pownall, it might be worth exploring the artwork of Aboriginal artist Tony Albert. Tony originally comes from Cardwell but now lives and works in Brisbane. He is a member of ProppaNOW artist collective. His work shown at Gallery Smith in Melbourne in 2008, is a re-positioning of imagery from the period Pownall grew up, worked and lived in. 

You can see the link here:
(Originally posted on InquiryBites Blog on TypePad on March 9, 2009)

The Australia Book: How it should & should not be used

The "Australia Book" written by Eve Pownall and Illustrated by Margaret Senior is an Australian history book with quite a standing amongst older book lovers, teachers & librarians. Written in 1952, it's obvious to see why, its colourful, it doesn't hark back to Mother Britain. It attempts to capture Australia from an Australian perspective. And this is where my concern lies. 

It is white Australian in its perspective, assumptions and values.  Aboriginal people are romanticised in the beginning section, portrayed as savage, simplistic and even helpless in the middle, and have disappeared by the end of the book. And while New Guinea is mention, the Torres Strait Islands are completely invisiable.
This book should NOT be used as an accurate account of Australian history. 
  • The portrayal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is offensive;
  • New Guinea people are seen in the illustrations as simple village folk while in the text are hostile; 
  • South Sea Islanders are said to have "not always treated properly" but are afforded no other explanation of their presence on the continent;
  •  Chinese peoples and other nationalities are completely invisible (though there is a mention at the end how new immigrants to Australia don't always speak English.
At this point, one might argue, that I'm being a bit harsh "we didn't think of those things in the old days". And I absolutely accept that. And I'm not really questioning that. I question how we might use the book today.
The book should be used as a text to analyse how White Australia used to see itself - herioc, hardworking, stoic, rough & tumble. All of those adjectives that are visualised in the symbolism of our nation - Simpson on his donkey, the digger on his horse, the shearer, the drover etc.

Thee symbols of White masculinity are reaffirmed in Eve Pownall's book. It is an excellent study of Australia - though perhaps not how Australian's think they see themselves today. 

(Originally posted on InquiryBites blog on TypePad March 9, 2009)

26/01: What will you teach on "Australia Day"

In our house, the 26th of January is Invasion Day. We do not celebrate or recognise Australia Day. We live in Brisbane, so each year we march.
  • We march to remember those who have marched before us and made our world a better place.
  • We march to remember those who were not able to march.
  • We march to remind others that soverignty has not been ceded.
  • We march to keep clear the vision of what we have and what we do not have.
This position is neither right nor wrong, better or worse than anothers. It simply is. In your classroom you should recognise this, celebrate it and respect it. Do not force your young students to colour in the Australian flag. Give them a choice of flag to colour - respect their heritage and their identity. 

(Originally posted on InquiryBites blog on TypePad March 09, 2009)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vernon Ah Kee - Education Resource

This teacher's education resource was produced by the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane to accompany the touring visual arts exhibition, cantchant by Aboriginal artist Vernon Ah Kee.

cantchant was also part of the Once Removed exhibition at the Venice Bienale in 2009.

You can download a copy of the teacher's education resource here.

"I can't find an elder to come & speak to my class"

"I can't find an elder to come & speak to my class"

This is a fairly standard question from teachers as we move into the time some schools are thinking about how they will celebrate NAIDOC week.

Let's think about why it might be "difficult" to find a guest speaker and how you might consider your standpoint in relation to this comment.

1) Are you attempting to find a guest speaker for NAIDOC from your already existing relationships (professionally & personally)?
Or are you just looking for someone for the day? It will be much easier to find someone if you already have a fulfilling and equal relationship already established. This may be difficult if you are new to an area (location). However, the fact is, you're more likely to get a helping hand from a respected friend than from a complete stranger.

2) Do you want an educator or just an Aboriginal person?
Its not really enough to just want an Indigenous face in your classroom. Think about what you want the speaker to "teach" your students first. Not all Aboriginal people know about Dreaming Stories, and the "cultural" practices that you might expect. (The majority of Indigenous People live in cities on the Eastern coast - just because a person grows up in the city doesn't mean they don't know about the Dreaming, but nor does it mean they do). You want to find the best person for the job you need, not just a body.

3) Do you have a budget?
If you think about how many classrooms are around the country and how many Aboriginal people there are, a person could spend their whole adult life "teaching/guesting" in classrooms. This would be great, if those schools were willing to pay $ for their speakers. This would allow more Aboriginal people to make an actual living (as teachers are doing when they teach) from their work. I would argue that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander guest speakers should be paid the equivalent of a relief teacher's wage. More if they are expected to conduct activities - like art, artefact making etc (the cost of materials as well as specific technical expertise). The cultural knowledge and in many cases, years of working with children and students, means that they are "experts" in their fields. They may not have formal educational qualifications but they will probably have "community" qualifications. And will be more than four-year-trained educators in their field.

4) Are you clear about what key learning area you want them to explore?
Or do you just want them to look at "Aboriginal culture"? This is such an incredibly large topic (past/present; "traditional"; men's business/women's business; dance/story/art/lore). Be specific about what areas you want explored. You'll get more value out of the time spent with your guest cultural speaker. Make sure that you do at least a before & after session with the students. If you're not sure what your guest cultural speaker is talking about - then you have a responsibility to find out beforehand.

5) Is your guest NAIDOC cultural speaker request part of an integrated learning unit?
Or are you only going to look at it for one day while Uncle ____ is in the classroom? Rather than just have a one-off hour or session, consider that it is better for your students that you create a fully integrated unit about a topic - an incorporating a range of "voices". How about a unit on "Celebrations"? Why do communities celebrate? What do they do when they're celebrating? In relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, think about how "new" celebrations like NAIDOC, are as much about celebrations of survival as they are revivals of old celebrations and festivals? What kind of festival would the students like to create?

6) Are you treating the topic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture/NAIDOC, like you would other topics? Using perhaps an inquiry-based model? Encouraging critical thinking? Or perhaps is your exploration more basic and cursory, with an over-emphasis on art?

7) Do you know what most Aboriginal organisations do? How they're set up? Did you know that most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations operate on shoe-string budgets? That they deal with some pretty hard-hitting issues? Have you considered that while you may only want "someone to come" for an hour or so, that that hour is an hour away from their communities. Why not explore ways that your school community (including parent community) can work to support local organisations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander). In what ways would you be prepared to create collaborations?

In summary -
* Consider your commitment or investment to doing your job well? Do you just want a "taste" of something, or do you wish to work hard to really making a difference?

* Think about your assumptions - what do you think Aboriginal culture is - just boomerangs and Dreaming stories perhaps?

(Originally published on criticalclassroom on TypePad on 12 May 2010)

Play Letterbox & learning Indigenous language

Play Letterbox
As promised yesterday, here is another resource, though you don't need to buy this one.
Letterbox was produced by Carbon Media, an Indigenous Australian media company. The Letterbox programme was televised on NITV and ABC3, and is targeted at primary school aged kids.
Letterbox JPG

You can play the games online. Unfortunately the games aren't leveled and many of them may be for higher level students (Michael & I had a bit of a hard time with alpha bubbles but rocked on word it out!). I suggest that teachers check out the words to make sure that learners can cope (maybe its a site that hard workers can aspire to)
Overall though, its a great spot for fast finishers and I'd definitely bookmark it.

Learn Language
The other great part of this site is the Winanga-Li section (I think Winanga-Li means "to know, to remember" - I'm not sure which language).

Here you can watch the short beautifully produced language videos from over the continent. They're designed to teach young people language. And as I've just discovered their embeddable!! See here below.

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on TypePad on 04/07/2010)

Resource Preview - Sharing culture the Yolgnu Way

The third of our Easter holiday Indigenous education resource producer series - checkout Sharing Culture. Qld based, but Yolngu culture, this deadly family produce CD-Roms for literacy, art, language, culture learning. These look great - and are very reasonably priced too!

Resources - Sisters Dreaming

Am really conscious that I've spent too many of my last posts talking about me/us/ourwork.

To rectify that imbalance, I'll spend the next few posts over this Easter school holiday break checking out other Indigenous Australian educational resource creators.

Sisters Dreaming is a New South Wales based enterprise (but they sell online to all over the continent) focusing on literacy and numeracy activities (word bingo, alphabet cards, puzzles etc). You can find them at Fantastic for early childhood educators everywhere!

I love their illustrations that were created by Cecily Wellington-Carpenter. I met the SistersDreaming mob at the WIPC:E Conference in Melbourne a few years back - they're pretty deadly.

I love their byline - Indigenous Resources for All. Its really important that schools and teachers realise that these resources are relevant for ALL kids, not just Indigenous kids and "Indigenous" schools.

Check out their website and support this deadly business.

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on TypePad on 04/06/2010)

Easter craft

Here are a couple of things we created using the Easter is Deadly book. The first is a little craft easter gift for someone special. Annie made one for her friend Shanae. The second is a sponge painting of Jaragun's nest. We use enlarged photoccopies to add in Jaragun and some eggs.

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on TypePad on 03/25/2010)

Jaragun's Country - A slideshow!

Can't get to Idinji Country to see Jaragun's Nest? Here are some photos for your to explore when thinking and teaching about Easter is Deadly. You can also grab the link to post it into your own blog/wiki.

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on TypePad on 03/25/2010)

Google Map of Jaragun's Nest (Walsh's Pyramid)

View Jaragun's Nest in a larger map

Would like to embed this image into your classroom blog? Click here for the link.

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on 03/24/10)

You're Deadly!

Here is the "Too Deadly" poster for the Easter & Christmas books (and probably many of the books we'll publish in the future). It was actually quite difficult to create this poster, not because it is a feat of design wonder, but because I was confused about how to define "deadly".

Deadly is all of the things in the poster - smart, knowing, solid, excellend, cool, great, fantastic. But its more than that. "Deadly" is an English language word that has been appropriated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in many parts of the continent. Many communities and individuals feel an absolute sense of ownership over the word deadly.

Here is an article about the term by Troy Vinson. If you're unfamiliar with the term, try googling "deadly" & "Aboriginal". Have a look at the way the term is used. 

Grab the poster from flickr here.

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on TypePad on 03/19/2010)

Easter is deadly - Timeline (Free!)

Have just uploaded a timeline with 2010 dates for the Easter celebration for Easter is Deadly.

You can use this one-page A4 sheet (either black & white or coloured).

Don't forget - you can embed these documents into your own class wiki or blog using the code next to the slides on slideshare.

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on TypePad on  03/02/2010)

Special Days Calendar - March events now added

New Events added for Feb/March -
24 February 2010 - Putsch by proppaNOW Aboriginal Artist's Collective
Their first group exhibition outside of Queensland and as part of the Adelaide Festival, Putsch opened on February 24th 2010 at Tandanya Cultural Centre.
16 March 1995 - The High Court decides against Western Australia's constitutional challenge to the Commonwealth Native Title Act in Western Australia v Commonwealth [1995]
The Native Title Tribunal provides a range of resources about Native Title Law, determinations and issues.
20 March 1969 - The Aboriginal Welfare Board abolished
This website contains detailed history of Aboriginal affairs in New South Wales.
22nd March 2003 - Linda Burney, first Aboriginal woman elected to New South Wales State Parliament.
Linda Burney was elected on the 22nd March 2003, and has since been promoted to various ministerial positions.
28th March 1922 - Neville Bonner, the first Aboriginal person elected to Federal Parliament is born
Neville Bonner was born on Ukerabagh Island on the Tweed River. He was elected to the Senate in 1971. He passed away in 1999.
29 March 1984 - Charles Perkins is appointed Head of the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs

29 March 1995 - ATSIC (Indigenous Land Funds) Amendement Act passed.
This amendment created the Indigenous Land Corporation.
30 March 1962 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Qld, NT and NSW are given the right to vote at Federal elections.
The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 (Cth) denied Aboriginal people the right to vote unless they were covered under s41 (allows for those who are already enrolled in State electoral rolls). The Commonwealth Electoral Act was amended in 1962 to allow Aboriginal people to vote if they wished (though it was not compulsory).
NB: This is a Google Calendar that we've created as a public calendar. We're uploading events month-by-month. If you know of any other events that we don't have and you would like to include, please send us an email. You can embed this calendar into your own website/blog by clicking here:

(Originally posted on criticalclassroom on TypePad on 03/02/2010)
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