An easier way to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives

An easier way to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives

Educators often say that they feel as if they need to rewrite or make drastic changes to their teaching and learning programs to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives. While we’re not exactly sure where this unspoken expectation has come from, we do know that some accommodations may require a bit of rethinking and reworking. However, we remain firm in our belief that many things can always be simplified. This is because not every Aboriginal perspective you facilitate in your classroom needs to be done so in an isolated lesson.


It’s important that educators stop and reflect on how often they’re isolating Aboriginal perspectives as standalone lessons. If educators are merely using perspectives during times of significant events like NAIDOC Week, or when it’s required to do so as noted in their subject’s syllabus, one must stop and ask themselves if they’re inadvertently promoting a sense of otherness about Aboriginal peoples? We know that this notion of otherness is probably a thought that wouldn’t cross a non-Aboriginal educator’s mind as it would for an Aboriginal educator, but we have to remember that historically this sense of otherness has come from racially charged agendas towards Aboriginal peoples. This is one of many reasons why Aboriginal perspectives can’t be kept out on the periphery of learning experiences.


With this in mind, we don’t want educators thinking that they should stop dedicating lessons to big ideas like learning about the importance of Country to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or learning about the ongoing effects of colonisation. But we do want to encourage educators to make Aboriginal education, and therefore Aboriginal perspectives, part of their everyday teaching and learning where possible.


Not knowing where to start is daunting for time-poor educators. But Aboriginal perspectives can be easily used to lift the significance of an idea being explored or used in addition to concepts you’re teaching about. Here are some of our simple tips and ideas to get started:

  • Use the AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia to identify the Traditional Custodians of the land of a place you’re learning about.

  • If you’ve got a timeline in your classroom that doesn’t include any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander history, then as a class create your own timeline that is inclusive of all aspects of Australian history. Refer back to that timeline wherever possible throughout your lessons.

  • If you have posters in your classroom about Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultures, think up ways that you can use them in your teaching and learning. (Pretty cultural items sitting on the shelf in your classroom doesn’t mean you’re doing Aboriginal education.)

  • Use the language of your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community where appropriate.

  • When storytelling in English, look at ways Aboriginal peoples have been telling stories for thousands of years. Create your own stories using Aboriginal symbols.

  • Make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dolls and props of native animals, plants, and foods etc. accessible in the hands-on play areas of your classroom.

  • Hold a yarning circle when discussing big ideas as a class. (if you need help doing this, head here)

  • Find ways to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander stories into your lessons where possible. If you’re looking at Australian water sources, read a Dreaming story about water such as Tiddalik the Frog. If you’re looking at astronomy, listen to the story of Dinawan (Emu) in the Sky.

  • When studying multiple texts in English, such as poetry or short stories, ensure you include something written by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

  • Incorporate traditional games in your PD/H/PE practicals throughout the year.

  • Never underestimate the power of a song, a picture book or a piece of artwork as a way to spark discussion, tell the history or learn about the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

An Aboriginal perspective can be included in every subject area from cooking, engineering, modes of transport, making clothes and accessories, medicine, managing climate events, law, performing and visual arts, and sports. Remember Aboriginal perspectives are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples’ identity, ancestral ties, experiences, kinship, connection to Country, ways of knowing and doing, history, language and how they experience the world. Your perspectives should come from multiple lenses – traditional, modern, urbanised or a rural and remote lens – because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not homogenous and so there are many ways that their identities and experiences can be shared and interpreted.


If you haven’t yet downloaded our ‘Is this an appropriate First Nations resource?’ checklist for educators, we encourage you do so. You’ll find it a helpful tool in finding the appropriate resources to embed Aboriginal perspectives confidently in your classroom.

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