NAIDOC’s 2022 School Resource Can Teach More Than Just Kids
NAIDOC Week celebrates and recognizes the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is an opportunity for all Australians to learn more about First Nations cultures and histories. The Latch team shares stories to help educate, honor and guide our ongoing efforts for change, so be sure to find all of our pieces here. Val Morgan Digital recognizes traditional custodians of country across Australia and their connection to land, sea and community. We honor their elders past and present and extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
When I attended elementary school and high school, I was barely educated about First Nations peoples, cultures or histories. These subjects have never been a priority and have not been discussed much. They have instead been relegated to the dusty sections of libraries. I don’t know if my teachers are to blame or if the NSW curriculum was at fault, but I was disappointed regardless. For most of my life I walked through it with a very incomplete understanding of Australian history.
Ever since I became an adult, I have tried to educate myself on these subjects. I did this by buying A+ books, going to First Nations events and listening to First Nations people. However, there are still huge gaps in my knowledge. This means that when I sat down with NAIDOC’s 2022 School Resource, I found this booklet to be super informative. Here is some of the information I learned:
The numbers don’t lie
Without knowing the numbers, it is possible to get that the First Nations peoples existed on this land before colonization and were greatly affected by this force. Nevertheless, attaching numbers to this reality can draw attention to the situation. According to the author of this resource, Shelley Ware, “there were more than 250 indigenous languages, including 800 dialects, in pre-colonial Australia”. It is a multitude of languages and cultures attached. This is approximately 226 languages more than those recognized by the EU across all of Europe.
These numbers also highlight the aggressiveness with which colonization has attempted to wipe First Nations cultures off the map. “During and after colonization, there were laws that prohibited First Nations people from speaking their language,” Ware wrote. “As a result, the practice and continuation of many First Nations languages has been affected.”
But there is hope for the present and the future. As NAIDOC’s School Resource 2022 stated, “First Nations people are rising up and reviving their languages and sharing them with their children and the wider community, so that they live on for generations to come.”
Incredible Women’s Stories
NAIDOC’s 2022 School Resource is filled to the brim with First Nations women who have done exceptional things. Take for example the Darug woman, Patyegarang. Around 1788, she learned English from Lieutenant William Dawes of the First Fleet, before writing with him the very first books to include native languages. In 1972, these books were discovered and were instrumental in the return of the Darug language.
Another extraordinary woman is Aunty Fay Carter. In 1939 she was part of the famous Cummeragunja Walk Off, where Aborigines who lived in an NSW mission called Cummeragunja Station protested their mistreatment and living conditions. They did this by avoiding NSW protection advice and moving to Victoria.
The last First Nations person we will talk about in this section is Cathy Freeman. In 1994, this athlete won two gold medals for winning the 200m and 400m sprints at the Commonwealth Games in Canada. Freeman celebrated these triumphs by holding the Aboriginal and Australian flags during his victory laps. This caused debate across Australia, as the Aboriginal flag was not yet considered an official flag of that country. But this rule was soon to be rectified. As Ware said, “Freeman’s courageous act is credited with the Australian government recognizing the Aboriginal flag as the official flag of Australia in 1995.”
Not only does NAIDOC’s 2022 School Resource link to additional information about these First Nations women, but it also puts a number of other women online who are more than worth your time and attention. As I mentioned before, this entire booklet is brand new.
Related: How to be an Indigenous ally
Related: How to find out which Indigenous land you are on
Colonial wars and massacres were abominable
From the 1780s to the 1930s, Western forces killed tens of thousands of First Nations people in a series of events called colonial wars and massacres. During this series of heinous actions, also known as the Border Wars, multitudes of First Nations warriors died defending their homeland against colonizing forces. As Ware wrote, “Their deaths are not often remembered in the history books or commemorated on days of celebration, and many massacre sites have yet to be recognized and commemorated.”
One of the last battles in this series of brutal genocidal killings was called the Coniston Massacre in the Northern Territory. Ware noted, “It would be easy to think that this event happened over 200 years ago, but tragically the Coniston Massacre happened between August and October 1928.” It is estimated that at least 30 Warlpiri lives were taken during the massacre.
The fact that I and many other people were never informed about colonial wars and massacres is an indictment of the education system. These truths should not be ignored in our cultural conversations. They should be front and center. Hopefully the fact that these wars and massacres are now being discussed in schools will give them more prominence.
There are so many other useful things in this booklet
Over the course of this article, we have only scratched the surface of the helpful information contained in NAIDOC’s 2022 School Resource. For example, Ware taught me, “Country is always spelled with a capital C, because the meaning of country is more important than mere ownership or connection to the land.” Therefore, if you grew up learning almost no facts about First Nations peoples and cultures, this free asset could definitely be worth your time, care, and attention.
If you’d like to learn more about First Nations peoples, cultures, and histories after browsing through NAIDOC’s 2022 School Resource, here’s a handy list of articles:
How the work plans to help indigenous peoples
10 films made by First Nations directors
8 must-listen podcasts from First Nations creators
7 Sacred Indigenous Australian Sites to Learn About Aboriginal Culture
10 of Australia’s Most Incredible Indigenous Experiences
12 Essential Books by First Nations Authors
Read more stories from The latch and subscribe to our E-mail.