Through Whose Eyes? Aboriginal and European Perspectives in Literature

4. Exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To use inference to identify and discuss different perspectives in a text

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can suggest how people in the past thought and felt
  • I can use my knowledge of cultural beliefs and values to describe and discuss perspectives
  • Bruce Pascoe, 2019, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Magabala Books, Australia
  • Sticky notes or paper strips for students to write on
  • Display paper
  • First thinking, second thinking template: docx PDF

It is strongly recommended that teachers review all suggested stimulus texts prior to their use to ensure their appropriateness and to enable rich, respectful discussion. For guidance on text selection refer to the Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

In addition, it is suggested that teachers refer to these guidelines around establishing a safe & culturally respectful classroom in the ‘Before you use this sequence’ section of the resource.

Discuss the terms culture, cultural beliefs and practices. Explain that different countries have different cultural beliefs that change over time. Refer to the Intercultural Capability Glossary.

Provide examples of cultural beliefs and ask students to provide examples of their cultural beliefs and customs.

Ask students to consider the encounter between two very different cultural groups when the First Fleet landed in Australia. Invite student suggestions about the differences between the Europeans and Aboriginal Australian people.

Pose the question, “Can you imagine what the Aboriginal people thought and felt when they saw the British arriving on the First Fleet?”

Invite students to write, draw a picture or a cartoon facial expression to answer this question on sticky notes.

Collect and group student responses to create a thinking poster using the First Thinking, Second Thinking approach. This thinking protocol supports students to record their early (first) thinking about a question, idea or topic and then after further investigation, revisit the prompt to expand on their ideas with their second thinking. A template is available to download from the Materials and texts section above.

This thinking protocol demonstrates how understanding and knowledge develop in a visual way. The process can be repeated, dependent on the complexity of the questions being asked. 

Introduce the short video First Australians – Episode 1: They Have Come to Stay (Clip 2) or Europeans and Aboriginal Views (available on ClickView, sign in using your Department credentials). Ask students to continue to consider the thoughts and feelings of Aboriginal Australians as they watch the video.

Provide students with sentence stems and questions raised in the video to prompt their thinking.

  • They thought …
  • Why did they think …
  • Can you imagine …
  • Why are they here?
  • What are they?

After viewing the video, students complete a Think/Pair/Share and discuss something they have learnt or to ask clarifying questions.

Demonstrate using information from the video to write a second thinking.

Provide sticky notes for students to complete their second thinking.

Collect and group student responses.

Review with students the compiled thinking poster and discuss how their ideas had developed from their first thinking.

Draw student attention to any responses that dealt with land, for example beliefs about land, land use or land ownership.

1. Examine Aboriginal Creation Stories

Model reading a Victorian Aboriginal creation story from Nyernila: Listen Continuously, such as, Wemba Wemba - How the Murray River was Made, pp. 80 – 81.

Before you read the text, it is recommended you familiarise yourself with the Wemba language and pronunciation used in the text.

After reading, demonstrate using a flow map to record the key events and ideas in a text. Ask students to identify the cultural beliefs and practices that were identified in the story.

Ask the students to work with a partner to read a different creation story from the Nyernila: Listen Continuously collection, such as, The Filling of the Bay – The Time of Chaos, pp. 36-39. The resource provides the opportunity select a text that is appropriate for your location and school context (refer to the Victorian map on p. 7).

Provide time for partners to explore and discuss the key ideas and events in the text, then ask students to work in groups of four to summarise the text using a flow map. Students could also create their summary using drawings, creating a cartoon or recording a verbal retelling and explanation of the text.

2. Examine Historical Perspectives

Display the following long held view of Aboriginal Australians:

“Aboriginal Australians lived a roaming nomadic life as hunter-gatherers, surviving day-to-day solely by collecting fruits and seeds and hunting animals.” Bruce Pascoe, Young Dark Emu p. 9

Provide students with a copy of pages 8 and 9 of Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu.

Read the text with students, stopping to discuss and summarise each paragraph. Invite students to identify key words in the text.

After the shared reading, ask students to discuss the beliefs about land, land use and land ownership that were outlined in the Dark Emu.

Prompting questions to guide student thinking:

  • Why might the officers and convicts of the First Fleet have thought it was their ‘right’ to occupy the ‘empty land’?
  • Why might they have considered the land to be empty?
  • Suggest what is meant by the phrase, ‘they turned their eyes away from the obvious signs of the civilizations that already existed’.
  • Suggest what is meant by the phrase, ‘a very inconvenient truth’.

Explain to the students that they will be reading primary sources and/or viewing a video that includes excerpts from the journals of early explorers. Note that the information presented in these sources challenge the early views of Aboriginal society and asks us ‘to consider a different view of how Australia was before the British arrived.’

Organise students into small collaborative groups or reading pairs and ask them to view The Explorer’s Diaries and/or to read a relevant chapter from Young Dark Emu such as Chapter 2, Agriculture.

Ask students to take notes and gather evidence that challenges the early view of Aboriginal Australians as hunter-gatherers. They could create a mind map or other visual presentation tool to present their summaries.

Guide a class discussion about Aboriginal perspectives of land, land ownership and land use. Discuss the different information that was provided by the video, the creation stories and the observations of the early European explorer. Reiterate the importance of using primary sources of information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to understand their perspectives.

Ask students to complete an exit ticket or a third thinking, outlining what they have learned about Aboriginal cultural beliefs and practices and perspectives. Encourage them to include their predictions about what Aboriginal people might have thought and felt twelve months after the First Fleet arrived.

Black Fella Films, 2008. Australian Screen, The First Australians, clip 1 and 2. [Online] 
Available at:  
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Creative Australian, 2014. Nyernila: Listen Continuously. [Online] 
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Pascoe, B., 2019. ABC Education, Aboriginal agriculture, technology and ingenuity. [Online] 
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Pascoe, B., 2019. Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. Australia: Magabala Books.
State Government of Victoria (Department of Education and Training), 2019. Literacy Teaching Toolkit: Modelling through think alouds. [Online] 
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Thinking Maps, n.d. Flow Map. [Online] 
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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