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Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
who may have passed away.

Overview — Talk about rights

Traditional owner Vincent Lingiari, holding title deeds to land in one hand and in the other upturned hand, accepting soil poured by the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam

Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional landowner Vincent Lingiari,
Northern Territory, 1975. © Commonwealth of Australia. Purchased 1994, National Gallery of Australia,
Canberra, photograph by Mervyn Bishop.

This unit explores the changes to democratic and citizenship rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since 1900. Students are led into issues through famous Australian speeches. They will explore how authors use language in creative ways to persuade and describe, and how people use written and spoken language to suit social purposes and address particular audiences. They will apply a range of strategies to make meaning from texts, including the biographical novel Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, lyrics of ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ and ‘Took the Children Away’, documents such as the Gurindji petition to Lord Casey, transcripts of Gough Whitlam’s and Vincent Lingiari’s speeches from 1975, and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations speech in 2008.

They will create a walk-through museum to showcase their findings. Ideally the unit and the opening of the musem could be timed to conclude with a commemorative occasion such as NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week or other local Indigenous event.

This project-based unit integrates Year 6 English and History from the Australian Curriculum and uses a variety of texts to talk about rights. The rights being discussed in this unit are those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the struggle for land rights and the experiences of the Stolen Generations as focus areas.

The main literary texts studied are Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara (1996), and the picture books From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody (2008) and Took the Children Away by Archie Roach (2010).