Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.
6 — Establishing the context of a life story
In this sequence the focus is on the context of a life story; that is, the setting, history, culture and relationships that place a life story. In Sequence 5, we saw that Kylie Kwong’s life is very much influenced by her family and concerns about sustainability. Our attention in this sequence is on Mervyn Numbagardi’s story and the significance of context.
Activity 1: Helicopter Tracks
The students should watch the short ABC documentary Helicopter Tracks. After viewing the film, ask them what they learnt about:
- the setting
- Mervyn’s childhood (also reference a map and information about the Great Sandy Desert, where Mervyn Numbagardi grew up)
- Mervyn’s relationships with non-Aboriginal people.
Lastly, ask them to think about which aspects of life are most significant to Mervyn.
Activity 2: Exploring the context
Tell the students that Alex Smee, the producer of this story, commented that she did some research with local Aboriginal women who know the area well, so in some ways this is a collective story of Mervyn’s people. Then ask them the following questions:
- Go back and listen to the soundscape of the film (without images). What can you hear and how does that contribute to the impact of the story?
- Why did the children and adults run and hide when the helicopter approached? (Hint: A knowledge of history can help us understand the context.)
- How has the sense of vast space and dry desert been captured in this life story?
- What knowledge of Indigenous art do you already bring to this life story, and what more have you come to understand?
- What of the role of the ‘white fellas’ who run Anna Station and the Mission: how would you define the relationship between Mervyn and the white fellas?
Ask the students to go back to ‘People’, the poem studied at the very beginning of Sequence 1, and choose lines that seem to connect to Mervyn’s life story and the value of recording and sharing it. Point out that whether the subject of their life story lives in a high-density urban area or in the bush, it is vital that they establish a context for their readers or viewers.
Activity 3: Assessment task 1 – Analysis of a life story
- Advise the students that support and time to address the achievement standards will be provided in Sequence 7, including an opportunity for those who wish to work independently alone or in groups or with your closer direction.
- The students should check that the story they have chosen fits with the definition of a life story as discussed in Sequence 1.
Note: Assessment task 1 rubric replaces the need for Content Descriptions in this activity.