Transcript of Bonus episode – Aboriginal histories and perspectives in music
This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (20:41).
Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education.
As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.
Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. My name is Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts Project Advisor with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we are having a music bonus episode, where Alex Manton and I will discuss recently released music resources, addressing Aboriginal perspectives and histories in the music classroom.
Please welcome Alex Manton.
Hi Alex, how are you going?
Alex – Hi Jackie, I’m good thanks, how are you?
Jackie – Good, good. Thanks for joining me today to have a bit of a chat about resources that we've released, some of them last year. But earlier this term we released a podcast where you spoke with Dr Thomas Feinberg and Anthony Galluzzo about Aboriginal perspectives in the music classroom. And as I was listening to that, I thought, oh, we've got some really great resources already available to teachers that address some of the things that they talked about in that podcast and I thought it's a really great time just to remind everybody what's there on our Department of Education, Creative Arts Curriculum website for people to be able to go and use and adapt for their own classroom settings. So that's what this podcast is about today, to have a bit of a chat about those resources that are there and how it addresses some of those things that were discussed in that really informative podcast that were released in week one of this term. So, do you think we should start with Stage 4?
Alex – Yeah, Jackie, I think Stage 4 is a great place to start because I know that you started with that Aboriginal program for Stage 4, and that was very much based on Aboriginal Pedagogy or the Eight Ways. And when I was helping to develop the material for Stage Five, I found that very useful to have a look at.
Jackie – So for that Stage 4 program, when I was creating that program, I really wanted to get teachers to think about their local context and connecting with their local AECG and really looking at that community links element of the eight ways or the Aboriginal Pedagogy because that is really important about connecting with the lands in which you're on and what's important to that community. I know when I was a teacher, I wasn't really encouraged to connect with my local AECG. The person who ran the programs for Aboriginal students in our school had all of the connections with the local AECG, but not necessarily all of the teachers. And I think that's really important to get out there and that's what Anthony, I think, was talking about a lot in the podcast, was that that AECG is there for us to connect what we're doing in our classrooms to the local Aboriginal community and getting in the elders and speaking about what we're doing in the classroom and connecting it to Aboriginal traditions and the culture and particularly that country and that community. And so, I felt a bit relieved as the podcast went on when Anthony was talking about, it's really important to connect with AECG because that is really what this Stage 4 program is about. It's about connecting what the traditional music, traditional Aboriginal music, but also contemporary Aboriginal music, etcetera to the local community and really connecting with that local AECG. In terms of the Aboriginal pedagogy, that is something that I've actually programmed with for a really long time. It was a requirement in our school actually, when it was first introduced was obviously called the eight ways and that those Eight Ways were considered in our programs. So, there's a lot of elements of storytelling in the program, there's a lot of non-linear thinking. So, in terms of some of the listening activities, it's not directly we're going to listen for these characteristics of Traditional Aboriginal music. In these pieces of music, there's a tally exercise where students listen in stations. So, it's that nonlinear approach to the learning. In that in terms of deconstruct/reconstruct, we listen to things as a whole or we read a Dreaming story as a whole and then we break it down into different parts and then we put it back together in a composition. So, there's lots of those elements of the Aboriginal pedagogy, or the Eight ways as some people may know it, all the way throughout the program. But the really strongest part of that program I think is the links to the community and the links to the lands that they are on. Also, I was really lucky to work with the Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships team in consulting on that program and writing on that program, and also the literacy and numeracy team got involved with helping me with that program as well. And there's lots of links to the learning progressions in that as well, being for Four. In terms of it being updated this term though, to support online learning I actually did turn that Aboriginal music program into a student online module. So that's more about the students investigating Aboriginal music, playing some of the contemporary Aboriginal artists songs and then also really delving into their own culture and creating a bit of a podcast about what the music of their culture looks like. So yeah, if you're stuck in online learning, that is a resource that is out there, that's going to be helpful.
Alex – That's fantastic, Jackie. And the eight ways I guess for people listening at home include community links, deconstruct/reconstruct, which you've talked about both of those and the nonlinear as well as land links, symbols and images, nonverbal, learning maps and story sharing. When I sort of reflect as a music educator on those eight ways, so much of it, it just comes naturally, we're already doing it in our teaching and we don't realize that we're doing it. And so, like you, I was really pleased to sort of say, oh no, I am covering those aspects of the pedagogy and it's just great to see that it's so intuitive, I guess, to incorporate that in our teaching.
Jackie – We might talk now about your Stage 5 Australian music program. The thing I really liked most about your Australian music program is it looks at some more of those perspectives and histories throughout the program. And definitely when you look at the music of contemporary Aboriginal artists in that program, you are getting students to look at the country that they are from and that is something that Anthony and Dr Thomas Feinberg really emphasised in their podcast, I think. Do you want to talk a little bit about that element of your program.
Alex – Yeah, definitely. So, when I was putting together this Stage five program I obviously considered music by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists as being a core component of that program really. But the content that kind of covers two things, that covers music by Aboriginal artists but it also covers that historical and cultural perspective. But it does that through a variety of different styles of music. So, there's a section in there on popular music by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists where students do get to choose an artist of their choice. There are four activities. There’s a Baker Boy performance activity, a Thelma Plum one, Miiesha one, she's a Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal artist, as well as a Yothu Yindi one, of course, in there to give students a choice between four different types of activities. Whether they want to rap like Baker Boy or play ukulele and sing like Thelma. There's an acapella version of the Miiesha song and then obviously a rock with Yothu Yindi. So, there's lots of choice there. And it's encouraging students obviously we'll learn to play one of those songs and create their own version of it and then listen to what they've done and pull it apart. But they also need to identify what land that those artists come from. And then later on in the activity it encourages students to choose their own song of a different Aboriginal artist and try to connect with them if they can using social media in some way to let that artists know that they are performing that song. And that's something that Tom Feinberg also talked about in the podcast and it's something that he does with his students. So, I did work with him in developing that part of the project and having a chat to him about ways so that students are having that connection with artists. So that's one part of the program, I guess the other part of the program, there's a section on art music there. And although it's not by an Aboriginal artist, it certainly addresses the historical cultural perspectives of our First Nations people and the colonization of Australia. And that's the work that titled The Rabbits, which actually started off as a text, a beautiful book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, which also has gorgeous images in it as a story book. It depicts the colonization of Australia and its adverse effects it had on our First Nations people, and covers issues surrounding conflict and the stolen generation, industrialization and its effect on the environment and also the loss of Aboriginal culture in that book. That book was then later turned into an opera of all things by Kate Miller-Heidke, Australian singer and Iain Grandage. And it was performed at the Sydney Opera House I think a few years ago now. But one of the key pieces in that most popular pieces is titled The Rabbits. In the book itself, the story is told using animals. So, in the book, the marsupials are meant to represent our Aboriginal people and the rabbits represents the Europeans and the settlement and the activities in that part of the unit explore those themes and they also explore the music themselves. So, each of those characters is depicted by different styles of music as well. So, the rabbits use a very kind of operatic musical style. The marsupials use more pop kind of genre or musical theatre kind of ways of singing. And that particular unit I guess is also focused on literacy in a way as well as history. We've also got those cross-curriculum kind of ties with history and English there and I just think it sends a really important message to students in understanding that event from the perspective of Aboriginal people.
Jackie – I think too, what is really cool about that and linking, I guess back to the podcast, Anthony Galluzzo did say something about not shying away from the truth even though it might be uncomfortable. And that story definitely does not shy away from that truth even though it may be uncomfortable. I really love how that program ends with then another band who never shied away from telling the truth and that is Midnight Oil and they're Makarrata project. So, do you want to just talk a little to the exercises in that? or the activities in that part of the program?
Alex – Yeah, of course. So, for those who don't know, the Makarrata project is a Midnight Oil album that actually collaborates with 18 Aboriginal artists and it's essentially a protest album in recognition of our need to continue to work towards reconciliation through the Uluru statement. The statement is a message written to Australian people from Aboriginal Australians and it's a combination of a decade's work of Aboriginal perspectives on the Australia's constitution in our nation's history. So, there are a couple of songs there contained within that unit. One is called First Nations and one is called Gadigal Land. And students need to learn one of those two songs in small groups like rock groups and then they record their own versions and then they use their own version as a comparative analysis with the original, and then the composition activity is based on the musical features of those songs, but also encourages students to talk about something that they're passionate about. So, covering that kind of protest song type genre as well. So, it's just a fantastic project and I love that there's something in there for everyone in terms of the different artists that are performing.
Jackie – So we've talked today a little bit about the resources that we've got and what's there and what's on our website and also the podcast that you did with Dr Thomas Feinberg and Anthony Galluzzo. How do you think some of these things help students in the classroom? Obviously we know that the Aboriginal pedagogy is a great way to be teaching through culture and using all of those Aboriginal ways of learning and knowing, it doesn't just engage Aboriginal students, it engages all of our students and it's really strongly linked to the Quality Teaching Framework. So much of that links really nicely.
Alex – I think that ultimately it's really important that we're teaching Aboriginal perspectives as well as music by Aboriginal artists, not just for those aboriginal students within our classrooms, but to everyone, because it's our history, it's our culture, it's the land on which we now live for many of us who have come as immigrants, essentially, and it is everyone's responsibility. As teachers, it's our job to inform and educate about our history and our culture and there's so much to learn from it and it's so rich and it's about connecting and just understanding everyone's heritage really, and we need to keep having these conversations, we need to keep it current and we need to keep them relevant and to keep having these discussions in the classroom, even though teachers may not feel comfortable with it. I'm hoping that through what we're providing here at the department, with these resources
as an avenue to do that or as a model to do that if teachers do feel apprehensive and I kind of keep thinking of like, okay, well, so we've written all these amazing resources, but where to next? Like, what can we do now? You know, what, what could we do for stage six? Where can we take this? Can we collaborate with some Aboriginal artists further to create even more resources so that we can keep providing relevant and updated material for our teachers?
Jackie – 100%. That's a watch this space, isn't it? I think for teachers and I know, you know, I've felt this too because I'm not Aboriginal, I have felt a bit of apprehension, a bit of worry, I guess that when I'm addressing Aboriginal perspectives and histories, and looking at Aboriginal music in my classroom, that I am doing it respectfully and I am doing it correctly and all of those things. So, I think for me and like the guys said in the podcast, this is everyone's business. It's not just important to Aboriginal people. It's got to be everybody's business to ensure that Aboriginal perspectives and histories and learning through culture is happening in all classrooms. And I guess having resources like this gives teachers an in for doing that. And you know, all of our resources that we create have had the Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships team looking at them or an Aboriginal Education and Wellbeing team have a look at it and approving it and consulting on it. And so, I guess for any teachers out there who are feeling apprehensive about where to start, perhaps our resources do give them that. This is an opportunity, it's created in consultation with Aboriginal people, it encourages more consultation with Aboriginal people and it gives you that place to start to addressing it in the classroom, because as Thomas Feinberg said, to be really improving the outcomes for Aboriginal students, they need to know that their culture is respected in the classroom and not shied away from. And I think that's a really important stepping stone.
And so wrapping up, these resources are available on our Creative Arts Curriculum Website and a link to all of them are going to be in the show notes, so you can click on that link. They are available to everyone from every sector. So, get in and have a look at them and I would say the most important thing to do is to adapt them to your community, to your school, to your students. You know, the people who are in front of you and reach out to Aboriginal people either in your school, in your community. And remembering that that AECG is there for everyone to consult with.
This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our statewide staffroom through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts Curriculum Advisor, Cathryn Horvat at email@example.com. The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.
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