Transcript of Aboriginal perspectives in the music classroom
This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (48:22).
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.
Alex – Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. My name is Alex Manton and I'm a creative arts curriculum officer with the New South Wales Department of Education. The area of discussion today is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in the music classroom. As music teachers, how do we approach this in a culturally sensitive way? How can we gain access to relevant resources to integrate into our programs? How can we improve learning outcomes for Aboriginal students and, finally, how can we make the content meaningful for our students today? We'll be talking to music teacher Dr Thomas Fienberg and Mr Anthony Galluzzo, who currently holds the position of K-6 advisor for Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate for the Department of Education.
Dr Thomas Fienberg recently joined the music education faculty at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, transitioning into the tertiary sector from his previous role as Head Teacher Creative and Performing Arts at Evans High School. In 2017 he was awarded by ASME New South Wales Barbara Mettam award for Excellence in Music education and was a nominee for the Telstra Aria Music teacher award in 2020.
Anthony Galuzzo is a proud Wiradjuri man born in Narendra and from a proud Narendra Italian family. Inspired by his mother's passion and strength around Aboriginal education, Anthony studied primary teaching at Charles Stuart University, Wagga Wagga. Anthony has spent his 17-year teaching career in positions in rural regional New South Wales, Metropolitan Sydney and in various non-teaching roles across the state gaining his current role as the K-6 advisor for the Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate at the beginning of term 3 2020 where he hopes to continue to be a voice for Aboriginal communities, students, staff colleagues, and wider school communities.
Welcome Anthony and Tom. Firstly can you each share with us just a little bit about yourself and how you became to be interested in Aboriginal education, Anthony.
Anthony – Yeah, thank you for having me today. I suppose my interest, as you've mentioned it in my intro, stems from the fact that my mum has been a passionate and committed Aboriginal educator for close to 40 years and she just recently retired. But I suppose for me being an Aboriginal person, being Aboriginal is who I am, but I wanted to be into this space in terms of Aboriginal education. So, I've worked in a number of roles now that look at Aboriginal education. Regionally was the space that I was in before and that regional Aboriginal education space. And now I'm in the state space. So, looking at programs, initiatives, curriculum space, and looking at what's happening in Aboriginal education perspectives. So, I suppose for me, it's not only being able to be a voice for my people, it's also about being able to be in that space of putting a cultural lens over everything that we do in the Department and making sure that our stories, our journeys and histories are at the forefront of everything that we're doing. I always say that our education, we achieve success when we look at it in the way of when the sun rises, not when the sun sets. And if we do that collaboration and that work right from the start, we see success and everything that we're doing in Aboriginal education. So that's part of the reason why I'm here in terms of Aboriginal education and continue in the space, but also to honestly create the best future for not only our Aboriginal kids, but also for non-Aboriginal kids and our staff as well to see their growth in terms of understanding Aboriginal histories and cultures.
Alex – Fantastic Anthony were always proud to be an Aboriginal?
Anthony – Of course, I mean it's been, since day dot, it's been a part of who I am. Obviously you've mentioned as well, I am Italian. Very similar cultures, you know, very steeped in that family traditions and customs, but I grew up in my community here in Narendra on Wiradjuri country, so growing up in the community you’re part of community and I suppose that's something that my family instilled in me is being proud of who you are, your background and making sure that you make others aware of that as well and educate others around you. But also to that there is a level of commitment you have to your culture, so being able to share our voices with other, with non-Aboriginal colleagues and making sure that I can impart my knowledge of my culture onto others so they can support our kids and I believe that in terms of education, we have a gift that we're given and that's educating the future and so being proud of who I am goes further than just what I do day to day. It's being who I am day today, but it's also about what I do and I'm so proud and honoured to be a voice for our people and I want to continue to do that.
Alex – Fantastic. And Tom can you share with us a little bit about yourself and how you became to be interested in Aboriginal education?
Tom – Yeah, well, I guess first it's important to know that I'm a non-Aboriginal person and today I'm speaking on the Darug and Gundungurra country here in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. And as a non-indigenous person, I, like many other teachers, were frustrated and so many people avoiding teaching and sharing Aboriginal content. And as a researcher, I've tried to, I guess, share my own story and my own narrative of coming to deeper understanding of Aboriginal music and more specifically developing stronger relationships with Aboriginal people. Because that's ultimately what learning about Aboriginal music is. It's coming to grips with the people itself because you can't disconnect the music from the person. And I think that's hopefully one thing that we'll talk about today with relationship being the centre of everything that we try to achieve to have success in this area.
Alex – Definitely. That sounds really interesting. I'm looking forward to unpacking that. Tom what sparked your interest in Aboriginal education, do you think?
Tom – Yeah. Well, when I was completing my honours thesis, I went around and spoke to lots of different teachers about the teaching of the music two mandatory topic music in the last 25 years with an Australian focus. And as I went around, I asked teachers about what music they were including as part of that course, and naturally, with a topic which has an Australian focus, I thought I would ask the question about the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music in that space. And basically, throughout all of the people that I spoke to, it just didn't exist. And this is going a while back now and I know that teachers are including a lot more Aboriginal perspectives in teaching. But back then in 2008 there definitely appeared to be a need for somebody or people to champion the music of Aboriginal artists. And that sort of I guess started my thirst to try and be that person to bring Aboriginal voices into those different teaching spaces.
Alex – That's great tom. And I think there is a need for more awareness, particularly that music two topic for sure. For classroom music teachers, what would you like us to know before we even start programming our units of work that include music by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. What should we be considering?
Tom – Yeah, well, I think the first thing to consider is do I need to have a topic that just is Aboriginal music? Or should I be searching for ways to embed Aboriginal perspectives across different types of music. Aboriginal music importantly is not a genre. And I think that's the first thing that teachers need to come to the understanding of. Aboriginal people make music and that music might represent different genres. It might be popular music or could be jazz, it could be art music. I think that teachers need to be pretty aware about where are they choosing this music to be featured in? And I guess trying to represent Aboriginal voices across all of their teaching spaces as opposed to just in a three week unit on Aboriginal music itself.
Alex – So if we had a traditional piece of Aboriginal music, how would we refer to it?
Tom – Well, I think the first thing would be to say about the country which it comes from. So rather than say, I'm going to play some traditional Aboriginal music, you might say today, we're going to share some music that comes from Wiradjuri country that was composed by this particular person. I know that when I'm dealing with that kind of music, I try to avoid just using it as a, as a Youtube clip or as something that just exists in isolation. I prefer to try and engage people who own the music, who have the ability to explain it on a deeper level. I try and get people into the classroom who can share the dance that goes with it as well, because music and dance is so interrelated. And I think that it's great to be able to empower the people who are creating, or sharing that music to come into your classrooms to take ownership over it. But I think probably the main lesson that I would have, the main piece of advice for teachers out there was, traditional is a bit of an awkward word to use, because when you think traditional, you think it's generally associated with old, but tradition is living, it's continuously evolving, tradition and contemporary can mean the exact same things. But I think that if we can start thinking about the different countries and music representing different countries, I think that's a great way to start.
Alex – Anthony. Do you have anything to add?
Anthony – I suppose I'm going to echo some of Tom's words around that voice of Aboriginal people and looking at, you know, local community. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention and highlight that there really is a need and our syllabus documents call for connecting with local community. And I think something that our teachers struggle with is that connection with local community. So, it really stems off that relationship and developing that with your local community and bringing them into the classroom. What a wealth of knowledge, what a wealth of opportunity that you can get from connecting with local community and having those discussions around the music and the local community. And I think Tom mentioned it previously around, you know, that we're looking Aboriginal genres and we look at what's out there and acknowledging that there's stuff out there and people weren't doing that before, it was in that too hard basket. We won't do it, we don't want to be sensitive, we don't want to step on someone's toes so we'll just avoid it. Unfortunately, if we avoid it, our kids don't learn and our kids aren’t provided the opportunity to celebrate, to understand and hear stories and the journeys of Aboriginal people and you know, right in their own backyards, they have local people who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in Aboriginal music and some of it linked is traditional because that's our story lines, our song lines have stemmed for thousands of years and continue to grow through our future generations. So, we should be tapping into our communities and that just that steps right even beyond music as well into other subject areas. We need to be looking at whether it's in creative and visual arts, whether it's in PD/H/PE, maths, is connecting with local communities. And I also see this thing of just making sure that we develop those relationships to provide opportunities and cultural, safe space for our community to do that. The other thing I want to mention and follow on from that is around having an acknowledgement of those who are not local, where they're from, so if you're not using people from the local area, it's recognizing it, and I mentioned it before, was around acknowledging what country they're from. One of the things in my role, current role and previous role I like having a one of the Aboriginal language maps and marking and acknowledging each country each artist is from, because our students need to understand there is diversity within Aboriginal culture and history as well. So, within our communities, we're not homogeneous, we're all different, we have different tastes, we have different styles, we have different instruments, we have different instruments with different didgeridoo with different types of wood, you know, there's such differences in our community. We need to highlight that diversity and celebrate it. So, one of the things I would always suggest we have a map mark reach artists from. So you understand their story, their journey in their voice. And that's what I want to see more in the classroom. Is that our teachers really celebrating sharing but respecting local content, nation content, Aboriginal artist from wherever they're from, but really respecting that and instilling that in our students to be respectful of Aboriginal voices, the oldest ongoing living culture in the world. And we want to continue to, you know, this is our shared history. We all share this together, we want our kids to be proud of that. So, I think in our music classrooms we have the opportunity to do that.
Alex – Absolutely. Anthony how do teachers go about making contact with someone in their community? What avenues and what resources are out there, where can we send them?
Anthony – Yeah, absolutely. I think the first place is in within your own schools, most schools have an Aboriginal staff member. Most schools have a designated Aboriginal key contact person. Sometimes your executive members have that as well. They have connections with local community. The other thing is to your local AECG and it’d be remiss of me not to acknowledge as well as the AECG and New South Wales Department of Education Partnership Agreement, which is around that, walking together and working together. So, making sure that our schools on a local level are connecting with the local acts who are wealth of knowledge and provide pl and opportunities around various areas started connecting connect with. But the other thing is too, is your regional teams and the directorate name has changed, but you have advisers there now. The role that I was previously in was the Aboriginal educational wellbeing adviser role based out of Arncliffe. Now they've change directorate title and changed directorates. They’re now sitting with teacher quality and impact. But their experience and knowledge is around embedding perspectives, curriculum knowledge, education experience. So, they are able to connect you with and work with you to connect with local community, connect with, I suppose, experts in the field, but also people who want to work into classrooms, who want to work with kids, work with staff. And I think, you know, what a great opportunity that is to do that.
Alex – The next question, is there anything that we shouldn't do that is perhaps culturally inappropriate?
Tom – Look, I think that the best way I can phrase this is, well, there's always this quest for cultural appropriate, like engagement with community, but ultimately, what we're looking for is teachers to teach with integrity. There's only so much appropriateness you can achieve. And it's quite a scary thing because the difference between appropriate and then appropriation is obviously a challenging thing that teachers often used as an excuse to avoid sharing Aboriginal music. But I think that the best way to get around it is to just collaborate. If you're working with community, if you're sharing what you're doing with elders within your community or with the Aboriginal staff at your school's or with people from the Department of Education, then you're probably going to be in an okay space. I think that it's just about trying to create an open dialogue where you have people that you can share your ideas with and then teach with confidence knowing that what you're doing isn't just from your own ideas of your own creation. It's something that you've shared and you've spoken with community because when you go to teach that in your classroom, you're going to teach that with a lot more confidence knowing that you've put in the work to share what you're doing with people from the community. And I think that students are really looking for that validation of you're the right person to share this information. We've got to remember that our students are saturated with Aboriginal content so they get exposed to a lot of information about Aboriginal and Torres strait islander histories and cultures. And I think that when they see that somebody has put in the work to work alongside community or if you bring somebody in within your particular subject, immediately, that has so much more meaning than endless YouTube videos that get shown in history classrooms or watching Rabbit Proof Fence for the 15th time. I think so they are actually also seeking for these opportunities to learn more about culture because Aboriginal education isn't just responsibility for Aboriginal people, it's everyone's responsibility.
Alex – Great. Thanks tom. Let's talk Aboriginal pedagogy. I love the eight ways, which is what it was called for a while, but we now refer to it as Aboriginal pedagogy. Why is this important and how can it be applied to the music classroom?
Anthony – I think what's really important is acknowledging the eight ways of learning and for anyone who doesn't know the eight ways of learning, it was entitled that because Dr Tyson Yunkaporta along with community in far west of New South Wales developed this framework together and because it's eight ways from that area, it's entitled that, so we call that Aboriginal Pedagogy, but I suppose when we look at it, we look at it as the eight ways or the eight pedagogies that I suppose students can learn through these eight pedagogies as an entry point of knowing or learning. So, when we look at those eight ways and it's no different to what teachers do on a daily basis, it's putting a name to it. But what I really like about eight ways, it's those eight pedagogies learning through culture, not about culture. So, when we truly talk about embedding perspectives and embedding Aboriginal ways, this is the way and everything that you do in the classroom can be utilized or can be defined as being through one of these eight ways. And I think the idea about the gateway system is, you know, it's structured in the way of an Aboriginal kinship system, but you're not learning about kinship, you're learning through kinship, you know, so it really is embedding and really having staff work with their students through Aboriginal ways. But I think Tom said that before, when he said, you know, Aboriginal education isn't just Aboriginal peoples business, everyone's business, and this is a shared history. So Aboriginal eight ways, everyone, everyone can use. It doesn't matter whether you are in a school that has zero population or a school that has a high population. The Aboriginal eight ways really provide staff with an opportunity to educate students in the classroom. But what I like about it, it goes to that thing of sharing voices, story, reconstruct, deconstruct, you know, all of those things that you would do in a music classroom anyway, but really aligning it to something and I think it really is about respecting Aboriginal culture at the end of the day and I think it's around acknowledging, you know, the ways of learning, that have been trialled and tested and are still thriving continuing today and you know, what better way to continue that with our future with our kids in the classroom.
Alex – Anthony, when I had a look at the eight ways as a teacher a while ago, I thought, well this is so intuitive and you're right, I'm doing it anyway, you know, all the aspects of my teaching, I could tick off those eight ways quite easily and it just made sense. I love it. And I think that if there's any teachers out there that haven't checked out the eight ways or Aboriginal pedagogy, you should google it for sure to make sure that you're incorporating that in your own classrooms. Tom is there anything that you'd like to add to that about the eight ways or Aboriginal pedagogy?
Tom – I think the music teachers, we need to understand that music and song was a major way that Aboriginal culture and history was shared between Aboriginal people. So immediately we're operating in the space that is a natural learning space for Aboriginal stories. Song lines too are the maps that Aboriginal people used to travel through country. So, as music teachers, I think we're in a really fortunate position to be able to share stories to participate in these ways of learning that have been lived for thousands and thousands of years. So, I think that we shouldn't be afraid of that. Aboriginal stories have been shared for generations and we should see where is our opportunity to engage in that ongoing story. We've not only our Aboriginal students that are non-indigenous students as well.
Alex – So Tom, I might throw to you first for this one, who are your favourite Aboriginal music artists to teach and why?
Tom – There's so many, probably the ones that over the years that I keep returning to again and again, probably Thelma Plum’s a great starting point for me because when I first was, I guess in my early teaching days at JJ Cahill High School Mascot, I was really searching for Aboriginal artists and I was really wanting to find out more and more about, I guess, these emerging people in the industry and at the time Thelma Plum had just released, I think one or two songs on Triple J unearthed, and this is before she'd really hit some mainstream prominence. And there was a song that went for about a minute thirty I think, that it's just a super short track and it was called Father Said, and it just was beautifully simple in its construction, a lovely melody to it. And just musically I knew that straight away this is a great song for the classroom and when I went about sharing that in my class and the students really enjoyed learning it. And I'm still teaching it today, using it in my year 7 program. And it's just a song that really resonates with a lot of people. I think importantly, it's a song that doesn't explicitly discuss Aboriginal history or Aboriginal culture. It's just a song in itself. And I think that's a really powerful thing for music teachers too, not essential to what Aboriginal music is. It allows the artist to be whoever they want to be. And in Thelma Plum’s cases, as a Gamilaraay woman at that stage in her career, she just wanted to share the stories of a 17 year old woman in that space and following Thelma’s journey and seeing her I guess gradually start to get more explicitly explore her culture through music I think is a really interesting journey to track because Thelma definitely over the years has come to be a that's very prominent representative of the Aboriginal music community and with that quite a lot of abuse over the years. So, I think that's an important story to tell in terms of the challenges that Aboriginal artists face in the broader music community and the fact that she started with a song like Father Said, and then transition now towards include like songs like Better and Black, which is just an incredible track and tune, which I'm also using quite a lot these days. I think that that personal journey of the artist is really important and I think that she's somebody who definitely, I think that music teachers should be trying to tell that whole story of the person as opposed to just playing Better in Black because it's got explicit reference to black issues.
Alex – Anthony. Who are your favourite Aboriginal music artists?
Anthony – I suppose I look at it from a number of perspectives growing up Aboriginal, in my community, you know, I grew up listening to country music, a lot of my local family here listen to country, my nan was national, female country music, Aboriginal female country music artist of the year in the late seventies, you know, so that was really great. But it was about togetherness and our stories and our journeys together and sharing and celebrating. So, I suppose this thing, those artists of the time, you know, you listen to Uncle Archie Roach and we listen to those political movements songs in the seventies, you know, Take The Baby Away and you know those songs that really which in the time for Aboriginal people, but then I suppose growing up today, you know, we have to see the songs of the 90s, you know, you're Warumpi Band and Christine Anu songs and you're From Little Things, Big Things Grow and those songs are really popular at the time. But you're right. I think Tom it really is. I mean, who doesn't love Thelma Plum? Like she is just what a true representation of Aboriginal people is our stories and our story and sharing that and I mean her voice is amazing on top of that, but I think it's what you're hearing. So from a primary perspective as well in the classroom, I think for me as an educator, it's really been around using music wherever I can. So, I taught kindergarten for eight years. I made sure I had Aboriginal artists playing all the time. When we were doing handwriting and painting we were listening to an up tempo we’d be listening to Treaty by Yothu Yindi. We'd be listening to Gurrumul when we were doing handwriting, we'd be listening to the Jessica Mauboy.
It didn't matter what we were doing I always had Aboriginal artists playing because really was about sharing rather than, you know, making sure we're just doing a unit on teaching this. I embedded it in everything that I did. But I suppose now when providing professional development and providing professional learning and talking to the music educators now talk about the music that is now in the Aboriginal voice. It's the Thelma Plums, Ziggy Ramo, Barkaa, Miiesha, there's the, you know, the next generation Rebecca Hatch’s of the world. But then we have our traditions, we have our Deborah Chatham's, you know, we I had a conversation off the podcast around Deborah Chatham, you know what an icon in terms of music for Aboriginal people. And you know, we don't forget those, but we also remember those people that are moving forward with our stories and the true history telling. You know, that we mentioned of Ziggy Ramo and Thelma Plum. And I'd be remiss as well if I didn't mention a lot of our artists who use music and language in their songs. You know, I think that's really seeing it popularity rise, Baker Boy, you know, using, you know, not only the didgeridoo as part of his strong part of his music, but using language and Aboriginal languages throughout his song. I was listening to Triple J the other day and JK-47, you know, he was doing a song, his interpretation. So, I'm going to use language throughout and it was just amazing. And as an Aboriginal person, my pride just hearing, it's not my own language, but hearing Aboriginal language as part of his song popular for the entire Australian nation to hear just is really amazing.
I suppose I'd encourage teachers to, you know, share the diversity of our singers, you know, the future of seeing as, you know, the Mitch Tambo’s and the Rebecca Hatch, but also celebrating and sharing song artists of the past and giving our kids the opportunity to share everything that is great about our voices and our stories and our artists and I know that a lot of our staff failed. You know, there is times they will steer clear of some of the political nature of our songs, but I think it, what it really comes down is truth telling and truth telling, our history, our stories and we shouldn't steer away from because it can be a bit sensitive or be a little bit harsh, but it's our truth and our stories and it's our voices and that's what we want, and that's why the artist sharing our voices and our stories and we want to share that. So, I can't sort of encourage teachers enough to make sure they're sharing those stories as well. And just because they can be political, it's our stories and our journeys and we really want to tell the truth. So, you know, please continue. Listen, no matter whether they're on the radio or Triple J, whether in the country charts, you know, listen to all of them. The diversity is beautiful and amazing. I think we need to continue to celebrate and share that.
Alex – That's fantastic, Anthony. What a lucky kindy class you had.
Anthony – Eight years, long years, but certainly every single day you just didn't know what you're going to expect. And I had the opposite of you because I don't know how you guys do it but I'll tell you what nothing prepares you for teaching, teaching kindergarten.
Alex – And finally, Tom what further advice can you give to help improve outcomes for our Aboriginal students?
Tom – I think the first thing is just to try and keep our Aboriginal students doing music and getting them to choose the electives. And showing them that our music classrooms are a safe and welcoming space for them to continue their learning. When I was at JJ Cahill and I was completing a PhD focused on research within that particular space, it was one of my great frustrations that I've had these, I had these great relationships with Aboriginal students, but for whatever reason, despite my including of all this music in my programming, they weren't continuing doing music beyond year 10. So I think that one thing that I've done in the space at Evans High School is really trying to focus on providing opportunities for Aboriginal students to engage in art making more specifically music at younger age groups and supporting them in their own journey and encouraging them to pursue the subject beyond. And I guess, mandatory music and then elective music in year 9 and 10. So for me, one of the things that was really important in helping those students continued pursuing music was the solid ground program where we were able to bring in professional musicians to support and mentor the students, they didn't have to be choosing music at that particular point in time. But what happened was through this program, they were feeling more supported and encouraged to continue with their music. And so many more students now are choosing to do music the music one course, or choosing to do year nine or year 10 elective music. And I think that shows that teachers really need to be proactive in supporting our Aboriginal students to engage in the arts because as Anthony alluded to there so many amazing examples out there in the industry, and I think that teachers need to really encourage our students to keep pursuing those interests that they may have or may be hiding because the culture of shame is definitely something that does prevent a lot of our Aboriginal students from sharing culture openly. And it really does require our teachers to build relationships with them too, be trusted to support them in their own journey in education and ultimately being successful students and future leaders in our communities.
Alex – That's interesting. That was going to be my next question, actually. From your experience, do you find that Aboriginal students, do want to have that conversation with you? Are they mostly proud of where they've come from and who they are and want to have that attention placed on them in the classroom? I know as a music teacher myself, I've had very mixed reactions. What has been your experience with that? Are most of them happy to have that conversation with you?
Tom – I think that it's really important not to other the students in the classroom. You might look at your role in central or whatever management system you're using and you've seen a box ticked where their Aboriginal and there's nothing worse than you can do as a teacher is go okay, we're learning about Yothu Yindi today, the first person I'm going to ask about what they think about this is the Aboriginal student in the room. Some students do like being the voice for their people, but remember that we're dealing with teenagers here, we're not dealing with academics. We've got people who are, in my circumstance at Blacktown, often extremely disconnected from their Aboriginal history. They don't actually know which mob they come from. So, it's really challenging for teachers to then to go in and put them on the spot and say, what do you think about this as an Aboriginal person? But I know that for me, particularly having finished up at Evans and got some quite nice little cards from some of my students that I was teaching, for them, it was about they know that when they enter my classroom it's a safe space to learn. It's a place where Aboriginal culture is valued, it is shared and it is taught with integrity. So, I think that the inclusion of the music of Aboriginal artists is an important part of teachers being able to show that they are listening to their community, they are listening to country, they’re understanding, they’re contextualizing the music. So, a good example for in my own practice was a project that I did last year with a year 12 class, none of whom were Aboriginal students. We created a concert to coincide with NAIDOC last year which was towards the end of the year. And as part of a concept, we were working alongside Emma Donovan through the solid ground program who is an incredible artist who brings so much, her soul music is really powerful and heavily grounded in countries that she comes from. So, I think that when we were doing this concert, like we were, we wanted to share the music of other amazing artists as well. And, in the concerts, we played about 12 or 13 songs from different artists across the nation. And we made sure that when we were talking about the artists and we were introducing them, we were talking about the countries which they came from and Emma was watching this concert and she hadn't seen us rehearsing for her and she was just blown away that she, as an Aboriginal woman was able to learn about all these artists who she actually were very good friends with but didn't actually know where they were from and to see non-indigenous people playing that music sharing that music was a really powerful experience for her as an Aboriginal artist. And she mentioned at the beginning of the concert that it's really important for all people to be able to share this music because Aboriginal voices historically have been silenced. And it's a very powerful thing for music teachers to include the music of like there's so many like in this particular concert just to run you through some names because I know that teachers love listening to these things and jotting down some things to listen out. We did a song called twisting words by Miiesha who’s a Pitjantjatjara and Torres Strait Islander woman, a song called Lady Blue by Emily Wurramara from Groote Eylandt - Warnindhilyagwa Country in Northern Territory. We did a few Thelma Plum songs. We did a song called Dribble by an emerging artist Sycco who's from Torres strait islander descent. We did a song by Wiradjuri person Mo'Ju called Put it on Hold, from Anthony's country. We perform this on Alice Skye, Grand Ideas. Alice Skye actually connected in with the student who was learning that song and sent her lyrics and that's one of the big things that I try to encourage is to get the students to reach out to the artists through social media and know that they're performing the music. Another person who spoke to us back after about it was Benny Walker. He's a young man from Victoria and he shared the lyrics to his song to the student, which was greatly appreciated because he really struggled to, to hear the lyrics properly in the song because he's a bit of a soul singer and that was a tune called Small Mind and there's so many more I could like list endlessly these different types of songs, but for an Aboriginal woman to, and Aboriginal artists like Emma Donovan to be blown away by non-indigenous students performing Aboriginal music. I think that shows the power that you can have when not only you include the music, but you share it back with community. And I think that's what we all need to strive towards is not just including it, but sharing it back. Because a relationship needs to be reciprocal. It shouldn't just be one way with us taking, it should be us giving as well at the same time.
Alex – Anthony, do you have any further advice?
Anthony – I suppose, you know, we've talked about today about respect and respecting and giving back to community. One of the things I will say is that for Aboriginal people and the Department of Education has a fractured history because of past policy imposed on Aboriginal people in community. And we're not talking hundreds of years ago, we're talking late 60s, early 1970s and thereafter. But there's still some disconnect and we want to repair those. So, making our schools and our classrooms a safe, culturally safe space for our kids and our families to walk into. And that means when you have your own Aboriginal student in your classroom or, you know, Aboriginal students within your school, you know, develop relationships with them and their families as best you can and work with your Aboriginal staff to improve those. One of the things I want to say about music classes and kids going on to further education and music space, kids can't do what they can't see. So, if they don't see themselves in those music courses, they're not going to do them. If those courses don't really appeal to them or have a strong sense of, you know, there is an opportunity for Aboriginal voice to be a part of that, they're not going to do that, and I think, you know, we talk about great opportunity for our kids to grow, but a space where they can actually do that using their voice and their voice is going to be encouraged.
So, having those higher expectation relationships with them is really important as well, knowing that they can achieve, but then expecting them to achieve as well, you know, we have shame factor, I would say, you know, don't be ashamed be game. We want to see our kids do that, but if we don't expect our kids to achieve high and we just accept whatever they're going to bring, they're not going to go further or strive for the best that they can be, and we want to see that we want to see that in our kids. So, I suppose it really is about developing that, that high expectation relationship.
There are two more things I wanted to also add. First was around and we talked about NAIDOC in music. Know that NAIDOC is one week of the year, but it doesn't stop there. Let's not just do Aboriginal music, Aboriginal art in one week of the year and then maybe pulling it back out for sorry day and reconciliation week. Let's celebrate the rest of the school year. You know, it doesn't have to be what we're going to do this genre. Let's make it Aboriginal genre. As we mentioned before, let's use Aboriginal artists in whatever you're doing. You know, whether you're looking at instruments, whether you're looking at artists, whether you're looking at a voice, whether you're looking at rap, where they're looking at opera, use Aboriginal artists, use Aboriginal voices. One of the other things I suppose that goes with that is making sure that our kids have an opportunity connect with local community as well. So where and when possible really connect with local community. Our staff don't do this and they don't do it enough. It's the easy way out to find someone or an artist who's on a bigger scale and they forget our local artists. And then what happens is that relationship with our local community continues and that divide keeps going further apart rather than closing because we don't know how to connect with our local community. So, I can't implore staff enough to connect with local community. There is going to be some of this new community. Please connect with them. You know, don't just go for our big amazing artists all the time while they're amazing. There's something great artists in your local community. Please connect with them. And I think the other thing is around true consultation, you know, really needs to be around listening to Aboriginal voices. Don't pick the parts that you want because it's easy, you know, a circle doesn't fit into a square. That doesn't mean we forget everything that our local communities are saying, well we're only going to choose that part because we don't like that part and that's what quite often happens. And then our community as well, that was a waste of time. I'm not going to communicate again, I'm not going to consult. So, let's talk about true authentic collaboration, respectful collaboration and you'll see all students their wellbeing improved, their engagement improve and that will lead on to greater connections and relationships and improve outcomes at the end of the day. And it's going to be such amazing space when, you know, when our staff feel confident, you know, when there is encouraged by local community, they'll see confidence in their own abilities, but also to in using, you know, more Aboriginal artists and reaching out to for help from colleagues around them. But it is about those respectful relationships and honouring those.
Alex – Where should teachers look for resources?
Tom – I think that in the first place that they should try and look for resources that are directly resources produced by Aboriginal people. There’s an amazing resource that music teachers across the country should be using is one that's Being Prepared, by Jesse Lloyd, and it's the Mission songs project. It's got a fabulous book for choir which people can access, which has all these songs, which Jesse is collected across the country that were written by Aboriginal people who lived in missions and reserves. It's a great resource because it allows teachers to discuss difficult conversations, but also from the perspective of an Aboriginal person who's created the resource. As much as teachers would probably love for me to publish textbook after textbook dealing activities associated with Aboriginal artists. I think that it's great if we can look for resources written by Aboriginal people. And secondly, I think my main resource is the music itself. Just letting the music speak on its own is a great way of teaching and sharing music that might be just playing the songs by some of the Aboriginal artists that we've mentioned today in class listening to the music, embedding it while you're discussing different aspects, Aboriginal musicians operate in all different types of spaces. We've discussed a lot about Aboriginal popular musicians, but within the field of art music, there's many, many, many emerging artists who are releasing music out there and would be great to connect in with, particularly if you're operating in that music two, and music extension space or with students who are really interested in that particular area.
There's a program that's been headed up by a First Nations composer and academic called Christopher Sainsbury and it's called the Ngarra-Burria, which indirectly means to sing into hear and that program supports First Nations composers interested in creating classical music. One person who I've worked with quite closely over the years is Eric Avery. He is an amazing violinist and composer and he had the opportunity to collaborate with Yo-yo Ma. There's a great video out there of him improvising alongside Yo-yo Ma when he came out to Sydney that long ago. But there's so many people who have been involved in that program and I know that ABC classic have published articles and provide information about that program. So, I think that it's definitely something to google if you're thinking about how can I include this? If I'm teaching in a space where we cover a lot of art music, particularly for students heading into that music to pathway.
Alex –That's fantastic, and Anthony, did you have anything to add?
Anthony – Yes. So I suppose the thing that I would like to mention is around and I mentioned before around local content, some of our elders will deliver their welcomes to country in a format that's different to the tradition of spoken or speech delivered. They will do it in song and dance to connect with the local community around that. What a powerful thing. Getting local stories and local song through our elders who deliver a tradition that has been continuous for thousands of years and through that medium of their welcome to country. The other things with your regional space and state space. So, I work in Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate. We have a 7-12 advisor and a K-6 advisor. We also have a secondary and a post schooling advisor and an early years advisers. So whatever space you're in, we work with other curriculum advisors. We are from that space or I'm yes primary trained, but I've experienced Aboriginal education and other parts of education. So that's another avenue. We also have regional teams that you can connect with as well, who can connect you with local artists as well as some regional artists who may be connected with your local acts as well. It's another point of reference, you know, there's people around you to support you, you're not on your own. And I think when we talk about the department support mechanisms that are there to support you in the classroom, to support our kids. So, don't forget those.
But I will finish with Tom's messages of, you know, connecting with the music. You can't go wrong if you connect with the music. Aboriginal voices for Aboriginal people, by Aboriginal people, won't let you down. But it'll also be you're hearing from people first and foremost, and we talk about appreciation, not appropriation. You're appreciating artists, you know, you're not appropriating and if you're listening to it and sharing and appreciating it. The other thing is around that, sharing that with all of our colleagues as well. So, sharing what you have with other colleagues and don't think that what you're doing is not helpful to someone else. And we quite often forget that not that closed-door policy, share it with the teacher down the road, show the teacher in the next classroom and it might be something they can utilize.
So, keep seeing what's out there, keep researching, check with colleagues, check with local community. You're certainly going to support our kids.
Alex – Fantastic. Thank you so much Anthony and Tom for sharing your knowledge and expertise in all areas of Aboriginal education. The advice that you've given today has just been absolutely wonderful and so valuable and I'm sure that many music teachers will learn a lot from listening to speak today. Thanks again.
Jackie – 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 staff room 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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