Colin Jones, lecturer in Aboriginal History, talks about his culture, his history and his art.
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This YouTube clip explores cardinal direction, songlines and the navigational tools of Indigenous Australians. This is a short and simple explanation that defines songlines as oral maps.
The HSIE K-6 Syllabus emphasises the importance of incorporating the Aboriginal Perspective within the classroom. This is a great opportunity for teachers to do that. One of the outcomes in stage 2 of the HSIE syllabus is ENS2.5 that requires students to explore certain geographical terminology, including cardinal directions. This clip highlights the importance of cardinal directions to many Indigenous Australian groups and how cardinal direction and other navigational tools informed many traditions and ways of life, for example facilitating trade between Aboriginal communities across Australia.
The concept of songlines as oral maps of the land is a concept that would be engaging and exciting for stage 2 students. It also consolidates teaching about cardinal directions.
The following is an activity that can be adapted from the information explored in this paper to support the outcome ENS2.5 in particular subject matter relating to cardinal directions and geographical terminology.
1. Teachers should read ‘Songlines and Navigation in Wardaman and other Aboriginal Cultures’ by Norris and Harney. This is a very insightful read for teachers in relation to Aboriginal culture, traditions, navigation, trade and much more. Much of the content of this paper is related to a range of K-6 HSIE topics and teachers can adapt aspects of the content in an age appropriate manner for their students.
2. Teachers can invite an Aboriginal Elder from the local community into the classroom to discuss with students the importance of Songlines to Indigenous Australians and to share some examples of simple Songlines with the students.
Mapping and Treasure Hunt:
In small groups students are asked to hide some treasure in the classroom. The students must then create two different treasure maps that can be used to locate the hidden treasure. One map will be a visual map (either computer generated or drawn by hand) and the other is an oral map or songline. Students are to try to navigate their fellow group members to find the hidden treasure (in the classroom) using firstly the visual map and then the songline. Students are to use the four cardinal directions to inform their maps. For example, head east ten steps then turn to the north and walk two steps.
Tip: Teachers can put markers on the classroom walls to indicate the four cardinal directions.
Board of Studies. (2006). Human Society and Its Environment K-6 Syllabus. NSW: Board of Studies.