Macassan Aboriginal Engagement
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Twelve Canoes: The Macassans

Twelve Canoes: The Macassans | Macassan Aboriginal Engagement |
12 Canoes is a broadband website presenting, in an artistic, cultural and educational context, the stories, art and environment of the Yolngu people who live around the Arafura swamp in north-eastern Arnhem Land.

Via Hayley Chan
Hayley Chan's curator insight, April 2, 2014 11:12 PM

 The Macassans  provides an indigenous perspective of technological change and its impact on lifestyles and environments. The video, along with others on the site, was developed in consultation with members of the Yolngu community in Arnhem Land (Lewis, n.d., p.4). The Macassans is told from the perspective of a member of this community and combines a series of traditional indigenous artwork and scenes of nature to supplement the story.


The video explains the Yolngu people's trading relationship with the Macassans from Indonesia and the impact it had on their lifestyles and communities i.e. they introduced cloth, metal, tobacco, seafaring goods (fishing lines and hooks) and skills (making harpoons, making sails for canoes). It was a peaceful, mutually beneficial relationship that fostered change in both local communities and environments.


This learning resource provides an authentic indigenous perspective and as such would allow students to deepen their understanding and effects of technological change in one indigenous community. This resource would also foster understandings of the diversity of indigenous culture and thereby provide a foundation for challenging stereotypical preconceptions or representations in society (Gilbert & Hoepper, 2014, p.355).


Therefore, this video would be a good starting point for class discussion, whereby teachers ask students about their prior knowledge of indigenous peoples and technology. Teachers may design activities that compare the nature of Macassan and later European contact in 1788. Stage 2 students should be familiar with British colonisation (CCS2.1) (see Board of Studies NSW, 2007, pp.54-55), thus this would be an appropriate activity that will consolidate and redress prior student knowledge. Students could recount the story in their workbooks, utilising new vocabulary from the video such as 'trade', 'peaceful' and 'seafaring' in order to enrich their vocabulary and meet literacy outcomes in the English syllabus ( Board of Studies NSW, 2012, p.95).




Board of Studies NSW. (2007). Human Society and its Environment K-6. Australia: Board of studies NSW.


 Board of Studies NSW. (2012). English K-10 Syllabus, Volume 1: English K-6. Australia: Board of Studies NSW.


Lewis, R. (n.d.). Twelve Canoes: A Study Guide. Retrieved April 10, 2014 from


Gilbert, R., and Hoepper, B. (2014). Teaching Humanities and Social Sciences: History, Geography, Economics and Citizenship in the Australian Curriculum. Melbourne: Cengage Learning.

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