Indigenous Animals books, set of 4, Complied by Pamela Lofts. 361782

With the oldest continuous culture in the world, educators are uniquely placed to embrace the vibrant cultures of Indigenous Australia.

Remember these vivid picture books from your primary school days? That tells you something about the quality of the images and the written text: they are timeless. These short compelling tales recreate highly spiritual Dreaming stories that are thousands of years old. Like all Dreaming stories from across the different language groups in Australia, they are made to be remembered.

IDG Animals

The set is made up of four books:

-          How the birds got their colours, as told by Mary Albert, of Broome, W.A

“Red and green and blue ran down her chest, wings and tail.  It splashed out all over the other birds. Some got red, some brown, some blue, some yellow.  Some got spots.  All got colours.”

The simple poetic language can be easily turned into song by educators.

-          Warnayarra: The Rainbow Snake, as told by the senior boys at Lajamana School (from the Warlpiri language group of the Northern Territory).

-          The Echidna and the Shade Tree told by Maria Green, of Halls Creek, W.A

“In the middle of the desert there was a huge tree so big it shaded the whole land.”

With guidance, the young learners will be able to adapt this into a creative drama project; designing costumes and practising for hours.

-          How The Kangaroos Got Their Tails, as told by George Mung Mung Lirrmigarri, Warmun Community, Turkey Creek, W.A.

“In the early days, in the Dreamtime, there were two Kangaroos.  One came from the hills, the other from the plains.  The plains Kangaroo was a big Kangaroo with long arms and long legs.  The hill Kangaroo was a small Kangaroo with short arms and short legs.”

I love how these Dreaming stories are full of colour and movement; I would encourage all educators to use How The Kangaroos Got Their Tails as the daily exercise routine.

All four are ideal for developing literacy skills and enhancing children’s visual literacy skills. There is plenty of scope to develop the association of images to written letters and the aural nature of reading aloud.  The deep cross cultural understanding will help create a socially and culturally inclusive group of young learners. While the set is targeted at pre-school, there are endless possibilities for older learners. For primary aged children the books will be perfect to engage with other younger years groups in practising their ability to read aloud.

There are a myriad of related educational tools available:

-          Aboriginal Australia Map, 384206; a must for every classroom and centre.

-          Dreamtime set pack of 4, 361790; companions to the four suggested here.

-          Dreamtime Kullilla Dreaming Stories Activity Pack, 361162; includes CD recording, art work and teacher guide.

The book set is a perfect avenue into creative arts tasks, particularly when combined with Indigenous Symbols Cards.

‘Cultural competence is always about building relationships.’

Every area of Australia has unique Indigenous cultures. As you can see most of the Dreaming stories are from central or northern Australia. Educational Experience recommends educators or centre directors engage with their Local Aboriginal Land Council to seek guidance from Elders in their area. In New South Wales, the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group via the local primary and secondary schools would be a very good initial point of contact, or representatives from the State or Territory Departments of Education.

 ‘Cultural competence is a learning journey which is underpinned by respectful relationships between the children, families and educators, organisations and communities, which continually evolve. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are diverse.’ (p27 Educators Guide to the Early Years Framework , Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments)