Teacher resources: NAIDOC Week 2020

Always was, Always will be is the designated theme for NAIDOC Week 2020, which is being celebrated this week across the country. Each year, NAIDOC Week gives educators in Australia the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

This year's theme reminds us that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have occupied and cared for this land for over 65 000 years, and that their cultures have been recognised as the oldest living cultures in the world. It presents the opportunity for all students to delve into the history and connections to the land of Indigenous Australians.

There are some great resources available to access which are rich in information for educators and are specifically related to this year's theme. NAIDOC and SBS Learn have released comprehensive resource packs for teachers, and Australians Together has also published a teacher guide (1723 KB) to help educators plan activities for NAIDOC Week.

Teaching resources

The NAIDOC Week 2020 Teaching Resources guide was created by Dr Lynette Riley from the University of Sydney.

‘… the NAIDOC theme seeks to get teachers, students and community to explore and learn about, and appreciate the wealth and breadth of Indigenous Nations, languages and knowledges of this continent,' she writes in the guide.

The guide presents five focus questions and accompanying links to teaching resources alongside suggested learning activities. The featured questions are:

  1. Who are the Indigenous Nation and Clan or Torres Strait Islander Groups where you live and what are their Kinship connections?
  2. Explore what sites exist to demonstrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander length of occupation on this continent?
  3. What narratives/stories can you find from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in your local area to explore length of occupation on this continent?
  4. What is cultural heritage?
  5. Explore Indigenous Knowledges.

These focus questions encourage school communities to connect with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander groups in their local area. A recent article for Teacher shared a professional learning resource which has been created to help educators form relationships and partnerships with communities. The resource, www.yourstoryourjourney.net, was developed to support all those working to improve the educational success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and is intended to be used in teacher education programs.

The yourstoryourjourney resource.

Classroom activities for early years to senior secondary

Recognising that NAIDOC Week covers an entire school week, Australians Together's teacher guide provides a plan for lessons throughout the week covering History, Geography, The Arts and Language and Literacy.

SBS Learn's resource addresses learners in F-10 and outlines specific learning activities suitable for each learning stage. ‘The curiosity and active participation of our younger Australians is not only essential to understanding our shared history but is also vital to the ongoing preservation of these cultures for future generations,' SBS Managing Director James Taylor writes in the introduction.

‘… this resource is a whole of school approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning, histories and perspectives. It presents a great opportunity to develop and enhance ongoing relationships with your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities for more engaged and enriched learning into the future.'

The resource also provides guidelines for ground rules for when using the resource in the classroom, information on content protocols, and a list of ideas on how to get your entire school community involved in NAIDOC Week celebrations in a COVID-safe way.

Although it has been developed for students in F-10, the authors of this guide recognise that many early years' educators celebrate NAIDOC Week. They recommend educators prioritise having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people visit the children, but also recommend specific picture books and music.

They also suggest children watch an episode of animated TV series Little J and Big Cuz each day during NAIDOC Week. You can extend this learning by accessing the educator resources which are mapped to specific episodes. Teacher also features a blog series from Little J and Big Cuz character, Miss Chen.

Little J and Big Cuz. Image: © Ned Lander Media

A different way to celebrate in 2020

NAIDOC Week is usually held in July, but has been pushed back to this week in November due to COVID-19. While the usual large scale events and gatherings might not be possible this year, it's clear there are still lots of ways you can celebrate NAIDOC Week in your school community.

Reflect on the five focus questions presented in the NAIDOC teaching guide. Have you addressed these questions with students in your classroom before?

Think about a unit you’re teaching soon. How could you address the topics in these five focus questions?