Review: Things a map won’t show you

‘Things a map won’t show you: stories from Australia & beyond’ is a short story collection edited by Susan LaMarca and Pam MacIntyre, published by Puffin Books in 2012.  It is beautifully presented in a fun ‘map’  theme that is reminiscent of a snakes and ladders game; however, when you look below the surface it’s not the best source of Indigenous texts.  The Indigenous authors showcased are listed below with a comment about their piece.

  • Obed Raggett, Two Little Round Stones – a simple dreaming-style story about boys finding stones which help them to navigate their landscape on a hunting trip, but with a dark twist as the boys reject their stones for ‘better-looking’ ones and nature retaliates by killing them.  This would be a challenging story to teach to young readers but if the content could be explained without disturbing students it would be good for storyboarding.
  • Jack Davis, Integration – Davis is an important figure in Australian literature, well known for his poetry and his play The Dreamers.  Integration is a poem about reconciliation and moving forward together as a united nation.
  • Oodgeroo Noonuccal, All one race – another important figure, but one who is already in most English syllabi somewhere (Noonuccal has made the crossover to ‘mainstream’ literature classrooms where many other Indigenous authors haven’t).  All one race is about us recognising our similarities with all people across the globe as human beings.
  • Tara June Winch Cloud busting – Winch is a fantastic young author but I was disappointed that this book just included a chapter from her novel Swallow the Air, which I’d already read and would recommend for older students (Year 10-12) as a whole text (see the following for some good teaching ideas
  • Pat Lowe, an English born writer who married Walmajarri artist Jimmy Pike, Yinti’s Kitten – this is an engaging and fairly simple story about the relationship between humans and animals, looking at the introduction of cats to Australia and telling the story of an Aboriginal boy who takes in a sickly orphaned kitten and nurtures it into a good ‘hunting cat’.  There are only 3 sketches by Jimmy Pike, so his contribution appears to be limited (although he may have contributed to Pat’s story); nonetheless I think this story would be enjoyed by Yr 6-7 students.
  • The highlight as far as pushing boundaries and stretching our understanding of Indigenous literature goes is the inclusion of Brenton McKenna’s comic The Art of Hunting, discussing the modern practice of hunting cruelly for fun.  It’s quite a confronting piece and the drawings are gritty, so this could in fact be more suited to a Yr 9-10 audience.  There is a lot in it to unpack (myths and realities about ‘Aboriginal sorcery’, pre-colonisation traditions around seeking permission to visit other people’s land as compared to today’s reality where Australians travel all over the country virtually uninhibited, notions of hunting in traditional Aboriginal vs modern non-Aboriginal contexts).  This is also a great example of the traditional comic style.

As a source of short stories by Indigenous authors, this offers fairly basic fare and I suspect there will be much better collections published in the near future as educational publishers focus on supplying resources for the National Curriculum.

As a general collection of stories, there are a few gems: James Roy’s Out of the Yellow (sibling rivalry never gets old); Sonya Hartnett’s The Second-last Baby Tooth (the ordinary events of a summer holiday and a baby tooth falling out are told with warmth and humour); Tanveer Ahmed’s The Exotic Rissole, a rib-tickling story about a boy cringing at his father’s “1970s Bangladeshi fashion” and trying to fit in with Aussies who add ‘o’ or ‘y’ to the end of each others’ names.

Consider purchasing a copy or two for the school library, but perhaps hold off on purchasing class sets until a few teachers and classes give it a test run to see how it fits within your school context.

For more information and teachers’ notes, see:

Media links – Triple J stories on Indigenous affairs

National youth radio station Triple J’s Hack program often includes stories relating to Indigenous affairs.  The podcasts are available for download and sometimes there are videos to accompany stories.

Here are some of my picks, on various topics.  The short sound grabs and videos are always useful for discussion starters in the classroom.

Bush bands

Charcoal lane, Melbourne, Archie Roach, community

Josh Sibosado, Footballer

Leaders, Largest Urban Indigenous population, Miimali program

Music, Hip hop

Music, Yung Warriors

NT Intervention

Politics, future leaders


QLD Rivers

Racism, Aussie Entertainment Industry


Women workers in Alice Springs

National Accelerated Literacy Program (NALP) and Aboriginal literacy

This is a program developed by Charles Darwin University, specifically for improvement of literacy in schools with high Indigenous populations.  It uses accelerated literacy and scaffolding literacy practices.  The ‘PQAR’ strategy is a central aspect of this program.  See explanation from Charles Darwin Uni below:

“Literate Orientation is a strategy through which students gain a literate interpretation of a text – including where appropriate its illustrations – right from the start of their study. This helps them understand what the text is about and they can then draw on this meaning to develop skills in decoding and monitoring.

Literate orientation uses questioning techniques that allow students to answer questions successfully.  By giving cues, called ‘preformulation’ in the program, teachers signal their purpose in asking the question that allows a student to answer correctly.

Explaining why the question was important, why it was asked and what it meant is called ‘reconceptualisation’ [or ‘recapitulation’]. It allows teachers to accept students’ answers and ‘broadcasts’ the reason for asking the question. This information feeds into the next lesson as common knowledge.  It also alerts students to the fact that the teacher asks a question expecting them to find the answer in the illustration or the actual wording of the text.” (

I have found this strategy to be very useful in all classroom environments.  In the attached document, I use the strategy with a short story (not by an Indigenous author or with an Indigenous theme – I do diversify my teaching content!).  I have included the whole lesson plan, of which the NALP strategy is one part.  This lesson plan was presented with my colleagues Rita van Haren and Michelle Morthorpe at an ACTATE professional development workshop earlier this year.

Lesson example using NALP and learning by design


Why Indigenous perspectives in school?

This is an excerpt from my ACTivATE journal article, 2011


Being in Western Australia for the 2010 Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE) Conference provided an interesting opportunity to reflect upon some of the state’s seminal Aboriginal authors whose works have made their way into Australian consciousness: Sally Morgan, Archie Weller, Jack Davis, Doris Pilkington Garimara, Glenyse Ward and Jimmy Chi, to name a few.  What I wondered was, if there have been so many great Aboriginal authors and scholars in Western Australia alone, why is it that the Australian education system, however inadvertently, continues to exclude and marginalise Aboriginal peoples and cultures?  Why don’t our Aboriginal leaders (in literature, arts, politics or any other field) have enough impact on the Anglo-Australian school system to make schools a place where all Aboriginal students are expected to achieve similar greatness?

Award-winning author Sally Morgan spoke to us about the Indigenous Literacy Project, whereby students produce books about themselves and record and translate the songs of their elders.  The project also supports Aboriginal authors to write books for children that are published with biographical information and maps outlining each author’s country and heritage.  Teachers have reported their students’ enthusiastic reactions to these books and the pride they felt when seeing that an author was from the same country as them.  Sally emphasised that this was an important aspect of the Indigenous Literacy Project – inspiring young Aboriginal students to write by providing adult role models.  The improvement of Aboriginal participation and achievement in the education system hinges on the ability to create space for Aboriginal cultures and voices in the classroom.

Sally Morgan’s daughter, Ambelin Kwaymullina, spoke about how important it is for Aboriginal students to “see themselves” in the classroom.  I would wholeheartedly agree, noting that in my own childhood, the classes in which I was most engaged and achieved the best results were those where Aboriginal perspectives were included.  Teachers worry about tokenism, but I think it is better to include some Aboriginal perspectives than to exclude a whole section of the population entirely.  When you have quality texts by local Aboriginal authors, as Sally’s project is producing, you have a wonderful opportunity to provide powerful, contextualised and relevant learning materials; however, when these are not available there is no reason to give up.  You can still provide texts by Aboriginal authors across the nation or with Aboriginal themes and ask your students how the text represents a similar or different understanding of the world to them, just as we do in any English classroom with any text.

In the ACT context it is perhaps more important that teachers do not shy away from including Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom just because they think that there are no ‘real Aboriginal’ students in their classes.  Ambelin Kwaymullina spoke of the stereotypes about ‘traditional’ Aboriginal people that pervade the way in which people relate to her and her writing.  She remarked on how people have always assumed they have the right to pass judgement on her identity and decide whether she really ‘qualifies’ as an Aboriginal person.

Just before attending the conference, I had been reading the literature around Aboriginal literacy for my masters research, and I was able to reflect on how the current literature echoes some of the important messages Sally and Ambelin conveyed.  Regarding the identity debate, Sharifian et al (2004) assert that communication difficulties between Aboriginal students and non-Aboriginal teachers occur just as frequently in metropolitan contexts where the Aboriginal students appear to be using Standard Australian English.  Thus “cultural schemas”– worldviews influencing the way experiences are conceptualised – are also at play (Sharifian et al 2004, p. 203).  The “schemas” of many Aboriginal students (regardless of the extent of their traditional Aboriginal knowledge) are often different to many other Australians.  I can remember feeling this as a student, even though I knew how to perform in the SAE educational world.  The message is that regardless of how many Aboriginal students you have in your classroom, and regardless of your personal opinion of ‘how much’ they are Aboriginal*, it is important to include their perspectives and voices.  Besides that, cross-cultural understanding (‘reconciliation’) among all students cannot be achieved without making a place for Aboriginal voices in the classroom.


*No-one has the right to question another person’s identity and discount their identification, so if your students identify, then they are Aboriginal.  Do you question and arbitrate other students when they tell you they have some Scottish, German or Irish heritage?


Resources/further information:

Sally Morgan is best known for her acclaimed autobiography, My Place, which won the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission humanitarian award in 1987, the Western Australia Week literary award for non-fiction in 1988, and the 1990 Order of Australia Book Prize.

My Place is available in picture book adaptation and on e-book.  The original novel is generally taught to Year 9-10 students.

Morgan has written the Stopwatch series with her children, aimed at (mainly) boys 7-9,

She has a long list of other titles, many written in collaboration with her children, at Fremantle press,

Ambelin Kwaymullina has written books for children, including the heartwarming story The Two-Hearted Numbat, teaching about the need to be kind and compassionate but also strong and tough, available through Fremantle Press, Her latest book, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, has just been published by Walker books and I intend to post a review on this blog shortly.

The Indigenous Literacy Project:  Donations can be made to this organisation and schools can celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day in September.

For more on the Aboriginal identity debate, see the recent memoir by Anita Heiss, Am I Black Enough For You?


Sharifian, F, Rochecouste, J & Malcolm, I 2004, ‘But it was all a Bit Confusing . . .’,

Comprehending Aboriginal English Texts’, Language, Culture and Curriculum, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 203-228.

Lesson plans: Jali Boy by Ricky Macourt

The Yarning Strong series by Laguna Bay Publishing, an Oxford University project, features stories written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers on subjects such as identity, family, law and land.  The books are suitable for upper primary to lower secondary and are relatively simple in presentation and language, though some scaffolding will still be required.  Jali Boy in particular has some rich language that needs to be unpacked for kids, as well as conversational language that plays on Aboriginal English.

The Yarning Strong series can be purchased in packs in the abovementioned topics of identity, family, law and land (containing all the Yarning Strong novels plus an anthology of poems, artworks, historical information, primary sources and plays).

Teacher guides are also available for purchase and contain fantastic little clips which could be shown at staff meetings as part of cross-cultural awareness training.

Ricky Macourt is a Gumbaingirr man   from the north coast of NSW.  As a teenager  he spent six years at St Joseph’s College in Sydney. After completing a law degree at Bond University, Ricky began working in Canberra in 2012 in a Federal government department.

At the end of 2011, my school were lucky enough to have Ricky come in and run a 2 day writer’s workshop, culminating in an anthology of the students’ stories.  Before Ricky came, we studied Jali Boy, and here are my lesson plans for the novel study.  These plans are for lower secondary students who require support in literacy.

Yarning Strong lesson plans for Jali Boy

Find out more about Yarning Strong at

Hear a feature about Ricky on Triple J’s Hack:

Aboriginal perspectives in the English classroom: finding texts to teach

This is an excerpt from my January 2012 ACTivATE Journal article. I plan to add more blogs with reviews and teaching notes about specific texts as I develop this site.  For another great discussion about 100 great ‘Black books’ by Aboriginal authors see

In terms of locating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature, there are many resources you can use.  Anita Heiss (a Wiradjuri woman from central NSW) has co-edited several important anthologies of Aboriginal literature, including

Heiss, A & Minter P (eds.) 2008 Anthology of Australian Aboriginal Literature, McGill-Queen’s University Press

(see also Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature).

In addition, there are several large publishers of Indigenous works:

Magabala books:

Fremantle Press

IAD Press

Indij Readers

Black Ink Press

Aboriginal Studies Press

Another publisher, Laguna Bay Publishing, has teamed up with Oxford University Press to publish the very popular Yarning Strong series.  It includes 12 novels and 4 graphic novels, 4 poetry/play/art anthologies as well as teaching notes/CD-Rom.  All texts are by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander writers who explore contemporary Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity and experiences.  The series is suitable for upper primary/lower secondary students.  Go to the website for more information.

The Children’s Book Council 2012 awards included some new Indigenous-themed titles:

  • Bronwyn Bancroft: Why I love Australia (Little Hare Books)
  • One Arm Point Remote Community School: Our World: Bardi Jaawi: Life at Ardiyooloon (Magabala Books)

Another important publisher of Indigenous writing is University of Queensland Press.  Many of their writers have previously won David Unaipon Literary Awards (Awarded annually to an unpublished Indigenous author by the Premier) and they feature a section on ‘Black Australian Writing’.  Some of their titles for middle and senior secondary students are listed below, and you can find more on their website (



Herb Wharton Yumba Days 978 0 7022 3113 1 |$18.95
Doris Pilkington Garimarra Home to Mother: A Younger Reader’s edition of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

978 0 7022 3546 7 | $16.95


Ruby Langford Ginibi


Don’t Take Your Love to Town

978 0 7022 3595 5 | $24.95

All My Mob

978 0 7022 3596 2 | $24.95

My Bundjalung People

978 0 7022 2637 3 |$23.95

Yvette Holt Anonymous Premonition «

978 0 7022 3571 9 | $24.95

Vivienne Cleven Bitin’ Back

978 0 7022 3249 7 | $19.95

Her Sister’s Eye

978 0 7022 3283 1 | $23.95

Doris Pilkington Garimara Caprice: a Stockman’s Daughter

978 0 7022 3356 2 | $19.95

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

978 0 7022 3355 5 | $19.95

Under the Wintamarra Tree

978 0 7022 3308 1 | $24.00

Melissa Lukashenko Killing Darcy «

978 0 7022 3041 7 | $18.95

Hard Yards

978 0 7022 3080 6 | $23.95

Larissa Behrendt Home «

978 0 7022 3407 1 | $24.95

Archie Weller The Window Seat

978 0 7022 3715 7 | $24.95

Elizabeth Hodgson Skin Painting «

978 0 7022 3677 8 | $24.95

Samuel Wagan Watson Smoke Encrypted Whispers

978 0 7022 3471 2 | $22.95

Robert Lowe The Mish

978 0 7022 3327 2 | $23.95

Nan Chauncey Tangara

978 0 7022 3610 5 | $14.95


Alexis Wright Plains of Promise

978 0 7022 2917 6 | $23.95

Fiona Doyle Whispers of This Wik Woman

978 0 7022 3461 3 | $24.95

Jackie Huggins Sister Girl

978 0 7022 2840 7 | $24.95

Ruth Hegarty Bittersweet Journey

978 0 7022 3414 9 | $26.95

Sue Taffe Black and White Together: FCAATSI (The Federal Council

for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders 1958–1972)

978 0 7022 3511 5 | $24.95

Paul Memmott Gunyah, Goondie & Wurley

978 0 7022 3245 9 | $90.00

Rod Moss The Hard Light of Day: An Artist’s Story of Friendship in Arrernte Country

978 0 7022 3774 4 | $39.95


In the ACT Association for the Teaching of English’s February professional development, 2011, I co-presented a session with Marie-Ann Holdich about the books we enjoy teaching.  Marie-Ann ran a very successful Aboriginal literature unit at The Canberra College for some time, and I was lucky enough to be a student in this course in the late 1990s.  A copy of our PowerPoint is available on the ACTATE website and some of the books we mentioned were:


  • Terri Janke, Butterfly Song (older readers)
  • Tara June Winch, Swallow the Air (older readers)
  • Boori Monty Pryor, Maybe Tomorrow (could be adapted for high school – accessible to wide range of readers)
  • Sally Morgan, My Place (high school – and there is also a picture book version)

See Term 1, 2011 Workshop at



AustLit has a section on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature, cataloguing lists of authors and titles from different states.  Any member of the National Library of Australia (and many universities and educational institutions) can subscribe to this resource:  It also includes a timeline of important events in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, as these are often the subject of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature.


From this resource I have compiled a list of Aboriginal Authors and their titles.  I’ll leave it to you to look up titles of interest and find out more about their content, literary merits, and applicability to your teaching.


Author & Heritage Title Publishing details

Short stories/Poetry

Ali Cobby Eckermann (ed.) Anangu, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara of north west of South Australia. See my world: poetry and short stories by young Aboriginal writers. Northern Territory Writers’ Centre, 2010

ISBN 9780646534237

Karl Jananbi Dank (ed.)


This Country Anytime Anywhere: An Anthology of New Indigenous Writing from the Northern Territory.


IAD Press & Northern Territory Writers’ Centre, 2010

ISBN 9781864651027

Colleen Johnson, Leni Shilton, Rita Fisher and Melissa McAllister (eds.) My Hands, Your Pen, A Voice: a collection of writing by Indigenous Creative Writing Students 2009.


Batchelor Press, 2009

ISBN 1741311837

Ambelin Kwaymullina

Bailgu and Nyamal people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The Butterfly Birthday


Westerly vol.54 no.2 November 2009  periodical issue (pp.116-125)


Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative project with Indigenous and non-Indigenous authors


Urgent: what would you do if this happened to you?


Random House Australia, 2003

ISBN 1740519043

Kaye McPherson


The Song Tip of the Dreaming Snake In The Girl Who Married a Fly and other Stories

AATE, 1997

ISBN 1875659129

Includes Aboriginal authors Mitch? Short Stories for Short Attention Spans Self-published by Anthony Mitchell, 2000

ISBN 0646375334

Jack Cook Ngal, Anmatyerre elder, Yuelamu NW of Alice Springs Anengkerr Angkety Dreaming Stories



Batchelor Press, 2007

ISBN 9781741311228



Brenton E. McKenna, Broome, WA Ubby’s Underdogs: the Legend of the Phoenix Dragon


Magabala Books, 2011

ISBN 9781921248313

Esther Fischer of the Gugu Yalanji Burungu people at Mossman Walkabout with our mates Black Ink Press, 2010

ISBN 9781863340878

Richard Frankland, coastal South-West Victoria


Digger J. Jones Scholastic Press, 2007

ISBN 9781865048567

Lisa Wilyuka

Luritja woman from Titjikala, Alice Springs


David Spillman

Us Mob Walawurru


Magabala Books, 2006

ISBN 1875641874

Fran Dobbie

Yuin woman, South Coast NSW


Paper bag dreams

Hodder Headline Australia, 2000 & 2004

ISBN 0733612075

ISBN 0733614582

Boori Pryor

Kungganji and Birrigubba people of North Queensland.


Meme McDonald

My Girragundji – Book 1

The Binna Binna Man – Book 2

Nunjul the Sun – Book 3 Shake a leg – children’s book

Allen & Unwin


ISBN 1864488182


ISBN 1865080713


ISBN 186508641X

Allen & Unwin, 2010

ISBN 1741758904

Jared Thomas, South Australia Sweet Guy IAD Press, 2005

ISBN 1864650508

Melissa Lucashenko

Yugambeh/Bundjalung heritage


Too Flash

Killing Darcy

Jukurrpa Books, 2002

ISBN 1864650486

University of QLD Press, 1998

ISBN 0702230413

Derek Pugh and the Sunshine Girls

(A teacher from the Northern Territory who co-wrote Tammy Damulkurra with The Sunshine Girls – ten students from his school)

Tammy Damulkurra Aboriginal Studies Press, 1995

ISBN 085575284X

James G. Porter, Port Pirie in South Australia The Talking Mountains

The edge of the rainforest Long White Cloud

Hapkas Girl

The swiftest Isle

Hodder and Stoughton, 1993

ISBN 0340535792

University of QLD Press, 1991

ISBN 0702223506

University of QLD Press, 1989

ISBN 0702221953

Cassell Australia, 1980

ISBN 0726967998

Hodder and Stoughton, 1977

ISBN 03402119181

Louise West


Island in the Mist


In Taste of Cockroach and other Stories.

AATE 1974

ISBN 0909955166


Jason De Santis

Milikapiti, Northern Territory, belonging to the Tiwi people

Wulamanayuwi and the seven Pamanui (based on Snow White and the seven dwarves)

(Sighted 18/04/2011).


Kymarra (Kamarra) Bell-Wykes

South East Queensland belonging to the Jagera and Dalingbara people.

Body Armour

Chopped Liver

Ilbijerri Theatre Company

(Sighted 21/08/2011)

Julia Torpey

Eora people in New South Wales


Urgent (Sighted 27/10/2008).


Finally, while attending a lecture at Deakin University by Clare Bradford (as part of the Australian Government Summer School for Teachers in 2008), I was given information about children’s books as sites for political discussions of race relations and Aboriginal history, and the relevance of using them in secondary classrooms.  Of course, Shaun Tan’s beautiful book The Rabbits would fit well here, but here is a list of books recommended by Clare:


  • Berolah, Lorraine, Lilyjane Collins and Noel Crustaufo 1996, Betty and Bala and the Proper Big Pumpkin, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld.
  • Burton, Daphne Punytjina, and Carolyn Windy 2000, Kupi-Kupi and the Girl, Magabala Books, Broome, W.A.
  • Edwards, Yvonne, and Brenda Day 1997, Going for Kalta: Hunting for Sleepy Lizards at Yalata. IAD, Alice Springs.
  • Greene, Gracie, Joe Tramacchi and Lucile Gill 1992, Tjarany Roughtail, Magabala Books, Broome.
  • Malbunka, Mary 2003, When I was Little, Like You, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW.
  • Papunya School Book of Country and History 2001, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
  • Randall, Bob, and Kunyi June-Anne McInerney 2003, Tracker Tjugingji. IAD Press, Alice Springs.
  • Russell, Elaine 2004, The Shack that Dad Built, Little Hare Books, Surry Hills, NSW.
  • Utemorrah, Daisy, and Pat Torres 1990, Do Not Go Around the Edges. Magabala Books, Broome, W.A.
  • Russell, Elaine 2001, A is for Aunty, Sydney, ABC Books.
  • Williams, Edna Tantjingu, Eileen Wani Wingfield, and Kunyi June-Anne McInerney 2000, Down the Hole, Up the Tree, Across the Sandhills…Running from the State and Daisy Bates. IAD, Alice Springs.



Blackwords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers and Storytellers, AustLit (, 2002- [Retrieved 21/08/2011].

Bradford, Clare 2008, Children’s and Young Adult Literature Lecture Notes, Australian Government Summer School for Teachers, Deakin University, Geelong, January

Note that AUSTLIT is now hosting a new project started in 2011 called The Asian-Australian Children’s Literature and Publishing (AACLAP) to provide primary and secondary sources for developing literature-focused educational programs in line with the National Curriculum (


Thanks to Clare Bradford and AustLit for granting permission to reproduce their work in this article.  I would also like to express my appreciation to Jeanine Leane for her advice and discussion about this article.