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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

New unit and resources for NAIDOC Week: Indigenous War Service

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 13, 2014

Indigenous ServiceLast term I developed and trialled a new unit of work about Indigenous War Service for years 5 & 6. It’s based on a resource called Indigenous Service, A Resource for Primary Schools, published by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Shrine of Remembrance, but I adapted it quite a bit.  You can download the unit, and all the supplementary resources from the Goodies to Share menu, Australian Curriculum Literature & Research units for Years 5 & 6

This unit forms part of our whole school plan for the ANZAC Commemorations for 2014-5 (which you can download from the same page).

As it turned out, although I didn’t know this when I decided to develop this unit, the theme for NAIDOC Week 2014 was Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond:.  As it says on the NAIDOC website

This year’s NAIDOC theme honours all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of country.

From our warriors in the Frontier Wars to our warriors who have served with honour and pride in Australia’s military conflicts and engagements across the globe.

We proudly highlight and recognise the role they have played in shaping our identity and pause to reflect on their sacrifice. We celebrate and honour their priceless contribution to our nation.

I would be rapt to get some feedback from teachers who download and try out the unit. Please use the comments box below.


6 Responses to “New unit and resources for NAIDOC Week: Indigenous War Service”

  1. twohandsstrong said

    Hi Lisa. I work with teachers on developing curriculum and Indigenous Education. It’s good to see the explicit fore-fronting of the Frontier Wars in the byline, but having trouble locating it in the download and activities? Cheers

    • Lisa Hill said

      Hello, Two Hands Strong, it’s nice to meet you:)
      It took me a while to work out what you meant by the byline, but now I realise you mean the quotation above from the NAIDOC website.

      *chuckle* We can’t cover everything in this huge topic in a one-term unit of work in a primary school! I did actually supplement the DVA Indigenous Service unit (from which my unit derives) with a reading of Jandamurra by Terry Denton at the beginning, and our discussion about the book included Jandamurra’s role as a warrior in the Frontier Wars. However I decided not to include this lesson in the final unit as published, mainly because my unit focusses on indigenous war service in the two World Wars, i.e. not the Frontier Wars (and not Vietnam, Korea or peace-keeping either). Already the unit is too long (11-12 lessons) and I don’t think we can do justice to the Frontier Wars by tacking it onto this unit, and it would also diminish the time left to cover the focus of the unit, which is that indigenous people served with distinction in the defence forces in WW1 and WW2 despite the discriminatory policies of the time, and were still denied both citizenship and service benefits afterwards.

      However, I am considering using Jandamurra’s story when I revise my biography unit called Fame! which is about famous Australians. In that unit we compare celebrity with heroism, and identify the values we admire in heroes. I think Jandamurra probably belongs in that unit, but it’s a very baggy unit at the moment because I’ve tried to be inclusive and ended up trying to cover too much. (As it says on my page, none of my units purport to be exemplary). I’ve now taken the indigenous war service components out of Fame! and created the separate Indigenous Service unit above, but I’m going to leave in researching inland European explorers which enables reference to the largely unrecognised role of indigenous people in helping those explorers. In the light of a new book by Bruce Pascoe called Emu (which I haven’t read yet) I think I’ll be able to expand on that in the revised unit. (See

      I think the Frontier Wars should be acknowledged whenever it’s relevant in the primary curriculum, but I think that studying it properly is more suitable for the secondary curriculum. Its complexity deserves the skill and expertise of secondary history teachers rather than generalist primary teachers.

      • twohandsstrong said

        Thanks for your detailed reply :-)
        I appreciate the idea of embedding Jandamurra in the Fame! unit. I think challenging the stereotypes of heroism is a powerful idea for primary students.
        Are you also going to include contemporary First Nation heroes or celebrities to further break through children stereotypes? Maybe there is someone local to your school community? I’m just interested in how teachers plan with Indigenous Education :-)

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