HomeIDIOM back issue reviewsReview - Indigeneous Perspectives through Word and Image

Review - Indigeneous Perspectives through Word and Image

James Fogarty

Authors: Babs Helleman and Linda Gibson-Langford

Publisher: BF Helleman, 2013, 116 pages

RRP: $34.95

Helleman and Gibson-Langford cover four Indigenous Australians in this textbook: poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, playwright Jack Davis, author Kim Scott, and artist Dadina Georgina Brown. The first chapter provides links to the New South Wales syllabus for the Australian Curriculum (2012). With a helpful table, teachers can clearly identity which Australian Curriculum categories (quality literature; environmental and social sustainability; etc) link to the aforementioned Indigenous Australians.

Each chapter provides an overview of the writer/artist, containing excerpts from related texts and detailed bibliographical information. Further, each chapter offers questions for students to respond to (easily identifiable in coloured boxes), with some including links to online resources for further engagement and research. In each section, several texts are chosen for a close study.

The Oodgeroo chapter focuses on her poems ‘Municipal Gum’, ‘The Past’, ‘We Are Going … for Granne Coolwell’, ‘Time is Running Out’, and ‘All One Race’. The first two poems are colour-coded with various techniques (personification, rhetorical question, metaphor, et al.) highlighted in the margin. This provides students with a model to work from when responding to questions on the latter poems. Questions cater for a range of abilities, with some asking students to quote the text and other asking for deeper analysis.

Kullark, The Dreamers and No Sugar are covered in the Jack Davis section. The author writes from her own teaching experience, noting that The Dreamers is a favourite and one that ‘really strikes a chord with my students’. Two annotated samples of student work (essays) are provided, again modelling to students the metalanguage appropriate for the unit. Stage directions, performances and print covers are discussed in detail and under clear subheadings, allowing for students to take succinct notes.

Kim Scott’s novels True Country, Benang and That Deadman Dance are scrutinised next. Further close studies and a Q&A are included to mix up the analysis. Aside from the book covers, artist portraits and occasional diagrams, the textbook is very ‘word-heavy’, with many pages just slabs of text. This may only be a noteworthy issue in lower year levels or if using several chapters of the textbook (most teachers will only use the section that relates to their selected texts).

Four of Dadina Georgina Brown’s artworks (My Country, Mungkalu 1 Where I was Born and Untitled 1) are considered in the final chapter. Again, analysis is provided (although it is not so lengthy here). Some students may struggle to grasp this section, as much of the analysis delves into abstract concepts.

A final chapter on creative writing offers a detailed assessment task on myth. This task is linked to the NSW curriculum but could be easily adapted.

Most of the content in this textbook could be used for a variety of year levels. Oodgeroo’s poetry works well at Year 9, while Jack Davis’ No Sugar is currently a VCE English text and Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance a VCE Literature text. With such a detailed and structured breakdown of each text, students will be tempted to replicate the exact analysis they read here – teachers must sell this information as an aid to their personal responses to each text. Perhaps the extensive analysis provided is a further selling point given the apprehension that some teachers still feel when teaching Indigenous subject matter.

While there are some obvious – but minor – errors scattered throughout the textbook, this is a valuable guide for teachers and students alike. It goes a long way to disproving claims by prominent curriculum consultants that Indigenous Australians have only provided a “minimal” amount to Australia’s literary tradition.