Tag Archives: Visions of Australia

‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’

7 Aug

I have also recently read Becoming Kirrali Lewis.  I read this text, hoping to discover a great Australian text that I could use in Year 9 instead of Deadly, Unna? which is not universally adored by students.

The text explores the experiences of Kirrali Lewis, an Aboriginal girl adopted into a white family, and her experiences during her first year of law school in the city.  The raised a number of important issues about identity, conflict and relationships which I think would interest some students.  However, the scope of experiences and short length of the book meant that these issues were, at times, left unexplored or not fully developed.

While I’m not sure my current Year 9 class would love this book, it is nonetheless something I would be interested in teaching.  With this in mind, I think it would be well placed as part of a textual pairing, perhaps with Taika Waititi’s film Boy.  Both texts explore the complexities of family relationships and the impact absent and found parents have on identity.

Familiar environments

30 Jan

Alice Eather’s poem ‘My Story Is Your Story‘ is a powerful poem about the different ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people view Aboriginal land.  Through a series of haunting contrasts Eather is able to communicate the tension between connection to land and destruction for profit.

This would be an interesting text to study as part of a unit about Australian identity as it highlights the fundamental disconnect between viewpoints and, in turn, flags the callous disregard corporations can have for established and entrenched cultural connections.

It would also be an interesting text to study in AOS Discovery for HSC.  Considered alongside The Tempest, for example, it could be used to highlight how perspectives shape discovery.  Considered alongside Go Back to Where You Came From, it could be used to enrich a discussion regarding discovery, Australian identity, racism and responsibility.

The text could also be used as part of a junior AOS with a focus on change, belonging or journeys.  Here, focus would need to be on the role of context in shaping representation and value.

Eather’s poem could also be studied alongside, or as part of a suite of poetry which includes, Selina Nwulu’s ‘Home is a Hostile Lover‘. Together, the poems offer interesting representations of connection to place and the role of corporations in threatening the physicality and sacredness of place.

 

Hello Stranger

25 Oct

Hello Stranger is an ABC documentary series which seeks to meet a range of individuals and then follow one story home.

I recently watched the Hello Stranger episode entitled ‘Straight Outta Footscray‘ about Bangs, a rapper who hails from South Sudan and has achieved internet fame for a much derided song entitled ‘Take U to Da Movies’.  The episode allows responders to learn about Bangs, his hopes and his dreams.

I think I want to play the ‘Take U to Da Movies‘ clip to my students first, asking them to offer their thoughts about the clip and the man who stars in it.  Then, I want to show them the short documentary, asking them at the end if their perspectives have changed and why.

Life as a refugee

27 May

I was hoping to run a unit this year in which students would explore the voices of migrants.  Unfortunately, the constraints of the program and the realities of my classes meant this was not possible.

One poem that I would have studied as part of this unit was Abe Nouk’s ‘The Stigma of Having Lived as a Refugee‘.  In this poem, Nouk recounts his own experiences living as a refugee and coming to Australia.  He also ends with a plea for Australia to do more to help people who, like him and his family, fled difficult and dangerous realities.

Another poem by Nouk that is worthy of inclusion is ‘Story of  Refugee‘.  In this poem, he reflects on the role of writing in helping him to articulate his experiences, his identity and his perspectives.

If studied as part of a unit with an Australian focus, this text could be studied alongside other refugee poets.  If studied as part of a unit with a global focus, Nouk’s poem would be interesting to study alongside Warsan Shire’s ‘Home’ and Selina Nwulu’s ‘Before’.

‘Decadence’

25 May

I recently stumbled upon Ed Carlyon’s Spoken Word poem ‘Decadence’, and I think it would be a great addition to a unit about poetic representations of gender.  I think it would be a particularly interesting companion text to Harry Baker’s poem ‘Real Men‘.

Carlyon’s poem begins with the confronting observation that he has “seen more men binge drink than [he’s]…  seen cry and that don’t make sense.” In this opening statement, Carlyon powerfully links drinking culture to a peculiarly Australian masculinity.  As he continues, a distinct binary becomes apparent, with certain behaviours implicitly deemed manly and others as weak.  The depth of emotion conveyed in this poem is impressive and capable of sparking interesting discussion amongst students.

The sounds, sights and emotions of war

18 May

I am on a mission to help my junior students to engage with key poetic techniques and truly understand the effect of such techniques.  With this goal in mind, I recently ran an activity in which students were given a selection of neutrally worded scenarios pertaining to war and had to work in groups to come up with a list of similes, metaphors, examples of personification and onomatopoeic statements which enlivened the scenarios.

After reviewing the definitions of these techniques and identifying two examples of each as a class, students worked together to create their own lists.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Students made reference to a wall which reached out to support the weight of a grieving widow, fighter jets that howled like wolves deprived of meat, and mud which sought to suck the life from the soles of soldiers’ shoes.  As these examples were shared with the class we discussed why each was effective.

‘Living With the Enemy’

6 Jan

I recently viewed episode 3 of the SBS show Living with the Enemy.  The premise of the series is to have individuals engage with those who have ideologically disparate perspectives from their own.  The episode that I viewed focused on immigration, placing a Sudanese Australian and an Australian with right-wing political views together for a ten-day period.

I think this series (or select episodes of it) would be an interesting text to show to a Year 11 Standard English class as it would help them to understand the terminology and subject matter relevant to Go Back to Where You Came From.

I also think it would be an interesting text to show to a Year 9 or 10 class, perhaps as part of a bigger unit about the migrant experience.  Not only would it allow students to come to understand (and hopefully question) the documentary form, but it would present a real life representation of the tensions within our society.

REVIEW: Nona & Me

5 Jan

The most recent novel on my long list of ‘books to read during the school holidays’ was Nona & Me by Clare Adkins.

Nona & Me is about two girls who grew up together.  One girl is white and the other is Aboriginal.  Nonetheless, they consider themselves sisters.  Or, more accurately, did consider themselves sisters.

When Nona turns up at Rosie’s high school after the two have been separated for a number of years, Nona expects a warm welcome.  Instead, she is given the cold shoulder.  The resulting estrangement causes Rosie to reflect upon her values, community and identity.

Despite its reliance upon some stock characters and clichéd occurrences, the novel was an interesting read.  However, I am not sure if my interest derived from knowledge of the political events and personalities referenced in the text, or from the text itself.  I suspect it was a bit of both.  For these reasons, I would want to teach some of the historical background prior to commencing the novel, thus allowing students to engage with the novel as both a work of literature and a social commentary.

REVIEW: Soldier Boy

4 Jan

As part of my holiday reading binge I have also read Anthony Hill’s Soldier Boy.  This text is based on the true story of Australia’s youngest ANZAC, Jim Martin.

The text itself was interesting, charting the experiences and emotions of a boy (pretending to be a man) during war.  Also interesting were the primary sources included in the text.  However, the text often presented as a recount, making it difficult to completely immerse oneself the wartime setting or the perspectives of those mentioned in the texts.

In summary, this text would be an interesting way in to a unit on war poetry or life writing for a junior class.  However, I am not sure I would teach it as a stand alone text in another context.

Refugee Poets

12 Oct

I wrote recently about my desire to create a Year 9 program which explores Australian literature.  With this goal in mind, I have been on the hunt for interesting texts which explore the various faces, facets and voices of Australia.   As part of my search I came across this article, which introduces a number of refugee Spoken Word poets.  I feel that YouTube versions of some of these poets’ poems would add interest and diversity to a poetry unit.