Advocating for Reconciliation Using an Artefact as Stimulus

By McShane, Alex; Newby, Joshua et al. | Practical Literacy, June 2017 | Go to article overview

Advocating for Reconciliation Using an Artefact as Stimulus


McShane, Alex, Newby, Joshua, Willis, Anthony, Willis, Linda-Dianne, Practical Literacy


In this article, Dr Linda-Dianne Willis, lecturer in English and literacy, worked with newly graduated teachers, Alex, Josh and Anthony, to develop a multiliteracies approach to an inquiry-based unit with a focus on persuasive texts.

Historical artefacts can provide useful stimuli for inquiry-based literacy teaching and learning. A copy of the Larrakia Petition (see Image 1) was obtained from the National Archives in Canberra (Education Services Australia & National Archives of Australia, 2007-10) to brainstorm possible planning ideas for an upper primary class investigation into the significance of place. Our planning sequence uses a multiliteracies pedagogical framework (Kalantzis & Cope, 2005) to plan for teaching curriculum literacies in English and the Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum, namely History, Geography, and Civics and Citizenship. The Cross Curriculum Priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, and the General Capabilities of Intercultural Understanding, Ethical Understanding, and Personal and Social Capability are an integral part of the plan (ACARA, 2016).

The Larrakia Petition of 1972 represents a significant document for all Aboriginal peoples in their quest for land rights and political representation in Australia. In the two years leading up to the petition, over 1000 signatures were gathered from Aboriginal peoples across the length and breadth of the mainland. Some signatures were finger and thumb prints made using purple ink. Measuring some 3.3 metres in length, the petition was originally intended for presentation to Princess Margaret while she was on an official visit to Darwin in October 1972. Unfortunately, the document was unable to be handed to the Princess and was torn in a scuffle that ensued between representatives of the Larrakia community and the police. The petition was eventually sent to the Queen with an accompanying letter to apologise for its poor condition. Ultimately, the document was dispatched backed to Australia to be housed with the National Archives of Australia in 1975 (Education Services Australia & National Archives of Australia, 2007-10; Korff, n.d.).

Using the Larrakia Petition to conduct an inquiry about the significance of place, our planning follows a multiliteracies approach--which comprises the four non-hierarchical knowledge processes: experiencing the known and the new; conceptualising by naming and theorising; analysing functionally and critically; and applying appropriately and creatively (Kalantzis & Cope, 2005). These would be contextualised for students in relation to their local community. Our primary literacy focus is on exploring and creating persuasive texts. Students would be encouraged to develop their understanding and knowledge of persuasive texts as they experiment with the use of verbs, adjectives, repetition, punctuation, and rhetorical questions. Students would also be encouraged to consider the relative effectiveness of different texts and techniques to persuade an audience of their opinions, beliefs and attitudes, and ultimately to advocate for positive change in their school and/or local community.

Planning sequence

The planning sequence begins with the establishment of inquiry questions, before tuning the students in to the artefact which acts as a stimulus for the inquiry. Kalantzis & Cope's (2005) knowledge processes are then used as a framework to deepen student knowledge, culminating in the production of persuasive texts. At the conclusion is a list of Content Descriptors covered by the planning sequence.

1. Inquiry questions

* How are people connected to places?

* Why are places significant to us?

* How can learning about the Larrakia Petition and its history contribute to understanding about what Aboriginal land rights and reconciliation in Australia mean?

* What are the text structures and linguistic features of the Larrakia Petition? …

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