Inquiry Learning (Primary Lessons)

The following units have been designed to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into integrated units of work that are traditionally taught in Primary schools. The units are drawn from the curriculum content described in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. These units were developed with and trialled by 4 Catholic primary schools in Melbourne

Unit 1:Celebrating Culture
Level: Years 1 and 2
School: St Catherine’s, Melton West

This unit is about the different cultures that coexist in the local community and in Australia. It explores the ways in which people from these cultures express their beliefs and values through art, music, dance, drama, and especially story. Students will compare the similarities and differences between a variety of cultures that are significant in the school and local community including Indigenous Australian culture. They will have the opportunity to create some art works and experience some stories from different cultures. Students will begin to develop an understanding that the Australian nation is enriched by the diversity of cultures that contribute to it.

Unit 2: Walking with the Wurundjeri
Level: Years 1 and 2
School: St Brigid’s, Gisborne

This unit is about local community and how it has changed over time. During the unit students investigate life as it is now, in and around the local community. They use categories such as; education, food, family, transport, entertainment, shelter and traditions, to identify key aspects of their way of life. They participate in local walks to map the local area and identify key natural and man-made features. Students then identify what the local community looked like long ago (when it was first colonised by Europeans) and long, long ago (before European colonisation); investigating which local  Indigenous Australians lived in this area. They explore and imagine what life was like for the people who lived during this time through guest speakers, historical walks and photographs. They make comparisons between the way of life of these people and the features of the local community identifying what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Unit 3: Signs of Celebration
Level: Years 3 and 4
School: St Catherine’s, Melton West

This unit is about the enduring practices of celebrations and ritual, and the role of symbols within these. In this unit students examine a variety of different celebrations in order to develop understandings about how celebrations are an important part of any community. They explore how celebrations are consistent across time and cultures. They compare several celebrations such as; Eucharist, Aboriginal smoking ceremonies and Anzac Day, to find similarities and differences. They investigate why, when and how different people celebrate and explore the values that underpin celebrations. During the unit they will discover that some celebrations are traditional and have been conducted over long periods of time, and that many of these commemorate a special event.

Unit 4: We Are One
Level: Years 3 and 4
School: St Brigid’s, Gisborne

This unit explores the concepts of multiculturalism and Australian identity. It begins by exploring the question ‘who are Australians?’ recognising that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lived in Australia for more than 60,000 years. During the unit students identify their own cultural backgrounds and the migration stories of other people, leading to an appreciation that as Australians we come from many different cultural backgrounds.

Through individual and community stories students learn about the contributions made by a variety of Australians from diverse cultural backgrounds. They investigate ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary things in order to help their community. They use the Habits of Mind to investigate the characteristics shared by these people and explore ways in which they too can make a contribution.

Unit 5: Melbourne Dreaming
Level: Years 3 and 4
School: Lumen Christi, Point Cook

This unit is about the history and development of Melbourne. During this unit students investigate the people who make up the Kulin Nation, and their role as traditional owners of the area we now know as central Victoria, including Melbourne. They will find out about significant people and events that have contributed to Melbourne’s continuing story. They will identify changes that have occurred, and the effects of these changes on the people and the land. They will begin to consider why it is important to remember and preserve stories and artefacts from the past.

Unit 6: Sacred Land
Level: Years 5 and 6
School: St Catherine’s, Melton West

During this unit students investigate how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people used and cared for the land in the past, and the continuing relationship they still have with it. Students also investigate some of the environmental issues facing Australia and the World today, in particular overuse and waste. They make links between what they have learned about sustainable practices and conservation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and current environmental issues. They explore ways they can make improvements at home and at school.

Unit 7: Changing Lives, Changing Ways
Level: Years 5 and 6
School: St Brigid’s, Gisborne

This unit is about the arrival of the First Fleet and the impact it had on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, convicts, soldiers and free settlers. During this unit students explore why the British came and who was involved. They investigate how the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived prior to European colonisation, and the consequent changes to the lives of all those involved as a result of the event. Students will be required to consider the impact from different viewpoints gaining insight into the massive upheaval it created. They will begin to view sources of information with a critical lens questioning the perspectives of the authors. Students will be encouraged to make links between what happened in the past and Australian society today.

Unit 8: Closing the Gap
Level: Year 6
School: St Peter Chanel, Deer Park

This unit is about the uneven distribution of wealth, resources and access to health services across the world’s peoples. Students will commence the unit by establishing the difference between their own needs and wants and begin to question what really is essential in their lives. They will investigate what poverty is, who it affects, and ways people are trying to address issues of poverty in the world. Students will compare the living conditions and health related issues of people from around the world including Australia’s Aboriginal people. Through examining the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals they will identify ways different groups are working support people in need. Through the ‘Close the Gap’ campaign students will identify the huge gap in the health needs and issues of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  people as compared to other Australians.

Unit 9: Advance Australia Fair
Year Level: 5/6   VELS Level: 4

This unit is about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy. Students will develop understandings about the key concepts of fairness, inclusion, power, rights and responsibilities. They will analyse how these ideas have developed during Australia’s history. They will identify times when groups of people may not have been given the same rights as others, and the struggle to achieve these rights. Students will specifically look at Federation and the history of voting in Australia. They will also explore Aboriginal Rights issues and Immigration. Students will then look at Australia today, and consider the concepts of fairness and democracy in contemporary society and in their own lives.

Unit 10: From Little Things Big Things Grow
Year Level: 5/6 VELS Level: 4

This unit is about activism, and how people or groups can stand up for what they believe in order to bring about change. Students will consider what basic human needs and rights are, and investigate the United Nations declaration of Human Rights. They will identify times in the past and present when people have been denied these rights, and how people or groups have created awareness of this through their words and actions. In particular they will learn about the struggle for rights by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. The students will investigate a wide range of people in Australia and globally who have stood up against injustice and made a difference.

Unit 11: My Story, Your Story, Our Story
Year Level: 3/4 VELS Level: 3

This unit focuses on developing an understanding and appreciation of Australia’s history and heritage through story. Students explore the different ways stories are told such as oral story telling, story through dance, song, drama, art, poetry and the written word. The stories they will experience will include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legends, painting, dance and song. They will also explore traditional Australian stories by authors such as Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson, CJ Dennis, Dorothea MacKellar, Oodgeroo Noonuccal as well as traditional ballads and paintings (Fred McCubbin, Tom Roberts, William Barak etc). They will use these stories to build a picture of what Australia was like in the past and how that contributes to Australia’s identity today.

Unit 12: Our Place, Our Heritage
Year Level: 3/4 VELS Level: 3

This unit is about the special places in Australia that are significant to Australians due to heritage, culture or natural beauty. Through this unit students will develop their geographical understandings about Australia and it’s states and territories. They will learn about significant natural and man-made landmarks. They will develop understandings about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through a study of places that are important to them. They will develop the understanding that special places need to be preserved and protected. 


These units were planned by Deborah Vietri in consultation with the following teachers.

St Catherine’s Melton West
Kellie Noonan, Emily Conroy, Michael Higgins, Leonie Ince, Narelle Cox, Chris Eggleston, Jill Caruana, Sharon Schmidt, Danielle Awty, Tegan Lawless, Cathie Hellard, Lisa Harris, Catherine Mullane and Amanda Smith.

St Brigid’s Gisborne
Janene Baseggio, Melanie Spencer, Avryl Hodges  AnneMarie Conte, Krystina Wojcicki, Kate Brearley and Maree Morris.

St Peter Chanel, Deer Park
Danielle Glaubitz, Rebecca Gatt, Karyn Callaway and Luisa Parissis.

Lumen Christi, Point Cook
Belinda Beaman, Andrew Renton, Mary Dingli, Linda Pastore, Rosemary Pirritano, Lidia Szymczak and Peta Lynch.

The units would not have been created without the enthusiastic support of the Principals; Noelene Hussey, Marg Garvey, Anne Garvey and Trish Armstrong. The members of the reference team gave valuable experience and guidance and ensured the authenticity of the units; Delsie Lillyst (CEOM), Catherine Henbest (CEOM), Judy Connell (CEOM), Mark Rose (VAEAI), Gary Saunders (VAEAI).