European and Indigenous Australian Positionings through Books and Non-print Texts: Investigations with a Regional Australian Primary School

By Margaret Zeegers.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper I describe a project, based on children’s engagement with books and non-print media, at a regional Victorian (Australia) primary school. As an added dimension of their engagement with the books regularly used in their classroom, the children have examined non-print texts with local Indigenous Australian artists as part of an Indigenous Australian artists-in-residence program, with a view to foregrounding their school’s Black History. The school is close to one of the largest regional cities in the state of Victoria, Australia. In this project, primary school students have worked with Indigenous Australian story-tellers, artists, dancers and musicians to explore ways in which they may examine both print and non-print texts for a critical appreciation of ways in which their school has been positioned in the physical landscape and in the historical landscape, where Indigenous Australian roles and contributions have continued to be marginalised, at best, and denied, at worst. From such critical engagement, the children have created non-print texts of their own: tangible, durable artefacts of acknowledgment of their own school’s Black History. Constructed as texts which may be read by all who enter the school, the artefacts produced are part of a continuing critical engagement with books that represent European perspectives on Indigenous Australia, and non-print texts that represent Indigenous Australian perspectives. Both types of texts are engaged and interpreted by the children as part of this project, with the outcome of non-print texts created by the children themselves. Those visual texts have been posted on a wall at the school entrance, focussing on the very point of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian children’s entry to their school’s grounds and buildings. I have argued that this helps to position their school within a more comprehensive context of its physical and historical landscape than traditional, Eurocentric books and their perspectives on Indigenous Australia have allowed.

Keywords: Visual Literacy, Aboriginalism, Indigenousness, Australianness, Artists-in-residence

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.107-122. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.315MB).

Dr. Margaret Zeegers

Senior Lecturer, School of Education, University of Ballarat, Mt Helen, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Margaret Zeegers has considerable experience in literacy education in Austrlaia and abroad and is the co-author of the book Gatekeepers of Knowledge: A consideration of the library, the book and the scholar in the Western world, published earlier this year.

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