Welcome to Country

Exploring the 2017 CBCA Short List: New Illustrators

Landscape artwork on cover of Welcome to Country

The content description links on this page have been updated in line with Version 9.0 of the Australian Curriculum. Use this guide to compare codes across versions.

Author: Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Walker Books

Themes: Indigenous Australia, home, belonging, ‘lore’, respect, cultural differences

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Years 3 and 4; HASS (History), Years 3–5 (Geography), Year 3; Arts (Visual Arts), Years 3 and 4 

From the publisher’s synopsis: The importance of acknowledgement of Australian Aboriginal custodianship of country lies at the heart of this evocative text. Aunty Joy Murphy, a respected elder of the Wurundjeri People, shares her people’s heritage with her readers. Lisa Kennedy’s stunning artwork is a fitting accompaniment to these powerful words. This book invites respect for the traditions of Aboriginal people. Welcome to Country.

Unit writer: Sophie Honeybourne

Building field knowledge

  • View the map of registered Aboriginal Parties in Victoria (.pdf 2MB) that includes the Wurundjeri Tribe and identify the tribe's geographical location (city, state, major landforms). View the ABC Aboriginal Language Map of Australia and use it to identify your own local Aboriginal language. Ask students to use the internet to research their local Aboriginal tribe and language and write notes. Share as a class and build a 'knowledge wall' display. AC9HS3K04  AC9HS3K03
  • Explain the British policy of Aboriginal ‘protection’ and the impact it had on Aboriginal culture and language, then view the video of the author, Aunty Joy Murphy, talking about the importance of language to her sense of self and sense of belonging. Ask students to imagine if they were made to talk in another language and not use their own. How would they feel? AC9HS4K04  AC9HS5K02
  • Ask students to explain what they think 'welcoming' someone means (and what it means if a person is deliberately not welcomed) then read the explanation at the front of the text about Aboriginal welcome ceremonies. Read aloud the article about welcoming traditions from around the world then explore the welcoming acts, words or traditions that students have in their own homes. Do guests take their shoes off, are offered a drink, shake hands, hug, bow or kiss hello on the cheek? AC9E3LE02  
  • View Aunty Joy's welcome to country and smoking ceremony. Discuss the beliefs she explains, including removing things that are not needed, keeping the land ‘free of evil things’ and sharing what we have, within the contexts of students' own cultural backgrounds. AC9E3LY02  

Exploring the context of the text

  • Ask students to identify the point of view of the author. If the book was written by a white Australian person, how might it be different? AC9E3LY01
  • Read the introduction to the Australian government website about Australian Children's books (up to the subtitle ‘Beginnings – 1800’). Ask students if they think that Welcome to Country would have been written 100 years ago? Why, or why not? How is the text a result of the way Australian culture thinks and feels about Aboriginal people? AC9E3LE01 
  • Use the school or local library to select a number of picture books by Aboriginal authors (such as Bronwyn Bancroft, Sally Morgan and Dick Roughsey). Organise students into research groups and ask each group to compare texts to try to find commonalities in: vocabulary, sentence structure, point of view, layout, content and illustrations. Support students to recognise that there is a growing Aboriginal genre in children’s books and ask them to explain why they think this is important. AC9E4LE01

Responding to the text

  • Read the information about the ‘I see, I think, I wonder’ thinking routine (.pdf 118 kB).‘The Curious Kindergarten’ blog has produced a pdf worksheet (.pdf 104 kB). Organise students into pairs, assign pairs different double page spreads from the book and ask them to use the thinking routine to analyse pages. Ask pairs to report back in page order, allowing discussion to unfold in order to provide students with a deeper reading of the text. AC9E4LY05 
  • The author and illustrator present a very personal view of what Australia means to them. Do students share this view? Why, or why not? What influences the ways in which individuals view Australia? The activity can be extended by asking students to create a poster for homework that shows images and explanatory text of places that are important to them, including their land, sea, water (e.g. dam, pool, lake, river, sea), mountains and house. AC9E3LE02
  • Find out your school or local council’s Welcome to Country and read aloud in the classroom. Set up a conscience alley that allows students to explore whether or not non-Aboriginal people should use a Welcome to Country. Use the activity to enable students to reflect on why they think the author chose to write the text. AC9E3LE02

Exploring plot character and setting

  • As a class, brainstorm the key messages or big ideas in the text. Use Think Pair Share to ask students to identify the purpose of the text (for instance, to entertain, inform, persuade or a combination), then the intended audience of the text. Ask pairs to use post-it notes to identify text and visual features that the author and illustrator have used to successfully communicate the book's message and purpose to its intended audience. AC9E3LY03
  • Although the text is not fictional, the Aboriginal concept of Country means that the setting is vital to the success of the text. Choose a double page spread from the text and model how to label key features of the illustrations and the information they convey. Photocopy an additional page and ask students to conduct the same activity. Discuss how the illustration adds depth and meaning to the language on the page. AC9E3LE03
  • Should an informative text have illustrations? Why, or why not? How do the illustrations change this text from being informative to one that is also entertaining and persuasive? AC9E4LY03

Creating texts

  • Discuss and identify what your school community values (the school motto is a good place to start). In groups, ask students to brainstorm a symbol of welcome that would suit the school context (the Wurundjeri use a gum leaf). Then ask them to brainstorm words and phrases that they could use to welcome someone to their school and which will communicate the school’s expectations and values. Groups should then create and perform a short 'welcome to school' ceremony. AC9E3LE05  AC9E4LY07 
  • Use visual literacy terms to analyse the visual elements the illustrator has incorporated (e.g. perspective, colour, salience, foreground/background and layout.) Ask students to illustrate their local Aboriginal 'welcome to country' using similar techniques to highlight features of their school and local area and turn them into a setting for the welcome. AC9E4LE05
  • Support students to research Wurundjeri history then discuss as a class what British settlers might have thought of Wurundjeri people and vice versa. Use drama strategies such as freeze frames to help students creative explore British/Aboriginal responses then ask students to write a creative text in two parts about an encounter between a settler and an Indigenous child (PETAA Paper 196 has a useful video analysing the language of contact). AC9E4LY06

Examining text structure and organisation

  • Explain that language is a ‘window into a way of thinking’. If some of your students speak more than one language, discuss this idea as a class. Explore the TED blog about untranslatable idioms then read the words from around the world with no English equivalent. Ask students to suggest why the author included the Woiwurrung language in the text of the Wurundjeri welcome. How does this language work to both include and exclude the reader?
  • Review the text type helper and ask students to identify which text structure, if any, Welcome to Country uses then hold a discussion about the structure of the book. Inform students that Aboriginal culture is based on oral, not written, traditions. Refer back to the text and jointly identify sections which sound as if they are spoken. AC9E4LA03
  • The first person pronouns our, us and we feature heavily in the text. Change these pronouns into the, them and they respectively and re-read the text. Ask students to explain how and why the change of pronoun changes the participants in the text, and why this is important. AC9E4LA04

Examining grammar

  • Revise adverbial/prepositional phrases then identify all of them in the text. Support students to identify that the majority of these phrases in the text function to anchor the Wurundjeri to their land and their ancestors. AC9E4LA08 
  • Explore the language patterning in the text. Model converting a page of text into a traditional informative language pattern. For instance, pages 7-8 about the Manna Gum people would become ‘The name Warundjeri comes from the two words warun (white gum tree) and djeri (grub)’. Discuss why the author chose to use an oral language pattern rather than a traditional ‘white’ informative language pattern. AC9E3LA03
  • Ask students to identify vocabulary in the text that is specific to Aboriginal culture (such as ancestors, land, spirits, elders, creator, traditional lands). Explore further examples of English technical vocabulary associated with Aboriginal culture (for example, ‘country’, ‘lore’, ‘The Dreaming’, ‘songlines’). Students should work in pairs or groups to develop a glossary to accompany the text. AC9E3LA10
  • The text explains the etymology of the word ‘Warundjeri’. View the 1935 Australian Museum pamphlet (.pdf 4.7 MB) detailing the Aboriginal meaning of NSW places then research local Aboriginal words from your own area, creating a language bank in the classroom. AC9E4LA11  AC9HS4K01

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • Many of the illustrations incorporate multiple perspectives into the one image (such as a bird’s eye view, side on, underground). Identify examples of this in the illustrations and discuss why the illustrator used these multiple perspectives in relation to Aboriginal cultural beliefs about connection with the land. AC9E3LA09  AC9AVA4E01  AC9AVA4E02
  • None of the people illustrated in the text directly demand the viewer’s attention (their gaze is looking downward, away or perhaps through closed eyes). Find examples and discuss why, in a ‘welcome’, the illustrator decided that the characters should not directly address the audience. How does this make you feel as a viewer? AC9E4LA10  AC9AVA4E01  AC9AVA4E02
  • Support students to identify the colours used in the text. Where might they find these colours (in nature). Why might the illustrator have chosen a natural palette? AC9E4LA10

Additional and related resources and links to other texts: Explore Aunty Joy's welcome to country, the ABC Aboriginal Language Map of Australia and the work of Sally Morgan.

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