Viewing task - Indigenous Australian languages

Year 7/8

Suggested duration: One lesson


This lesson provides students with an introduction to the topic of Indigenous Australian languages. Students will view a short video clip about the Ngunawal language revival and they will learn about the importance of language in cementing a sense of personal identity and belonging.

At least 250 languages, many with numerous dialects, were in use on the continent and islands prior to European colonisation. Indigenous Australian cultures are multilingual, speaking the languages of neigh­bours is a cultural norm; in some areas, like Arnhem Land, many differ­ent languages are spoken over a small area, whereas at the other extreme is the Western Desert Language whose many dialects (such as Pitjantjatjara) are spoken across about one sixth of the continent, covering much of the desert regions of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory (The Little Red Yellow Black Book,p. 42).

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to use comprehension strategies to interpret, analyse and synthesise ideas and information about Indigenous Australian languages
General capabilities Cross-curriculum priorities
Literacy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
Critical and creative thinking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures organising ideas:  1, 4, 7
Intercultural understanding  

Australian Curriculum content descriptions

Year 7 English

  • Identify and discuss main ideas, concepts and points of view in spoken texts to evaluate qualities, for example the strength of an argument or the lyrical power of a poetic rendition (ACELY1719).
  • Use prior knowledge and text processing strategies to interpret a range of types of texts (ACELY1722).
  • Use comprehension strategies to interpret, analyse and synthesise ideas and information, critiquing ideas and issues from a variety of textual sources (ACELY1723).

Year 8 English

  • Interpret the stated and implied meanings in spoken texts, and use evidence to support or challenge different perspectives (ACELY1730).
  • Use comprehension strategies to interpret and evaluate texts by reflecting on the validity of content and the credibility of sources, including finding evidence in the text for the author’s point of view (ACELY1734).

Provisions for differentiation

Learning support

Students may work more effectively with a partner to complete this activity.


Students could explore the Indigenous Australian Languages section of the AIATSIS website for further information.


  • Internet access and a projector or other device for screening a video clip
  • Copies of the Activity worksheet (PDF) - one per student
  • The Little Red Yellow Black Book - an introduction to Indigenous Australia (4th edition), `Who we are`, Aboriginal Studies Press, AIATSIS, Canberra, 2018.

Suggested online resources

For teachers

Ensure that the guidance notes included in The Little Red Yellow Black Book teacher resource have been considered.


Personal identity

Preparation: Ensure that you have access to the internet and a projector or other screen to complete this task. Locate and view the video clip of Ngunawal Elder Kayleen Busk talking about the importance of language.

Ensure students have copies of The Little Red Yellow Black Book. They should read pp. 42-49 in preparation for this lesson. Discuss key learnings as a class.

Step 1.

Screen the video clip. Review and brainstorm ideas from the viewed material.

Step 2.

Distribute the Activity worksheet and direct students to answer the questions.

Step 3.

Discuss the answers as a class.

Assessment ideas

  • Completed worksheets
  • Q and A to check for understanding


1. Use pp. 20-21 ‘Country’ from The Little Red Yellow Black Book as a reference.

2. Kayleen’s mother’s generation of school children were told that they were not to speak ‘tongue’, which is their first language, the Ngunawal language.

3. The revival of the Ngunawal language is being achieved by first collecting as many words as the researchers can. They do this by interviewing Ngunawal people, particularly elders, who can remember various words. These are then added to the vocabulary that is being written down by the researchers.

4. Heesha

5. Twelve areas of life that are impacted by language are:

  • Law
  • Geography
  • History
  • Family and Human Relationships
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Anatomy
  • Childcare
  • Health
  • Caring for Country
  • Astronomy
  • Biology

Others mentioned in The Little Red Yellow Black Book are:

  • Zoology
  • Cuisine
  • Construction
  • Design

6. Answers will be individual.

Last reviewed: 8 Nov 2019