Kylie Neagle, with teachers Kai Benyk and Alex Flynn

With Tarnanthi opening in October, AGSA Education is preparing a variety of education resources and professional development opportunities to support teachers during a visit to the Gallery, as well as activities students can undertake in their classrooms following their visit.

The education team continues to present Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in the Classroom workshops during the year, upskilling teachers on how to respond to works of art made by First Nation artists in a meaningful and culturally appropriate way. Kai Benyk from Pedare Christian College and Alex Flynn from Yorketown Area school have been engaged with our education programs for the past three years, attending workshops and refining their teaching programs with our online education resources. Both Kai and Alex have taken on board the recommendations in our publication, which include planning and examining their teaching practice and keeping informed – ultimately modelling lifelong learning. Kai and Alex have provided us with a snapshot of the impact of our Tarnanthi resources.

Photo: Nat Rogers.

Alex Flynn, Visual Art Teacher, Yorketown Area School (YAS)

With the use of Tarnanthi education resources, students at YAS are developing a deeper understanding of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, as well as greater awareness of the diversity of First Nation culture. The ‘guide to using works of art as a starting point’ resource is one of my favourite tools, as it helps me to break down themes and concepts within works of art, and to empower students to respond in a personally relevant way.

Yorketown Area School students’ work in response to Brian Robinson

Following the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in the Classroom workshop in 2018, featuring Maluyligal and Wuthathi artist Brian Robinson, I designed a unit of work about Robinson and how he combined traditional markmaking with popular culture to produce large-scale lino prints.

My students were interested in the repeated motifs in his work that were linked to space and stars. The students then created a lino print combining astronomy with the popular culture iconography specific to their own generation.

Yorektown Area School students’ work inspired by Every Face has a Story, Every Story has a Face: Kulila!

AGSA’s Every Face has a Story, Every Story has a Face: Kulila! education resource is one that is useful for all year levels. I show students a video of the artists from the Yarrenyty Arltere Art Centre talking about their work and we explore the importance of sharing stories and listening. Last year students did some storytelling of their own, by making audio recordings of their stories, capturing their expression through a felt self-portrait and then creating a recycled fabric sculpture depicting an object from their story. I have really enjoyed connecting with AGSA to improve my teaching practice and look forward to attending the next workshop.

Kai Benyk, Pedare Christian College

I have always been passionate about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and the important role it plays in the classroom – showcasing the diversity of First Nations peoples while bringing a greater understanding and cultural awareness.

The previous Tarnanthi exhibitions, publications and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art education resources were taken as a starting point for a new Year 6 unit. Using AGSA’s resources ensured that my research was contemporary and culturally informed. The publication Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in the Classroom has provided me with a fresh perspective and has given me the confidence to deliver a unit of work that is meaningful for the students and culturally respectful of the artists.

Our unit begins with an acknowledgement of Country, followed by a declaration of my context (that I’m not an Indigenous person myself) and my aim to deliver content with as much accuracy as possible. The AITSIS language map is a key tool in our initial lesson, as it visually provides a greater understanding of the vast and diverse communities within Australia.

One of my favourite tasks in the unit investigates the batik textile designs made by Ernabella artists. We identify the key ideas, themes or concepts in the artist’s work and also highlight ideas relating to cross-cultural exchange, specifically with reference to the batik method, the wax resist applications associated with dye.

With these main concepts identified, the students respond by creating a collaborative work of art that incorporates personally relevant images inspired by nature. These images evolve into beautiful ink paintings, in which masking fluid is used to create linear patterns.

Year 6 students from Pedare working on their collaborative drawing.

Photo: Nat Rogers.

Tips from Kai for incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into your teaching practice

  • Be enthusiastic
  • Understand your own context
  • Research thoroughly and deliver content with authenticity.

We are fortunate to have such wonderful resources at AGSA. I highly recommend that you utilise these resources, revisit them regularly and attend the AGSA professional development sessions.