The school year has started with excitement and anticipation, moving out of the shadows and impacts of last year. While the year itself has been a bit tricky so far, we are hopeful that the massive disruptions of 2020 are behind us.
But plans and resolutions can slide aside in the face of each day’s demands – new activities become routine, and old routines re-establish themselves.
However, there are powerful voices creating powerful text to ensure some aspirations do not slip back into the ‘same old’.
More than Hope
Two current ‘hopes’ for Australia’s future have been articulated by Indigenous leaders. Each draws from history, suggests new plans and resolutions, and include powerful persuasive elements for our consideration. The issues raised are long-term, and we can help students become informed, in preparation for decisions that will have to be made.
Uluru Statement from the Heart (2017)
In a recent blog, ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’, I focused on the multimodal re-presentation of the original Statement in Midnight Oil’s album ‘The Makarrata Project’. The words are voiced by Pat Anderson, Troy Cassar-Daley, Adam Goodes, Stan Grant and Ursula Yovich, while their portraits are created using time-lapse footage (view the video clip here). I included some ideas for using the text in the classroom.
The Imagination Declaration (2019)
The second is the Imagination Declaration, developed by the Youth Forum at the Garma Festival, East Arnhem Land, in August 2019. This festival, is described as Australia’s leading Indigenous cultural exchange event.
The message is addressed to the Prime Minister, and to Education Ministers ‘across Australia’. It deserves examination. These are the opening lines:
In 1967, we asked to be counted.
In 2017, we asked for a voice and a treaty.
Today, we ask you to imagine what is possible.
The future of the country lies in all our hands.
These four sentences give historical context, make a request, make an announcement and justify the message. Ministers are asked to ‘think differently’. It is a powerful expectation.
The text states what is not wanted – a world in pain, inequality, powerlessness, being unprepared for current and future challenges, and ‘our own challenges around a cycle of perpetuated disadvantaged’ [sic]. These are ideas we can all relate to.
Note that the use of the word perpetuated recognises that the disadvantage is being done by external agents.
The Ministers are asked to recognise intent:
Expect us to continue carrying the custodianship of imagination, entrepreneurial spirit and genius.
Constructing an effective persuasive text
The message is a demonstration of the elements of a powerful persuasive text. The authors use:
- a range of high modal action and sensing verbs – stare down, confront, re-engineer, transform; imagine, expect, share
- complex noun groups – some of the biggest problems faced by the human race; 60,000 years of genius and imagination; creative agricultural solutions that are in sync with our natural habitat; Aboriginal leadership; an imagination plan for our country’s education system, for all of us
- a variety of sentence types – commands: Test us. Expect the best of us; complex: We urge you to give us the freedom to write a new story.
and highly effective persuasive language features:
- repetition – Expect the unexpected. We don’t want … We don’t want … ; … we asked … we asked … we ask you …
- juxtaposition of ideas – We are not the problem, we are the solution, and other rhetorical devices
- assonance etc.
Hopes and aspirations, and getting the message across
The ability to critically analyse messages comes through knowledge of the ways our language is constructed for different purposes, and awareness of the motives of those composing. Students develop their control over language for different purposes as they develop. They need the opportunity to see, hear and interrogate powerful texts.
Some suggestions are provided below.
More resources for examining positive messages
- Greta Thunberg at #DavosAgenda: Here’s how climate experts responded to her speech here. Posted online on 03/02/2021. Includes significant excerpts from her speech.
- You may like to explore the language used by these young people, on the UNICEF Australia site here
- Reading: Compare the use of persuasive language in these books about activism for younger children here. ‘Click Clack Moo: Cows that type’ by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin is recommended
- Reading: develop students’ knowledge of Indigenous skill and understanding of the land with the following award-winning books:
- – Bruce Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emu’. Research has revealed early British explorers’ descriptions of industry, settlements and villages, food storage and extensive agricultural practices of Indigenous people. It is revealing. Suitable for sharing excerpts with Stage 2 and 3 students.
- Young Dark Emu’ (Magabala Press) is an abridged version. Teachers’ notes for a Stage 3 unit are available through Reading Australia here. PETAA also has a link to the CBCA unit of work for Stage 3 here.
- ‘Cooee Mittigar’ (Jasmine Seymour and Leanne Mulgo Watson, Magabala Press) shows deep understanding of Darug lands. Teaching notes are available on a link from the CBCA website here.
- Stage 1 units of work using texts that include an Indigenous focus are available from the Glenmore Park Learning Alliance.
- ABC’s BTN has an extensive collection of resources. A YouTube video provides explanations about some of the issues around the Statement from the Heart.
Garma Festival 2021
This year’s Garma will take place from Friday 30 July – Monday 2 August, 2021, at Gulkula in northeast Arnhem Land. Ticket registrations will open on Wednesday, 10 February, through the Garma and YYF websites.
From the Garma Website
Garma Festival on ABC RN 29/01/2021 – Interview with Denise Bowden, CEO of the Yothu Yindi Foundation that organises the festival.