Australian Aboriginal people: a fun introduction

Author: Jill McDougall
Lesson Plan:

An Introduction to contemporary Australian Indigenous Culture 


    This lesson is based on poems from Anna the Goanna and other poems by Jill McDougall (available through It provides a colorful snapshot of the lives of modern-day indigenous children in outback Australia. 


  1. Introduce the book of poems Anna the Goanna and explain that it features contemporary Aboriginal Australians.
  2. Read the poem Going Hunting on page 6.
      My father goes hunting for turkey,
      My brother goes hunting for toys,
      My mum and my nanna,
      Go hunting goanna,
      But sister goes hunting for boys!

    Background: Traditionally, Australian indigenous people used spears and other weapons to hunt animals such as kangaroo, emu and bush turkey. The women hunted smaller game such as goanna. Today some people still hunt meat to supplement store-bought supplies. 

    The illustrations show a combination of traditional culture (hunting goanna with a stick) and contemporary culture (riding a bike). Find other examples on the page of how Aboriginal culture has adapted over time.

  3. Read the poem Sleep p. 8

    The illustration shows a cross-section with a goanna, a child and a crow asleep in their various ‘beds’. 

    Why is the child sleeping outdoors? Long ago indigenous Australians in the desert generally slept under the stars with a fire to keep them warm. These days, many indigenous youngsters still enjoy camping out, listening to the sounds of the night and enjoying the warmth of a campfire.

    Note the red sand of the flat desert landscape of central Australia. Here the days are warm but the nights can be chilly. 

  4. Read the poem Honey Ant p. 28

    This is a fun performance poem for two groups. Before practising the piece, examine the huge illustration of the honey ant. Honey ants are a traditional food for some Aboriginal Australians and are still hunted today. 

    Background information:

      Honey ants have a small yellow stripe on their backs and dig deep underground tunnels in areas where mulga tree grows. The ants are full of nectar and hang from the ceilings of the underground chambers. The nectar this is squeezed and eaten as a sweet treat. Finding and digging honey ants out of the ground is hard work. 

      The Honey Ant Dreaming belongs to the Warlpiri people in central Australia. The term ‘Dreaming’ refers to a person’s or group’s beliefs and has connections with the landscape and the natural and spiritual worlds. Dreaming stories contain social and moral laws that provide a framework for life. Dreaming holds past, present and future as one.

  5. Give the class time to browse through the other thirty-three poems and pore over the illustrations. Allow students to share their favorite poems.
  6. Use the final poem Reconciliation as a springboard to discussing the connection between all peoples sharing our planet.
      Black fella
      White fella
      Dark fella
      Light fella.

      Different outside
      Same within
      Same blood
      Different skin.

      Same planet
      Same sun
      We are many
      We are one.