Aboriginal perspectives for all learners

The difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies and perspectives

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies are units of study focusing on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and their lands, histories, cultures and/or issues. Such studies are usually embedded in society and environment but because of their holistic nature, can achieve Outcomes across the curriculum.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives are relevant perspectives in all other units of work.

The two approaches are complementary. It is critical to include both approaches, because to teach only one way conveys to students that the other way doesn't matter. Learners need comprehensive understanding achieved through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies to appreciate Australia's unique cultural heritage and to understand the importance of perspectives in other units of study.

Suggestions for Aboriginal perspectives in all areas of learning follow. Additional information can be found in Aboriginal perspectives across the curriculum, Aboriginal perspectives on the early years publications and other handouts from the Aboriginal Education reference library and Aboriginal Education personnel.

Using relevant and effective methods

Ideally learners should learn as often as possible directly from Indigenous Australian people when learning about their cultures. When this is not possible in person, it can be facilitated through recommended resources, such as books, songs, audio, video and electronic links developed by and with Aboriginal people and/or through telephone, fax and video communication.

Teaching methods should include those which help develop learners understanding and empathy as well as those which develop skills and knowledge. Methods should actively involve learners in learning, allow for a variety of learning styles, develop skills in critical analysis and involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their stories and viewpoints.

Recommended methods include role-play, viewing, listening, reading, researching, writing, observing, small group work, field trips and excursions, guest speakers, practical skills in artefact making and food preparation, puppetry, mapping, storytelling, visual arts, drama, dance, comparing and contrasting, imaginative writing and much more.

Those using resource-based learning methods should take care to ensure that children and students do not have access to unsuitable resources, whether in the school library or online. Outcomes may not reflect intentions and may reinforce stereotyped or prejudiced views which must be challenged if resource based learning is used alone as a method without involving Aboriginal people and recommended curriculum and resources.

Mapping Aboriginal studies from Early to Senior years

By mapping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies across the school and between primary and secondary schools, repetition is avoided and prior learning is built on. Units of study typically extend from five to ten weeks for Years R-10, to one or two semesters at SACE Stages 1 and 2. Schools with significant enrolments of Aboriginal learners can readily involve Aboriginal people in lessons and in visits to Aboriginal organisations. Other schools can facilitate such visits with the support of district Aboriginal Education personnel.

To enable learners to differentiate their current and prior learning and help avoid the comment ‘We’ve done this before’, units of study in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies will have a range of titles, for example: Adnyamathanha studies; Narungga cultural studies; The Ngarrindjeri people; Thukeri-the bony bream; Aboriginal people, geology and mining; What’s Mabo about?; Astronomy and Australian Indigenous peoples; and more.

See Resources for Aboriginal studies curriculum support.



Design and technology




Health and physical education








Society and environment


For planning, educators should refer to the SACSA Scope and Outcome statements which refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Units of work in Aboriginal studies will invariably produce Outcomes which link to the strands - place, space and environment; time, continuity and change; social systems; and societies and cultures as well as other Learning Areas.

Each learner should have a growing knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal heritage, experiences and issues - past, present and future.

Learning should reflect a diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences and include skills of mapping, document studies, oral history, critical analysis of contemporary issues, excursions to relevant places, visits from and to Aboriginal people and role-play of Aboriginal history.

Educators should seek support for implementation from Aboriginal Education personnel.