How to teach kids about First Nations history
Author, muso and proud Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara man, Isaiah Firebrace wrote Come Together to teach kids about First Nations History and to help connect with the longest continuing culture on Earth.
CHILDHOOD & FAMILY
What made you want to write this book?
This book really came from my experience as a First Nations person in primary and high school. Back then, there wasn’t a resource like this available in the classroom or libraries. We were also not taught First Nations history. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I felt proud of my culture and history. A year ago, I started a Change.org to call for more representation of First Nations people in the classroom. The Change.org and my lived experience really inspired me to write a book like Come Together, and to teach children the true history of “Australia”.
Can you share a bit about where you come from and your upbringing?
I was born in Portland, Victoria and I grew up with my dad and my brother in the border town, Moama, NSW. I’ve always had a sense of who I am and knew from the get go that I was Indigenous. I grew up knowing which tribe and country I’m from. That being said, it wasn’t until I grew into adulthood when I started to ask why I didn’t learn as much about First Nations people in school.
Can you share a bit about your family?
I am one of 12 kids, the second youngest of 12 kids. I grew up with just my dad and my brother, even though I come from a big family, we’ve been separated for a long time. They are a huge support pillar for me. My dad has always been someone I’ve relied on for wisdom and he is always encouraging me to be the best I can be. He taught me to always look on the bright side of things and have faith in everything that I do.
Dad is a proud First Nations man and that helped me have a sense of community with other First Nations people. He always strived for me and my brother to embody Blak excellence and excel in things that we were systematically told we could not excel in. He always wanted us to be the best that we could be and be proud that are both Blak and successful. He always told us to strive for greatness and excellence, and that we don’t have to fit the stereotype we have been told by society to be.
What does this book do?
This book fills that big gap in children’s books and is something that I would have liked to have as a kid as it touches on caring for country, the dreaming, and how First Nations People use the stars as a map. I am a proud First Nations person and a lot of my work rallies around our stories being heard, seen, respected and celebrated. This book will teach kids about Aboriginal history and I hope First Nations children feel represented and seen in the pages of Come Together.
I was a happy-go-lucky kind of child. As a kid, race and difference was not something that I knew. But as I grew older, I realised I was missing a deeper connection to who I was. As an adult, I realised that I didn’t know much about my culture and why I was “different” to white people. I was only taught about my people on dedicated cultural days like NAIDOC week. I was never taught indigenous history in school and looking back, I would have liked to have a book like this as a kid.
What have you learnt about yourself from creating this book?
I feel so much more connected to who I am now that I’ve written this book. Through this process, I’ve learnt so much about who I am and now have a deeper understanding about my history and culture. It was very much a personal journey for me writing this book and I hope that it gives as much to others as it has to me. It has been incredibly healing to have a deep understanding of First Nations culture and to be more connected to my people.
What is one thing you’d like kids to understand from this book?
At the end of it, I really hope to teach kids about First Nation's history and I hope they walk away with one thing that they didn’t previously know about First Nations culture and people. I hope they have a new perspective and newfound respect. I want all kids to know that we are on this journey of coming together. And for First Nations kids to understand they are so deeply part of this country’s history and culture.
CULTURE AND BECOMING A GOOD ALLY
What is something you have learnt about your culture recently that has surprised you?
When I was writing this book, one of the things I was most interested in was Songlines and what it means to First Nations people. It was something I knew a bit about prior but when I did my own research and spoke to elders about it, it made me prouder to be a First Nations musician. Songlines is about making up a song to help you remember where you are. And as a singer, it made me feel more connected to my work and culture.
What makes a good Ally?
A good Ally is someone who listens and stands up for First Nations people. It’s someone who is kind and actively listens. It’s someone who educates themselves on the issues that First Nations people face and amplifies First Nations voices.
For more info on Come Together and teaching kids about First Nations history head here.