Exploring Geography: Australian Dreaming

Exploring Geography at Mama Smiles

Today’s Exploring Geography post comes from Boy Mama Teacher Mama, a blog where parents and teachers can come to learn, share, and find common ground with others who are living life from a boy’s point of view. I  especially like this blog’s Word Family Practice Tube, Condensed Milk Painting, and Alphabet Hop Game.

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We have been living in Australia for a very short time, only a little over a year in fact, but in that time, I have tried my best to expose my boys to every aspect of Australian culture today and yesterday.

map of Australia

For those of you who are unsure or just don’t know, the original inhabitants of Australia are called the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders people (called simply Aboriginals from here on with no offense intended to the Torres Strait Islanders People). The Aboriginal people have lived in Australia and its islands for over sixty thousand years – long before the Europeans came and settled here. The Aboriginals have a long and interesting history. Their story is very similar to the Native Americans in the United States and the First People of Canada. They were here, established and thriving until their land was stolen from them. Fortunately, much of the Aboriginal culture is still alive today because of the members of their community, and because of their unwillingness to give up and give in.

One of the most fascinating things about the Aboriginal culture, in my opinion, is their stories. I have always been fascinated by Pourquoi tales, or stories that tell of how or why something came to be. As a teacher, one of my favorite things to do was to share stories and traditions with my students to give them a broader understanding of the world, and to hopefully instill in them a greater respect for others. So, before moving to Australia, I immersed my sons in everything Australian I could find, including books (fiction and non-fiction), photographs, music, maps, and websites. And, once again I fell in love. This time, it was with the stories of the Dreaming. These are the stories told over and over for thousands of years by the Aboriginal people. These stories that explain why things are the way they are and that teach one how to behave.

Australian birds

What is the Dreaming? The Dreaming was a time long, long ago when animals, plants and insects behaved like humans. Before the Dreaming, the earth was flat and grey. There were no mountains, rivers, birds or animals. Nothing was living. During the Dreaming, giant creatures rose from the ground where they had been sleeping for ages. These creatures or “Beings” looked like animals, plants and insects, but behaved like humans. They wandered the land looking for food, water and shelter, and as they did, they made huge ravines and rivers in the land and the world took on the shape it has today. The Aboriginal people believe that the traditional way of life was established by these Beings and that these Beings taught their ancestors about their native land and taught them how to behave.

There are so many stories from the Dreaming, but Lyrebird the Mimic is by far my favorite. Before reading the story, you should know a little about the Lyrebird. This is one talented bird! It can mimic ANY sound from the calls of other birds to man-made noises such as a jack-hammer or a camera shutter. If you want to know more about the Lyrebird- and I know you do – check out this video from the BBC Wildlife: Lyrebird.

Other Dreamtime Stories:

How Birds Got their Colors: An Aboriginal Story told by Mary Albert

How the Kangaroos got their Tails by George Mung Mung Lirrmiyarri

Stories from the Billabong by James Vance Marshall

Australian kangaroo

Other Pourquoi Tales From Around the World:

How the Animals Got Their Colors: Animal Myths from Around the World by Michael Rosen and Marcia Rosen

Misoso: Once Upon a Time Tales from Africa by Verna Aardema

When the World Was Young: Creation and Pourquoi Tales by Margaret Mayo

Written by Boy Mama Teacher Mama 2012

Thank you for this post, Boy Mama Teacher Mama! I’m excited to read some of those dreamtime stories and Pourquoi tales with my kids!

Email mamasmilesblog at gmail dot com if you are interested in contributing to this series. You can find all of the Exploring Geography posts listed by country (including two more posts about Australia!) on the Exploring Geography page.

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

12 thoughts on “Exploring Geography: Australian Dreaming”

  1. Ness @ One Perfect Day

    What a comprehensive post! That video is amazing too. I always enjoyed learning about the Dreamtime stories at school, especially the one about how Ulluru was formed.

  2. I always enjoyed Kipling’s Just So stories – many of them have the same premise. How funny that you and I have a post on Australia on the same day :)

  3. If there was one place I could go visit…it would be Australia!
    This post was awesome!
    I know I don’t leave the country on my travels…but I try to teach my kids the culture of the each place!
    Unfortunately our country is losing the different cultures…but if you dig..you can find it! :)

  4. So informative. Thank you! A son spent time in Australia and his learning about the aboriginal people there promoted such greater understanding of our Native American situation. Sometimes we can see things in others more easily than in ourselves!

    1. “Sometimes we can see things in others more easily than in ourselves” – so very true! And a great reason to learn as much as we can about the world and its many cultures!

  5. Kim @ The Educators Spin On It

    Australia is one of the places I’ve told my husband he will take me someday after all the trips we’ve taken to India to visit his family. I’m off to go check out all these Dream Time story links you’ve shared, thanks! I’m excited that we’re focusing on Australia in our next post for Around the World in 12 Dishes on August 5th.

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