Australian kids want to learn First Nations words more than other, foreign languages

Children would rather learn a local First Nations language than the commonly-taught Japanese, Mandarin, French, Italian, German and Indonesian, a new poll of primary school students revealed today.

And their parents say learning the history of Australia’s First Nations people is more important for their children than studying the Egyptian pyramids at school.

The Children’s Voice survey released today follows a Federal Opposition announcement last week that it would commit $14 million over 3 years to employ a First Nations Language and Culture Teacher in 60 schools.

The Know Your Country campaign - which has described the ALP policy as a “great first step” - invites  all political parties, Federal and State, to support funding Cultural Educators in every primary school.

The Campaign-commissioned Children’s Voice survey found seven in 10 primary students want to regularly learn from a First Nations Cultural Educator – but only one in three had the opportunity at school last year to meet even one person from the local First Nations community.

Know Your Country ambassador and rock icon Peter Garrett said primary schools were specially placed to set up children for lifelong learning.

“If children are asking to learn more First Nations language and culture then we should listen to them,” he said.

“I’ve spent the last three months on tour around Australia - acknowledging Country at every stop - and I’m seeing how thirsty Australians are for knowledge of First Nations people and culture. Even so, schools not rock concerts should be Australians’ gateway to the world’s oldest living culture.”

“What better way to improve our understanding of culture than to teach young children the languages first spoken on this land thousands of years ago?”


Campaign advisor Professor Tom Calma, AO, from the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, said: “The findings show a genuine hunger from both parents and children themselves to be authentically taught more about the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if the local First Nations language for ‘hello’ rolled off our children’s tongues as easily as Bonjour or Ciao?” he said.

Campaign Co-Chair Scott Winch said Know Your Country was about sharing the gift of that ancient wisdom with all children directly from local First Nations people.

“There’s an incredible power and investment in knowing the history and unique language of the land you are standing on. When children learn directly from a local First Nations educator, our research shows they are more likely to enjoy the class, and develop a thirst to learn even more.”

“It would be terrific if children knew as much about the importance and had a deeper appreciation of local significant sites and creation stories where the children live, play and go to school - as well as Tutankhamun’s tomb and the Pyramids.

Australia is blessed to be home to the world’s oldest living culture. Children need – and want – to learn it from local First Nations people themselves.”

Prof Calma said: “A more holistic education guided by local First Nations Cultural Educators would help build a greater depth of knowledge across more areas, and stronger respect for First Nations people.”

Schools are required to teach First Nations content as an ACARA cross-curriculum priority and teachers are meant to be capable of delivering First Nations content under AITSL teacher standards, Dr Winch said.

“The survey shows limited progress in the 10 years since these important frameworks were implemented,” he said.

“There is minimal delivery of First Nations content across the curriculum, however the survey revealed that when a First Nations person was engaged to teach directly, the number of First Nations topics taught in class actually trebled.”

The Children’s Voice 2022 survey also revealed:

  • More than half (55 per cent) of parents felt learning more about our First Nations peoples in school, such as traditional ways of caring for Country, was much more important than the pyramids and Ancient Egypt.
  • Nearly a third (28 per cent) of parents wanted their children to learn a First Nations language, followed by Japanese (25 per cent), Mandarin (22 per cent), French (15 per cent), Italian (15 per cent), German (10 per cent) and Indonesian (6 per cent). 23 per cent chose ‘other’. Yet most children (63 per cent) did not know a single First Nations word.
  • The overwhelming majority of children (85 per cent) enjoyed learning about First Nations peoples and cultures. If they had direct contact from a local member of the First Nations community, students’ enjoyment increased to 92 per cent.
  • Most Australian parents with primary school-aged kids want governments to fund local First Nations cultural educators and see it as an important way to help heal and unify the nation.

Know Your Country ambassador Justine Clarke said: “What are we doing to ensure our kids get a much better education than the one we received about local First Nations Country, people, culture and language?

“Australian children have a hunger to connect with their country and this ancient and unique history that we share, our cultural educators need to be remunerated for their knowledge and expertise and our teachers are screaming out for authentic support to teach this part of the curriculum with confidence. Know Your Country is the answer.”

The Know Your Country campaign - run by a First Nations-led coalition - is asking for all Parliamentarians, at all levels of Government to commit to ongoing funding for schools to employ First Nations cultural educators.

(The survey of 650 primary school students was conducted by polling company McNair Yellow Squares in February this year.)

For more information contact: 

Elissa Doherty on 0409994433 or


Know Your Country is a national coalition campaign led by a First Nations Advisory Panel. To learn more visit:

The survey sampled a statistically relevant number of parents (630) with a child who attends Primary School. 


“Where I live there seems to be lots of Aboriginal stuff around our community. But we never get to discuss it at school. It would be cool and important. I wish I understood it and could explain it.” 

-Zoe, Prep, Victoria

"I want to learn more about bush foods people ate. They are the people that lived here first and they are very important to us so we should learn about them a bit more I think."

- Noah, Grade 1, Queensland

"I am Aboriginal but we only have a painted wall and a room to visit. We do acknowledge in our assembly but that's it"

-Lacy, Grade 5, SA

“I like the stories we read at home about Aboriginal things. But we don't learn about it at school. I wish we did. It would be fun. I'd like to learn about the seasons or animals because I think Aboriginal people think about those things differently. And how they look after the land.”

- Alba, Prep, Victoria

“I really want to learn more because it's really important to me. Because I want to care about them and care for them.”

-Micah, Prep, Victoria

“We could have learnt more.  Would like to learn more about their living conditions and how they live in community, and about how they were treated by early settlers.”

-Mia, Grade 5, Victoria

“We had Jack from high school come to my school and showed us how to use a Boomerang. And he showed us some Aboriginal items. My Art teacher taught me about Bunjil the eagle and how important he is. We learnt about Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. We used to have only the Australian flag at the front of our school. Now we have Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal flags. We read some dreamtime story books the Aboriginal people read to their kids and get passed on. We made and painted our own boomerangs.”

- Samuel, Grade 2, Victoria

"I don't know enough about Aboriginal culture. We were learning from home most of the year and did not do any history lessons at all."

-Kyriae, Grade 5, Victoria

“I felt that the teacher didn't use language simple enough for me and my classmates to understand. I want to know more about their artwork and their bush tucker which we learned a little about in geography and science classes in the school garden.” 

– Bella, Grade 4, NSW

“I love learning in the Djurwalinjang group at school about Aboriginal culture and would like to learn more about the animals and language.”

-Holly, Grade 1, NSW

“I'd like to learn some new and different information, learn more than the introductory stuff.”

-Joel, Grade 6, NSW

“I don't like hearing the same information every year about how white people took over the country and hurt and killed Aboriginal people. I do like learning about the Wadandi names for places, plants and animals. We learned Yallingup doesn't means 'place of love', it means 'place of holes or caves'. I also liked tasting Wadandi food like samphire. Our school created a ceramic mural based on the Wadandi six seasons which I like. Students say a Welcome (Acknowledgement) to Country in Wadandi before each assembly which is good. We also have the didgeridoo playing in the National Anthem at our school.”

-Lachlan, Grade 5, WA

“I learnt about the Stolen Generation and that people would knock on Aboriginal people’s doors and take their kids to the government and they would get their new family and learn at a school as the government thought it was right at that time that people could just knock-on doors and take their kids as they thought the aboriginal parents would not be able to teach their kids. 'I feel like it was good to learn that life was not always like this and there was a time before this, and I think it's important to learn this about our First Nations people'.”

-Kiera, Grade 5, Victoria

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