The National Library of Australia’s collection includes the Albert Medal awarded to Aya-I-Ga, known as Neighbour, for gallantry. The story behind the award can be found here.
1. Interrogate the medal with students using the following questions:
- Does the object look like something you have seen before? How is it similar or different?
- What is it?
- What is it made of?
- Do the colours mean anything?
- What does the text on the front of the object say?
- What do the monogram, VA, and the crown represent?
- Who do you think might have made the object?
- How do you think people used the object?
- Where do you think the object might have come from?
- How old do you think the object might be?
- Do you think the object has monetary value? Might it have personal value?
- Do you think someone has taken special care of the object? Why?
2. Ask your students to read the background to the awarding of the Albert Medal to Aya-I-Ga, or Neighbour. You may wish to read an excerpt from the Royal Warrant that explains the appointing of Albert Medals, or could provide a summary of the information.
3. Students will conduct a press conference, interviewing key characters from Aya-I-Ga story. Choose five students and give each one a character card. Ask these students to prepare a brief introduction to their character. Assemble the five students on chairs at the front of the class. The characters introduce themselves to the class, outlining their thoughts and feelings about this story.
- Filmmaker—you have been looking for examples of Indigenous heroes to make a film. Describe why you want to make this film and the aspects of the story that interest you the most?
- Constable Johns—you are a Police Officer and will later become Commissioner of Police in Adelaide. Describe the impact this event has had on you, personally and professionally.
- His Majesty King George V—you are the King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions. This is the first time that the Albert Medal has been awarded to an Indigenous person. Describe the implications of this for the British Empire and for the colonies.
- Aya-I-Ga, known as Neighbour—you are an Aboriginal man from the Roper River region of the Northern Territory. You rescued Constable Johns from the flooded Wilton River. Describe the impact of this event on your life at the time. Did the rescue also shape your future life and that of your family? If so, how?
- Amy—you are Neighbour’s daughter. Your father saved at least 31 people from certain death. How does that make you feel? What does the medal symbolise to you?
Press Gallery. Make nine question cards, each bearing one of the questions below. Distribute these cards among the class. Ask each student with a card to stand in turn and ask their question to the character identified on their card.
- Amy, do you think your father’s medal is an inducement to others to do their duty, even towards those who have not treated them well?
- Neighbour, you were awarded the Albert Medal and exempted from a sentence of imprisonment for your alleged crime of theft. Are you happy with these rewards for your act of bravery? If you been asked, is there another reward would you have preferred?
- Constable Johns, why did you try to keep in touch with Neighbour after this event?
- Constable Johns, is it usual police procedure to have prisoners cross flooded, crocodile-infested rivers when transporting them in custody? What steps do you think should be taken to bring prisoners safely to their destination?
- Neighbour, you had walked over 250kms in neck chains before you even reached the flooded river. Can you describe what that was like?
- Neighbour, white man’s law is largely based on the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament. One of commandments is ‘thou shall not steal’. At the time of your arrest for theft, had you ever heard of the Ten Commandments?
- Your Majesty, King George V, do you think the Albert Medal should be reserved for a particular race of people?
- Filmmaker, is it important for Australians to know about this story? Why? What do you think overseas audiences will think of your film? Do you expect it to be a box office hit? If so, why?
- Your Majesty, King George V, you awarded Neighbour a second class bronze Albert Medal for gallantry on land. Neighbour later saved a further 30 people from drowning in yet another flood. Do you think you should upgrade his award to a first class Albert Medal?
Allow other students to ask other questions that they feel are appropriate.
4. While exploring the lives of the people involved in this historical event, students may have discovered that there is no biographical entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography for Aya-I-Ga, or Neighbour. Ask your students to write one.