National Sorry Day, Australia – Aboriginal Art – Dot Painting

May 26 is National Sorry Day in Australia. It has been an annual event since 1997 to remember and atone for policies that ripped 50,000 Aboriginal children from their families, resulting in a “Stolen Generation.”

Image from GetUp , a not-for-profit organisation. See link for more information on National Sorry Day.

I thought today would be the perfect day for the kids (and myself haha) to try dot painting!

Image from Kirkland Museum.

Dot painting is a traditional visual form of storytelling by the Aborigines of Australia. Natural canvas such as leaves, bark and wood are painted with paint made of sand, ochre, and seeds. Paintings often depict elaborate patterns and symbols. These symbols often help create Dreamtime stories which taught about life and Creation. To read more about Dreamtime stories, the origins of Aboriginal Dot Painting, or to see more examples of Dot Painting, visit:

Didges We Doo

National Museum of Australia

Kate Owen Gallery

For our dot painting lesson, we’ll need:

  • Q-tips (cotton swabs or sticks)
  • Paint (we stuck with our Crayola Washable Paints but acrylics is preferred)
  • Construction paper (or you can use leaves, rocks, tree bark, etc)
  • Didgeridoo music

For our little gnomes, I first showed them some pictures of dot painting on the laptop. I explained to them the origins of dot painting and how the paintings were used by Aboriginal elders to tell stories to children. Then I found some symbols used in Aboriginal art.

Aboriginal Art Graphic Symbols and Meanings

Image from Aboriginal Art Shop

aboriginal symbols

Image from Didges We Doo

Then I drew an outline of a sea turtle on each of their white construction paper

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Then I helped demonstrate and explain the technique behind dot painting. Tell your child to gently dip their Q-tip in their paint and dot along the outline of their picture. If you push too hard, the dot will be wider. Keep your Q-tip as straight as possible or your dots will look more like inconsistent blobs. 🙂 This is a great way to practice our fine motor skills! It does take some concentration.

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So far so good….

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Uh oh! The temptation to use our fingers and hands was too great!

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Well, that escalated quickly!

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Haha I wonder what story this tells….of poor sea turtle.

Managed to save one. Here’s the unsullied version of a fish and an Aboriginal symbol for “meeting place.”

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