Thursday, 14 August 2014

Introducing Australian History

Over the past few years, we have learnt about Australian history through different events, such as Anzac Day, as it has provoked questions and stirred an interest. Knowing that my son loves stories, I introduced him to history through different picture books and from there, other hands-on learning activities have evolved. 

When I first looked at history, I thought about using the illustrated history books Our Sunburnt Country by Arthur Baillie and Our Australian Story by Janette Cassey Ingham. My son is still young and although these books are fantastic, I wanted to start with something simpler, something we could use in small learning moments.

The First People
It is important to me that my children know that Australia's history started with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The Papunya School Book of Country and History books gives a honest recount of Australian history through the eyes of the Papunya people, who live in Central Australia. This book provoked lots of questions with my children as they began to understand the impact that Australia's history has had on the indigenous population.

We were inspired by the illustrations of this book to looked at different indigenous traditions such as dot paintings. We watched this YouTube clip on learning have to dot paint before trying it for ourselves.

We had seen the Aboriginal flag flying in different places and my son wanted to know more about it, what the colours mean and how it represented the indigenous people.This lead us to more painting.

We have been lucky enough to be able to visit Uluru. Uluru is a sacred place to the Anangu, the aboriginal people of that area, and it plays a major role in many of their dream time stories. While we were there, we learned about how the Uluru, which is made of sandstone, was created through their dream time stories. We were able to see traditional aboriginal ceremonies, different cultural artwork and their sacred paintings on the rock. It was an amazing learning experience, both culturally and historically, for all of us. You can read more about our Learning About Uluru and the resources we used.

At some point in our learning, we got talking about who drew the first map of Australia. We talked about the different explorers who sailed across the ocean and mapped parts of the Australian coast line. We read this book, Meet Captain Cook by Rae Murdie, which told us more about Captain Cooks journey to Australia and the events that unfolded. (aff link)

My son took an interest in Captain Cooks boat so I helped him sketch the outline of Captain Cooks boat and he enjoyed painting it.

The First Fleet
My son showed no interested in learning about the First Fleet but we did end up watching this YouTube clip about The First Fleet and listening to songs such as Botany Bay - Farewell to old England Forever.

British Settlement
After the first fleet, the British settlement too place over a span of many years with lots of changes happening to the landscape and to the native people. We read the book Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Paterson and Freya Blackwood, to help illustrate what the early years of British settlement would have been like. Most of Banjo Paterson's writings give you an illustration of the early years in Australia such as the A Bush Christening.

Inland Explorers
There were many inland explorers who helped map parts of central Australia. We have briefly talked about the inland explorers Burke and Willis but there is no real interest in that yet. I have, however, stumbled across Jackie French's historical books such as The Camel Who Crossed Australia (aff link) which I hope to read with my children one day as a way of learning about history through stories.

Gold Rush
The gold rush years, in 1860's, changed Australia drastically. My son borrowed a book called Gold! : The Fascinating Story of Gold in Australia by John Nicholson, from our local library which helped us understand the events that shaped and changed Australian around the gold rush era. One day, I hope to take my son panning for gold as this would help him make the connection between what we have read.

Ned Kelly
We came across a status of Ned Kelly in our travels and this provoked questions about this famous person in our history. I found the book Meet Ned Kelly by Janeen Brian and Matt Adams which helped explain the story of Ned Kelly and how he became an outlaw.

Post Federation
After federation in 1901, Australia was involved in a number of world events including world wars. We have learnt about Australia's involvement in war by learning about Anzac Day. Each year, my son gains a better understanding of Anzac day and what it means to Australians. 

Other Resources
We have used other resources such as the My Place book and the My Place DVD Series to understand Australian History better and to grasp the meaning of change and continuity. By reading the book and watching the series, it brings history alive and makes it relatable from a child's prospective. When my children are older, I will be sharing with them some early Australian history movies such as Rabbit Proof Fence as well as We Of The Never Never and First Australians

I also have found another history series by Jackie French called Fair Dinkum Histories which I do hope to use in the future for more learning about Australian history. 

Recently, I put together these Australian History Timeline Cards and information. I ended up making my own cards as I could not find any. So here I am sharing them with you. My idea of using these cards is to create a simple timeline of Australian history events and use them to provoke discussion and hopefully, spark an interest.You can download my cards from here.

If you would like to see more learning ideas on Australia, my Australian History pinterest board is full of ideas.


  1. this is all wonderful... I was just thinking.. do you think that kids who are h/s interested in more finer things in life eg Aborginal flags, australian flags, history bit more than children in schools?

  2. We miss seeing your posts over at the Kids Learning Printables Linky Party! Hope to see you back soon! :)

  3. Thanks so much! Great ideas :)

  4. Hey you have beautifully described Australian history through Aboriginal Art. I loved your idea of exploring history in such a pretty manner. I am a artist and I really appreciate your efforts.

  5. Awesome work Im so humbled that you Acknowledged my people (Aborigines) in your lesson. As a culture we have so much to share now you can pass this on in a positive way. :)

  6. Suzie... This is fantastic! Thank you so very much for taking the time to share all this and for laying it out in such a clear way - the timeline and the resources. I really appreciate it - this has helped me a lot :) Thank you xxxx