Website link to activities at Cococabana school website

Stage 2
Human Society and Its Environment.
Overview: This unit provides opportunities for students to explore issues related to Australia’s original inhabitants, explorers before the British and the British arrival and occupation of Australia. The unit focuses on the evaluation of viewpoints about the consequences of British colonisation for people, groups and the environment, and on formulating informed opinions.

Outcomes and Indicators

Describes events and actions related to the British colonization of Australia and assesses changes and consequences.
ü sequences significant events related to human occupation in Australia
ü explains the roles played by significant people during the British colonisation of Australia as a penal colony
ü describes some of the consequences of British invasion for Aboriginal peoples
ü identifies the consequences of the assumption of terra nullius by the British Government
ü describes the involvement of people and groups from other countries in Australia’s heritage, including European and Asian contact and exploration
ü describes aspects of ways of life and achievements in the early colony for male and female convicts and exconvicts, the military and their families, officials and officers, Aboriginal people, free settlers
ü refers to different viewpoints and perspectives on a significant historical event
ü explains why terms such as ‘invasion’, ‘occupation’, ‘settlement’, ‘exploration’ and ‘discovery’ reflect different perspectives on the same event
ü acquires and critically evaluates information from source material.
Describes people’s interactions with environments and identifies responsible ways of interacting with environments.
ü identifies the consequences of using features, sites and places in different ways
ü identifies issues about the care of places in the community or places of importance to them.

The Board’s website ( lists current available resources such as some selected background information sheets, websites, texts and other material to support this unit. The teacher-librarian for available primary and secondary sources that present various perspectives — texts, CD-ROMs,
documents, letters, novels, biographies, autobiographies, paintings.
Encyclopedias such as The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia (Horton (ed), 1994), Australians: A Historical Library (1987).
CD-ROM databases that include information on the First Fleet.
Extracts from videos and television programs that re-enact events of this time from various perspectives, eg Babakeiria. An excursion to the historic sites associated with prior occupation and early British occupation of Sydney. Aboriginal education consultant (government schools) or local Aboriginal Land Council, families of Aboriginal students, Aboriginal education workers, local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG).
Links to other KLA’s:

English: The structure and language features of the text types students create and interpret (see above).

Creative and Practical Arts: Collages, 3D modelling, drawings, murals.

Learning Experiences

Learning Sequence 1: Original Inhabitants –
What Was Life Like for Aboriginal People Before British Colonisation?
ü Explain to students that the Australian continent has always been multicultural. Before 1788, there were approximately 500 different language groups or nations. Current scientific understandings indicate that Aboriginal occupation dates back to between 50 000 and possibly 100 000 years before present (BP). Many Aboriginal people believe that they have always been here.
ü After reading about settlement and Captain Cooks voyage. Students are to compile a 'Y' chart on what they see, hear and feel had they been there in early pre colonisation era.
ü Using an Aboriginal languages map, point out the diversity of Aboriginal cultures in Australia. Jointly locate the Aboriginal language group for your local community. Find the names of the Aboriginal peoples who came from the area now known as Sydney.
ü Using pictures from online and in books, students are to use words to describe what life was like for Aboriginals before Colonisation.
ü Have students investigate Aboriginal place names and food sources in the local area.


Learning Sequence 2: Explorers before the British
ü Before commencing this sequence students will need to be aware of the context of European colonisation. During the 17th and 18th centuries, sea-going European countries were expanding their power and wealth through the creation of colonies. This process, called colonisation, created new markets and provided resources for European economies. Exploration, eg da Gama’s search for the Spice Islands, played an important role in colonisation.
ü Have students, in groups, research early explorers of Australia and produce an information report on each, eg Jansz, Torres, Hartog, Thijssen, Tasman. I
ü Using a map, have students indicate areas of Australia charted before Cook and have them use a string or tape to indicate from where these explorers journeyed. Discuss the evidence of this activity, eg trade relations between the Macassan people of Indonesia and Aboriginal peoples of the Gulf of Carpentaria and Arnhem Land, the Dauphin map.
ü Refer to James Cook’s voyage and have students map his route. I
ü Have students examine excerpts from James Cook’s diary and discuss his impressions of Australia’s peoples and land features. Jointly view drawings of flora and fauna observed on the voyage.
The ROCKS EXCURSION - Write a class recount of the Rocks Excursion and the discussion from the Tour guide about the history of Circular key, Captain Cook and the Rocks.

Learning Sequence 3: The British Arrival
ü Jointly view videos, paintings or pictures that depict conditions in England before the First Fleet. Discuss why convicts were transported to Australia.
ü Discuss and jointly map the journey of the First Fleet to Sydney Cove. What were conditions like for the various groups on board? What did they bring with them?
ü Present other historical recounts to students concerning various aspects of colonisation. Prior to reading from the texts, have students suggest the problems that the various groups from the colony might have encountered (governors, convicts, soldiers, women, free settlers). Compare these suggestions with the indications from the recounts. Ask questions such as ‘Who wrote the text?’, ‘Is the author writing a first-hand (personally seen/experienced) or secondhand (conveyed by another person) account?’.
ü Have students independently research one of the convicts in preparation for an information report. A short factual recount could also be developed, including the reason the convict was transported, where they were sentenced, the length of their transportation, the ship they were transported on, their age and other statistics. Students could draw a picture of how this person may have looked and write a summary of the information gained, then locate this person on a class display of the ships of the First Fleet. I
ü Brainstorm some questions that may arise as a result of the students’ research, eg Were there more men than women on the First Fleet? Were there special ships that did not have convicts? If so, what did they carry? What age were most of the convicts? What occupations did most of the convicts have before being transported? For what reasons were most convicts transported? Where did most of the convicts come from (England or Ireland? London or the provinces?)? Were there particular ships for the different sexes?
ü Have students, in groups, find answers to the questions generated and reflect on the nature of the data. Have students develop information reports as oral presentations. I
ü Explain to students that history is recorded through primary and secondary sources. Lead them to understand that many incidents regarding Aboriginal people are missing from official accounts of Australian history. Very few records remain of the words or views of Aboriginal people at the time of contact. Ask students to think of reasons why this might be so, eg Aboriginal deaths, a selective recording of events, the oral nature of Aboriginal history. (One of the least-known aspects of Australia’s history is the resistance of Aboriginal people to the British dispossession. Pemulwuy waged a guerilla war against the British for 15 years, yet, like many acts of Aboriginal resistance, his campaign was left out of official reports.)
ü Ask students why they think there are few women’s voices from this time.
ü Have students consider the colonisation ‘from the ship’ and ‘from the shore’. Discuss the following: Why do many Aboriginal people observe Australia Day as Survival Day? Do you think the British Government would have seen the establishment of the colony as an invasion? Have students consider the terms discovered and explorer. Do you think Aboriginal people would have used these terms to describe colonisation? How might they have seen it? I
ü Explain to students that the British chose to establish their colony on the land belonging to the Cadigal clan of the Eora people, who called Sydney Harbour Tuhbowgule. Ask students to list changes to the environment that might have resulted from the construction of the colony, eg tree-felling, construction of buildings, roads and fences, depletion of local resources, introduced animals, land-clearing. As early as May 1788, food shortages among the Eora people were reported. Ask students to discuss and list the possible reasons for this. Explain that the Eora people were exposed to diseases against which they had no immunity. Coastal communities were decimated by smallpox epidemics. As the colony spread out from Sydney, Aboriginal peoples to the north and west of Sydney were forced to relocate away from their country. However, smallpox preceded the expansion of the colony and many Aboriginal people died before any contact with Europeans.
ü Using the writings of the diarists at the time of colonisation, such as Cook, Phillip, Tench and Dawes, have students research the nature of contacts between Aboriginal people and the British (colonists, soldiers and convicts). Refer to Information Sheet 2: ‘Diary Extracts from the Time of Colonisation’ at the end of this unit.
ü Have students, in groups, construct a matrix of the similarities and differences between the Eora people and the colonists. This might include food, housing, language, culture, belief systems, attitudes towards land, technology.
ü Explore this account with students: Why do you think the Aboriginal people thought that the fish belonged to them? What does this tell you about the British and Eora people’s knowledge and understanding of each other’s laws? Ask students to suggest other things that each may not have known about the other.

Learning Sequence 4: Consequences of British Colonisation for Aboriginal People
ü Investigate the impact of British occupation on the Eora people of the Sydney region, and their response to it. Construct a consequence chart, eg:


Loss of the land Imposition of colonial rule
(the economic, social, cultural and spiritual base)
resistance loss of lif
loss of food resources
no access to sacred sites disease murder social isruptio
population decrease

ü Ask students to consider how these events might affect Aboriginal people today.
ü Investigate key people from the various groups associated with the early British colonisation — governors, settlers, explorers, convicts, women, soldiers, Aboriginal people. Use case studies of particular people to compare their life with others in the colony, eg Arabanoo, Bennelong, Elizabeth Macarthur, Francis Greenway, James Ruse, Richard Johnson, Lachlan Macquarie, Mary Reiby, (Key focus for assessment) Pemulwuy.
ü Have students reflect on life in the colony and consider the positive and negative aspects of living in early Sydney for the different groups. They could then represent this visually, perhaps using computer technology.
ü Explain to students that the dispossession of Aboriginal people occurred all over Australia in different ways and at different times. Locate information about the initial contact between Aboriginal people and the colonists in your local area, including the name of the language group, the year and nature of initial contact (eg Wiradjuri people, 1815 in the Bathurst area). Students should be helped to understand that where it is difficult to find information, it is because it is missing and not because contact did not occur.

Note: As an extension, teachers may wish students to examine the expansion of the colony, including the role of explorers such as Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson, Hume and Hovell, Oxley, Sturt, Bass and Flinders.

Great unit to use for worksheets and readings.Assessment:Students to write a Factual Recount on Mary Reiby after a historical look at her life.