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Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline

Book Details

Take a trip into the past––from the explosive beginnings of our planet to modern-day Australia. Featuring succinct entries on historical moments over the past 47 billion years, Australian Story covers ecological change, politics, invention, war, immigration, celebration, culture, modern technology and more.

Illustrated with a striking collection of photographs and images from the National Library of Australia, this is history for children like never before. Australian Story is a fascinating snapshot of our country—it tells us who we once were, who we are today … and where we are going.

Australian Story is aimed at children in both Key Stage I and II.

Tania McCartney

About the Author

Tania McCartney is an author of children’s books and adult non-fiction. Her works include You Name It (Hodder Headline, 1995), Handmade Living: A Designer Collective (Handmade Press, 2010) and the Riley the Little Aviator series (latest title: Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A Journey around Melbourne, Ford Street Publishing, 2011).

She is also an established magazine writer, editor and blogger. Tania is fascinated by history. She studied modern history as part of her university studies and is an avid reader of history books. She lives in Canberra with her husband, two kids and a mountain of books.


Teachers' Notes

These teachers’ notes are designed for children in Key Stage I to early Key Stage II, and can be adapted for older Key Stage II students by adding more complexity (provided below).

Book Study


Ideal for: complementing English and History and Indigenous study units, popular and Australian culture units, technology and internet usage; understanding book production, media and research methods; appreciating the National Library’s collection of images

In compiling the entries for Australian Story, the author carried out her research by searching the internet, reading history books, looking at images from the National Library of Australia’s Digital Collection, and having discussions with teachers, historians, members of government departments, and other people.

Discuss with the students ways they could research a history book on their own life. Who might they approach to research their story?

For older children: have them complete research projects on their own lives, complete with pictures set in chronological order.


Ideal for: complementing English and History and Indigenous study units; developing an understanding of time

The idea behind Australian Story was to write an historical account in chronological order. Ask the students what ’chronology’ means. Ask them to take key moments from their own life history and sort them into chronological order.


Ideal for: complementing English and History and Indigenous study units, popular and Australian culture units; developing an understanding of research processes, media, technology and internet usage; appreciating the National Library’s collection of images

Most children’s books published by the National Library of Australia require the use of its extensive and impressive digital collection of photographs, sketches, prints, paintings, ephemera and other imagery. Australian Story incorporates many images from this collection.

Visit the National Library’s Digital Collection, http://www.nla.gov.au/digicoll/pictures.html, and have the students search a particular entry from the book by clicking on the ‘search catalogue’ link in the right-hand column. Have the students refine the search by clicking on the drop-down menus next to the search field; for example, children can ‘add limits’ by choosing to search for Picture only.

For older children: when they have chosen an image from the collection, have them discuss the image details listed in the catalogue and what each part means, for example:

Bib ID—bibliographical identifier
Format—whether the image is a picture, and whether it is available online
Online versions—shows the enlarged image
Notes—details of the image and how the title was devised
Subjects—what ‘tags’ the image is filed under

Note: most, but not all, images used in Australian Story are from the National Library’s collection.

Images and Layout

Ideal for: complementing English and History and Indigenous study units, popular and Australian culture units, technology and media; developing an understanding of imagery and its text association; developing an appreciation of layout and design; appreciating the National Library’s collection of images

Ask the students why they think the author chose the images that are in the book. Explore with the students what makes images appropriate for children. Are there any images in the book that they think are not appropriate for children? Which ones and why? (appropriate: colourful, childlike, interesting, funny, quirky; inappropriate: too graphic, age-inappropriate, convoluted, boring).

Discuss with the students what makes the layout and design of the book appeal to children. Which images do they think were illustrated by the book designer? Which images do the students like? Why?

Ask the students why the timeline along the bottom of the pages is important.

For older children: have the children design and layout their own double-page spread using images and timeline references. They could do this manually or on a computer.

Class Activity

Ideal for: complementing English and History and Indigenous study units, popular and Australian culture units; developing social interaction, teamwork; developing an understanding of chronology and time

Choose a history entry from the book for each student in the class. Hand them an object, costume or sign that represents that entry. Read through the book and focus most particularly on the entries that you have provided students with. Tell the students that at the end of the reading, they have to order themselves in the chronological order of the events.

Once the children have lined up chronologically, have them discuss among themselves if their placements are correct.

For older children: don’t reveal to the students what they’ll be doing until after you’ve read through the book.

Historical Facts

Ideal for: complementing English and History and Indigenous study units, popular and Australian culture units, general knowledge

Discuss the following historical facts. Find out which students have encountered these facts before. Which do they find most fascinating? Which facts do they feel are the most significant? Why?

16,000 years ago Australia’s enormous inland lakes dry up and eventually become deserts. The land bridge between Australia and Tasmania floods, leaving Tassie on its own

4,900 years ago Mount Gambier in South Australia erupts—this is the last volcano to erupt on the Australian mainland

1606 Dutch explorer Willem Jansz is the first recorded European to land on Australian soil

1797 The merino sheep is introduced to Australia

1829 The whole of Australia is claimed as British territory

1859 A farmer releases rabbits into the wild near Geelong—these 24 rabbits become the fastest multiplying mammals in world history

1886 The lamington is created in honour of Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland

1895 Time zones are introduced across Australia

1902 It is now legal to swim at public beaches during the day

1906 The first full-length Australian feature film is produced—The Story of the Kelly Gang

1912 The Australian crawl swimming style is first used at an Olympic Games

1923 Vegemite is first produced

1930 Australia and Britain are now connected by telephone

1931 Sir Douglas Mawson claims almost half of Antarctica

1931 Arnhem Land is declared an Aboriginal reserve

1945 The Hills hoist clothes line is invented

1958 Qantas offers the first round-the-world air service

1962 Indigenous Australians are given the right to vote

1966 Decimal currency is introduced—we now have dollars and cents

1966 In the Gurindji Walk Off, around 200 Indigenous people protest against poor working conditions and wages—this begins a seven-year battle for land title in the Northern Territory

1969 An Australian radio telescope in Parkes, New South Wales, transmits the first pictures of the moon landing to the world

1971 The first McDonald’s opens in Australia

1973 The Sydney Opera House opens

1975 Colour television begins

1976 The Aboriginal Land Rights Act is passed

1984 Advance Australia Fair becomes our national anthem

1988 Australia celebrates its Bicentennial—it is 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet from England

1989 The internet becomes available to Australian universities

1990s Dr Fiona Wood begins developing skin sheets for burns victims

2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologises to Indigenous Australians of the stolen generations

2010 Mary MacKillop becomes Australia’s first saint

2010 Julia Gillard becomes Australia’s first female Prime Minister

For older children: add more complex entries to the list.