These activities encourage students to personalise their learning about the early development of the Australian colonies.

The first activity introduces students to the various groups of people present in colonial Australia, enabling them to understand differing perceptions of historical events and eras. The second activity empowers students to form a personal response by placing themselves within the historical context of nineteenth century Australia.

New experiences in an old land

Tell your students that they are about to engage in a televised current affairs program, on prime-time television. They will be history detectives of the future and, through the latest teleportation technology, they will be able to speak with people from the late 1700s and the 1800s by bringing those people forward in time for just 45 minutes. As history detectives, students will be able to ask valuable questions on behalf of Australia.

You will need:

The format of the program is a current affairs panel show (similar to the ABC’s Q&A, or SBS’s Insight), with you—the teacher—playing the host and facilitating audience questions. (Alternatively, you could simplify the activity by presenting it as mini-press conference. Interviewees could come to the front, one at a time, and be interviewed by all class members for five minutes.)

Choose six students to play the characters and give a role card to each one. The remainder of the class will be audience members (or journalists), putting forward questions to the role-playing panel members. (You could have students swap roles for a stronger level of participation.)

The six students should wear a name badge displaying their character’s name. (These names could also be written on the board to assist with identification.) Students should introduce themselves to the class by reading their character card out loud. They should retain the card throughout the interview to remind themselves of the historical person they are playing.

The six roles are:

  1. Elizabeth Goslin
  2. Cora Gooseberry
  3. Mark Jeffrey
  4. Mr Jones
  5. Robert O’Hara Burke
  6. Sarah Davenport

Once the six characters have been introduced, allow the class some time to form questions. You might like to prompt them with examples, or you could provide the following questions on a handout to which they can add their own: 

  • What do you want from your new life in Australia?
  • What was your crime? Do you regret committing it?
  • What do you eat?
  • What does your typical day include?
  • Do you have any spare time? If so, what do you do in it?
  • Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your life?
  • What do you think the future holds for you?
  • What is the most amazing thing you have seen in your life?
  • What do you remember of your childhood?
  • What does the place you live in look like?

Engage the class in a debriefing discussion after the activity. Discuss the highlights of the activity in terms of how they imagined each character’s life.


The image in this unit depicting Frontier Conflict is from an album compiled by Miss Eliza Younghusband. Younghusband was the daughter of the wealthy South Australian merchant, pastoralist and politician, William Younghusband.

The album belongs to the genre of a ‘sentiment album’, popular in the 1850s and 1860s. These albums typically contained a combination of drawings, watercolours, engravings, chromolithographic scraps, keepsakes and botanical specimens. They were intended for display and exchange among family and friends. Younghusband’s album features a very ornate cover with mother-of-pearl inlay, and it contains pencil sketches of landscapes, maritime images, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, botanical compositions and watercolours.

Younghusband’s album can be compared to modern scrapbooking—a hobby enjoying a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

Have students create their own scrapbook over the course of your Year 5 History unit.

They can collect copies of artwork (such as the Bulla painting and the portrait of Bungaree), playbills for modern-day theatre productions (inspired by the Jane Shore playbill), portraits of key figures (such as Peter Lalor and Robert O’Hara Burke) and botanical cuttings (inspired by bush foods). They could also create their own illustrations relating to the topic they are studying. Use the scrapbook as a means to explore primary sources (as distinct from secondary sources). The scrapbooks could be used as a classroom or library display, or a celebration of the year’s work in History.