This activity aims to facilitate a shared understanding of the themes and concepts relevant to early experiences in the Australian colonies, as explored in the Australian Curriculum. It provides a context for students before they explore related sources from the Treasures Gallery.

Across the great unknown

Tell students to imagine they are preparing for the biggest camping trip of their lives—crossing Australia by foot. They will only be allowed to take ten items with them. Lead a class discussion on the environment and terrain they will be experiencing, the dangers they may face, and the health risks they may encounter.Tell students they will be wearing strong boots and warm clothes (with some light layers) and they will be carrying a backpack.

Divide the class into groups of three or four. Provide the groups with the list of items. In their groups, ask students to choose ten items from this list to take with them. Allow twenty minutes for students to discuss the items and to number their selected items in order of importance.

As a class, use the combined groups’ answers to create an agreed top ten list. As students suggest competing list items, compare the usefulness of each item and prioritise the more important ones. Continue until you have a consolidated list of ten items that the class agrees on.

This activity has no single correct answer. It enables student groups to consider the potential merits of a range of items for their journey, and to combine their decision-making skills as a class, to understand the importance of the items in ensuring survival.

Conclude the activity by discussing how students would use each of the top ten items, and how they would compensate for not having the remaining items on the list.

Use this activity as an introduction to studying Burke and Wills or prior to looking at two of the treasures in this resource, Inland Adventures  and Frontier Conflict.