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Inland adventures

1. Allow students to read Wills’ diary online (If you want students to undertake the activity without computer access, cut and paste the relevant pages into one abbreviated document).

2. Use the video to provide students with the historical context of the Burke and Wills journey and then use these questions to explore Wills’ diary:

  • What makes this diary (together with the diaries of Burke and King) a treasure?
  • What can we learn from primary sources such as this?
  • Why would someone keep a diary on this kind of journey?

3. On Tuesday 7 May 1861, Wills’ diary recounts one of several meetings with Aboriginal people. On this occasion, the Indigenous people give the expeditioners some Nardu (Nardoo) bread. Ask students to investigate how Nardoo bread is made, and from what ingredients. Burke and Wills were subsequently unable to prepare the bread correctly. Investigate why this might have been the case and consider ramifications for the explorers.

4. Show students this botanical drawing by Edward Ebenezer Gostelow (1866-1944). One of the images (image D) is of Nardoo, the plant that Burke and Wills ate on their journey.


Ask students to research Nardoo and the role it played in the fate of Burke and Wills. Invite students to prepare a fact sheet about Nardoo including details of the plant and its uses.

5. The Aboriginal people Burke met on his journey provided him with, or educated him about, many bush foods. Invite students to research the kinds of bush foods that would have been available to Burke and Wills—both those provided to them by the Aboriginal people, and those that might have grown in the areas covered by the expedition. Wills’ diary will provide some of the answers, but students will find more by further investigating bush foods. Ask students to present their findings in poster format and display the posters around the classroom. Consider asking a local Indigenous group to teach your students about local Indigenous practices, bush foods and local history.

6. With better preparation and knowledge, several modern-day explorers have attempted, and succeeded, in making the same journey as Burke and Wills. Invite students to learn about these people, in particular Jon Muir OAM. Students could also consider the kinds of preparation they would need to make if they were considering undertaking the journey themselves.

Other Treasures sources that relate to the concepts explored in this source include: Indigenous Experiences.