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First contact

[Episode 24 | 1788 : Dan]

Dan is ordered to capture Waruwi's dingo for the governor. He tries to warn Waruwi that the marines plan to take her dog but is unable to communicate his intentions in time. Waruwi attacks the camp with stones, putting the marines on a state of alert.


The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [2]

Activity 1: A moral dilemma
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Historical events; Relationships
  • Prior to watching the clip, have students research the initial colonisation at Botany Bay and Port Jackson. Refer to My Place for Teachers, 'Decade timeline' for information. Students could investigate the following questions:
  1. On arrival at Botany Bay on 18 January 1788, how and why did the crew and marines of the First Fleet explore the coast?
  2. Who were these marines and where did they come from?
  3. Who was the first governor of the colony of New South Wales, referred to in
  4. Episode 24 | 1788: Dan as 'the governor'?
  5. How long did the marines stay and explore the area of Botany Bay? (They arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788.)
  • Build understanding with students of the reasons for colonisation and the contribution that boys like Dan made to the settlement of the area. Some useful lesson plans and ideas can be found at:
  1. Australian History.org, 'Australian History: The First Fleet', www.australianhistory.org/first-fleet
  2. First Fleet, http://firstfleet.uow.edu.au/s_map.html
  3. Primary School, www.primaryschool.com.au/advsearch.php?showall=search&term=Australian+History&Action=Search

A listing of useful Australian history websites

  • As a class, view the clip First contact and draw students' attention to Dan's opening line when he says, 'this is her place'. Have students respond to the following questions:
  1. Who is Dan referring to when he says 'her'?
  2. Why would Dan refer to 'her' as he has only just arrived? What makes him think this?
  3. How would you compare Dan's understanding of the Indigenous people's sense of belonging and ownership of the place with that of the other marines?
  4. How does Waruwi feel about the presence of the marines?
  • Focus students' attention on the conversation between Dan and one of the marines, Goodwin, in the clip Governor's orders. Dan compares taking the dingo from Warawi to stealing an English girl's dog, for which he would be sent to prison. Goodwin goes on to say, 'Governor's the law. If he wants a dog, it ain't stealing'. Dan counters this with, 'But it's not the governor, it's Roberts. The governor's orders were not to take things from the natives without paying compensation.' 
  • Explore the understandings and meanings of these statements in respect to the difference between ways Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are treated at this time.

  • Dan is reticent to take Waruwi's dingo as a present for the governor to train for hunting. He has been ordered by his commander to do so but his conscience doesn't feel that this action is correct. He wants to compensate Waruwi for the dingo and in the clip Governor's orders looks at his meagre possessions. In order to present Waruwi with compensation, Dan steals from his own comrades and commander.
  • Dan is in a dilemma. In order to do what he sees as morally right he has to do wrong in the eyes of his superior. Writers of hero stories are always presenting the readers with a moral dilemma. Folk heroes Robin Hood and Ned Kelly are characters who face a moral dilemma to do wrong in a just cause. Some people hail these characters as heroes while others condemn their actions. When fiction and fact come together in a story they are referred to as a 'faction'. Discuss with students the fact and fiction within Dan's story.
  • Ask students to create the character of Dan as a superhero today. They are to elect a moral dilemma for him such as an Indigenous topic or issue, an environmental cause or a refugee crisis. Ask students to produce a story about Dan, the superhero, and illustrate it as a graphic novel. Students should script the action and narrative first before creating a four-frame graphic.
  • Some web links to explore: 
  1. Changing Minds.org, 'Heroic Characters',
  2. http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/characters/heroic_characters.htm
  3. ACS Distance Education, 'Scope & Nature of Fiction', www.acseduonline.com/samples/Writing_Fiction_BWR105/lesson.pdf 
  4. Graphic Novels, www.alia.org.au/~csnow/research/publish/synergy.html/
  5. ——'Australian Graphic Novels', www.alia.org.au/~csnow/research/australian.html/


Activity 2: A dingo
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Culture; Historical events
  • Prior to watching this clip, ask students to find out the reasons for the British navy establishing a colony at Botany Bay in 1788. Explain to the students that it was quite common for boys of Dan's age to be part of the navy. Extracts from novels as such Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Trim: Being the True Story of a Brave Seafaring Cat by Matthew Flinders could be used to explore the conditions on board long-distance voyages in the 1780s.
  • While watching the clip, ask students to focus on and explore the life of the marines at the camp. Ask them the following questions:
  1. What flag is flying on the flag-pole?
  2. Why is that flag flying?
  3. What kind of accommodation do the men live in?
  4. What types of cooking equipment are there?
  5. What type of weapons do they have?
  6. What name does Dan give these weapons?
  7. What is the lieutenant looking at in his tent?
  • Focus students' attention on the end of the clip when Waruwi starts throwing stones at the men in the camp. Ask students to comment on how Waruwi must be feeling to do this. Then ask students to discuss the reactions of the soldiers. Have them explore how the filmmakers reinforce these aspects of the narrative.
  • Ask students to complete the questions in Student Activity Sheet E24.2: A dingo.

  • Explore the importance of the dingo in the Australian bush and its significance to the lifestyles and cultures of particular Indigenous peoples and groups around the country. Have students research information about the dingo and write this information in a report, as a naturalist or a botanist would. They should draw an image of a dingo and label the characteristics of the dog that makes it distinctive to the Australian bush. See the websites below:
  1. Aussie-Info.com, 'Dingo', www.aussie-info.com/identity/fauna/dingo.php/
  2. Google Images, www.google.com.au/images
    Type 'dingo' in the search box.
  • Alternatively, they could collect oral stories and histories about dingoes in your local region and write them up with accompanying drawings. Find out some of the local Indigenous language names for dingo in your local area, region or state. Make a book with the stories collected.
  • Examine records and drawings of local Australian fauna in your region. Ask students to imagine they are in search of a local species. They should research where it is found, how it lives and what it eats, and then document it through labelled drawings. Find out local language names for the species.


Student Activity Sheet: E: 24: 1b; A soldier's life.

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