The Bicentenary

[Episode 3 | 1988 : Lily]

Lily and her friends are painting the school sign for the Bicentenary when she tells her cousin, Phoung, a false story about how convicts were treated in early Australia. Phoung repeats this story to the class as part of a report on the First Fleet.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [2]

Activity 1: The re-enactment of the first fleet
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Subtheme(s): Historical events
  • Watch a short film, 'Australia Post – 200 Years (1988)', at australianscreen,
  • (Notes written by curator Adrienne Parr describing the re-enactment of the First Fleet on 26 January 1988 appear in Student Activity Sheet H3.5.)
  • Ask students to refer to the following websites:
  1. National Museum of Australia, 'Australian Bicentennial Authority collection',
  2. National Archives of Australia: Virtual Reading Room, 'Aboriginal protest in Hobart against the Bicentennial celebrations',

  • Ask students to write a brief essay on the significance of the First Fleet re-enactment and whether it was a true celebration of Australian history. To prepare for this, they should research and evaluate significant facts about the First Fleet:
  1. Who led the First Fleet and when?
  2. Where did the fleet sail from and where did it land?
  3. How long did it take to get here?
  4. Who arrived on the First Fleet?
  5. How did the fleet know where to come?
  6. Which ships arrived and what type of ships were they?
  7. What did the fleet bring?
  8. What did they do after they landed?
  9. Who met them after they landed?


Activity 2: The convicts
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Subtheme(s): Historical events; Social order and education

In this clip, Lily makes up a story about how the convicts were treated when they arrived in Australia. Her story, though false, highlights the terrible conditions for convicts who landed at Port Jackson.

  • Ask students to research what life was like for convicts and then develop a fact sheet, answering the questions:
  1. Who were the convicts?
  2. Why were they transported?
  3. What type of crimes had they committed?
  4. Who were some notable people on the First Fleet?
  5. How were the convicts treated?
  6. Which Indigenous groups were encountered in the early years of the colony?
  7. What was the relationship like between Indigenous Australians and the new settlers?


Ask students to locate some personal stories of the time. They could use these insights to write a diary entry for a day in the life of a convict, soldier or administrator from the First Fleet.


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