Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Little drummer boy

[Episode 23 | 1788 : Waruwi]

Waruwi takes Dan's boots while he is in the water but does not find them to be very comfortable. Observing the camp of the marines, Waruwi is fascinated by one of their musical instruments.


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: A picture paints a thousand words
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Historical events; Indigenous perspectives
  • As a class, view the clip and discuss Dan's reaction to the foreignness of the landscape. Both child characters are confronted by a culture that is different but intriguing.
  • Pictures can be very valuable sources of evidence for historians trying to understand the past. However, pictorial representations of historical moments are not always true to life and the artist was not always present to witness the events which they depict, relying instead upon sketches, memories or reports. In this activity, students will learn important skills for observing, interpreting and evaluating pictures as historical evidence for the first contact between European settlers and Indigenous groups of Australia.
  • Ask students to investigate the use of historical pictures as sources of evidence by introducing them to the rock art found in the Djulirri rock shelter in the Wellington Range. Discuss the ways historians might use these images as sources of evidence, and more generally, how images can be used as sources of evidence. The images depicted on the walls of the Djulirri shelter document contact between the Aboriginal people of northwest Arnhem Land and seafaring visitors to Australia, and include images of European tall ships.
  • The following resources can be used as a starting point for class discussion:
  1. Archaeology, 'The Rock Art of Djulirri', www.archaeology.org/1101/web/aus_video.html
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 'The Rock Art that Redraws our History', www.smh.com.au/news/national/rock-art-redraws-our-history/2008/09/19/1221331206960.html 
  3. —— 'Window into the Past: Rock Art Narrative', www.smh.com.au/interactive/2008/national/indigenous-rock-art/
  • Using these resources and the links provided below, students could work in small groups to examine these historical pictures depicting moments of early contact between European settlers and Indigenous groups. 
  1. State Library of New South Wales, 'Eora: Mapping Aboriginal Sydney 1770-1850', www.doryanthes.info/pdf/EORA%20Mapping.pdf
  2. ——'William Bradley - Drawings from his journal', acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/album/albumView.aspx?acmsID=412997&itemID=823705
  • Students can store digital images as slides within a slideshow presentation program and add descriptions of the images in the 'notes' sections of the slides.

  • Divide the class into five groups and assign two pictures to each group, one from Indigenous perspectives of the time and the other from European colonist perspectives. Explain to students that to use visual evidence, they need to engage in a three-part process: observing, interpreting and evaluating. Guide them through this process by filling in the Observe, Interpret and Evaluate tables in the Student Activity Sheet H23.4: A picture paints a thousand words. Additional copies of these tables can be made for each new picture examined.
  • Students should study each image for one minute and form an overall impression of the picture. Next, ask students to look at each person and object in the picture. Finally, students should divide each picture into four quadrants and examine each closely. What new things do they see?
  • Ask students to interpret the picture, based on the observations they have made. What does the artist hope to show in this picture? For what purpose has it been produced?
  • Once students have established what the picture shows, and interpreted the picture, invite them to evaluate it. The questions set out in the Evaluate table require students to think about how reliable and valuable the picture is as historical evidence. Ask students to work collaboratively in small groups to evaluate each picture by filling in the table and shading the 'Overall value barometer'.
  • As a class, rank the pictures according to their value as historical evidence. It is unlikely that all students will agree during this process. Ask students to explain the reasons why they have ranked the pictures as they have.


Activity 2: Another person's shoes
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Historical events; Indigenous perspectives
  • In this clip, Waruwi puts on the shoes of the little drummer boy, Dan. They are a little awkward and uncomfortable at first, but she is soon able to walk around in them. Empathy - the ability to 'walk around in another person's shoes' - is a valuable quality which students can develop through the study of history. It is an especially important quality when approaching the issue of first contact between Indigenous groups and European colonists. Role play is a powerful exercise which allows students to appreciate multiple viewpoints and is especially helpful when encouraging students to explore alternative perspectives on the story of the arrival of the First Fleet.
  • As a class, view the clip and discuss Dan's reaction to the foreignness of the landscape. Both child characters are confronted by a culture that is different but intriguing.
  • Ask students to imagine they are Waruwi. They have just encountered the 'boat people' or 'ghost people' for the first time. The ways and language of the 'boat people' are strange and they bring with them many new objects never seen before in Australia. Ask students to respond to the following questions:
  1. How would you feel? 
  2. How would you describe to your grandparents the strange things you have seen? 
  3. How would you describe the man and how he is making the strange noise?
  • Now ask students to imagine they are the marine playing the musical instrument. They have just been put ashore in a strange new land after a long journey of many months. Supplies in their camp are running low and they will soon need to find a source of food in the surrounding bush. The foliage around them is nothing like they have seen before. Ask students to respond to the following questions:
  1. How would you feel? 
  2. How would you describe the new land to others on the ship? 
  3. How would you describe the Indigenous girl that you have seen in the bush?
  • Invite students to analyse historical responses to first contact. Watch the clip 'European Observers' from the First Australians series, available at:
    National Film & Sound Archive, 'European Observers', http://dl.nfsa.gov.au/module/1563/
  • Ask students to think about how we know what the European colonisers thought of Aboriginal people when they first encountered them. Ask students to list the sources available to historians as they are mentioned in the clip.
  • Ask students to think about how we know what Aboriginal people thought of the European colonists when they first encountered them. Play the clip 'Captain Cook' from the First Australians series, available at:
    SBS, First Australians, www.programs.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians/content/


  • Ask students to work in small groups and select a picture they examined in Student Activity Sheet H23.4: A picture paints a thousand words. Each member in the group should choose a different individual in the picture. Ask students to write a monologue to describe what they are thinking and feeling as the action in the picture is taking place.
  • Once each group member has finished writing their monologue, provide time for the group to create a dramatic performance which presents the monologue of each character. Their performance should incorporate the picture which the group has chosen as stimulus for their monologues. Students can perform their dramatic piece for the rest of the class or at a performance for the wider school community. Alternatively, students could film their performance and present it on a special film night open to the school community. Their finished product could be entered into the Trop Jr short film festival at www.tropjr.com/au/


Student Activity Sheet H23.5: Another person's shoes

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