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: 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: Children's clothing
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Fashion; Gender roles and stereotypes
  • Prior to watching the clip, ask students to research the fashion of English children's clothing in the 1780s. Draw their attention to the fact that in the 1780s children were often treated (and always dressed) as miniature adults. Ask students to choose either a boy or a girl, from a wealthy or poor English family and draw, or find an image, of the fashions of the time. The picture is to then be labelled and accompanied by a brief description of what the child is wearing. 
  • The following websites may be useful:
  1. Museum of Childhood, 'Clothing', www.vam.ac.uk/moc/collections/clothing/index.html
  2. Spinning the web, 'Clothing & Products', www.spinningtheweb.org.uk/clothing/
  • As a class, view the clip and discuss the style of clothing and appearance of the marines. Ask students to focus on the clothing of Dan, the little drummer boy. Ask students to describe the individual components of Dan's costume:
  1. shirt
  2. hair style
  3. breeches 
  4. jacket 
  5. shoes
  6. accessories
  • Ask students to compare the clothing of Dan with that of the adult marines. They should record the similarities and differences in a Venn diagram. Refer students to Student Activity Sheet E23.3: Children's clothing and ask students the following questions:
  1. What materials is the marines' uniform made from?
  2. Is this material suitable for the hot summer of the Australian climate?
  3. Why do you think the marines wore this uniform?
  4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these uniforms?

  • Focus students' attention on what happens to Waruwi once she tries on Dan's shoes. Ask the students to conduct a think-pair-share activity, in which they think of the reason for what happens and then get into pairs and share it. Walking in another's shoes is a symbol of understanding someone else's culture. As a class, view the whole episode and list other symbolism that is used in the story.
  • Ask students to design an outfit for the soldiers that they think would make them feel more comfortable. The outfit can incorporate ideas and designs that are in keeping with the fashions of the time but can also use ideas from clothing worn by Waruwi and Nana in the clip. It should take into account the climate of the region. Share your designs with the class and hold a vote for the best design.


Activity 2: Making a Connection
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Indigenous perspectives; Language and scripting
  • As a class, view the clip and ask students to concentrate on the scene in which Waruwi is listening to the music being played by one of the marines. Ask the students the following questions:
  1. How do we as an audience know that Waruwi is enjoying the music?
  2. What do the filmmakers do to make this clear to the audience?
  • Refer students to Student Activity Sheet E23.4: Making a connection. Ask students to read the lyrics of the 'Soldier's song' and answer the following questions:
  1. Why is his boat gone?
  2. What are rations?
  3. Why might the rations be low?
  4. What do you think they'll do for food now?
  5. Who have 'all taken flight'?
  6. What does the singer mean by this expression?
  7. What does the singer say 'illuminate[s] the night'?
  8. Judging from the singer's words, do you think this soldier is sad about his situation?
  9. How does the marine show his attitude to Indigenous people?
  10. Describe his reaction when he sees Waruwi.
  11. If they could talk each other's language, what do you think they would have said to each other?
  12. Although they do not have a common language, how do they communicate to each other in this clip?
  • Choose a selection of Indigenous poets. Find out about them: who they are and where they are from. Share their poems with the class and discuss.
  • The following websites may be useful:
  1. Oodgeroo Noonuccal: Biographic note and poetry, www.ict.griffith.edu.au/~davidt/redlandbay/oodgeroo.htm
  2. University of Queensland Fryer Library, 'Oodgeroo Noonuccal Kath Walker 1920-1993' www.library.uq.edu.au/fryer/worth_fighting/2.html
  3. 'Aboriginal visitors to Sydney' 1971, in New Dawn: a magazine for the Aboriginal people of New South Wales, vol. 2, no. 8, November, online at dawn.aiatsis.gov.au/docs/v20/s08/11.pdf (article reprints with permission three poems by Jack Davis).
  4. OzArts, 'Herbert Wharton' http://www.ozarts.com.au/artists/herbert_wharton
  5. Anita Heiss, www.anitaheiss.com/
  6. Mudrooroo, mudrooroo.com/biographical/

  • Ask students to imagine that they are shipwrecked on a desert island, far from home. Alternatively, ask students to imagine they are Waruwi and consider their reactions and reflections on life since the British have arrived. Ask them to write a poem or a song in which they narrate what has happened to them, how they feel about being stuck and their hopes for the future.
  • Ask students to select the style of poetry they would like to use: Acrostic (for younger students), Cinquain, Quatrain or Concrete. Alternatively the Soldier's song itself can be used as a template.


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