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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: 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: Lifestyles and cultures
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Subtheme(s): Beliefs; Culture; Indigenous perspectives
  • Two episodes in the My Place TV series are set in 1788. One episode is about Dan, a cabin boy who arrived on the First Fleet. We see and hear his perceptions about the new land and his respect for the Indigenous people. The other 1788 episode is about Waruwi, an Aboriginal girl and her first contact with the marines, their animals, customs, attitudes and authority.
  • As a class, view both episodes. Ask students to compare and contrast some of the similarities and differences in Waruwi's and Dan's cultures and lifestyles. Explain that everyone, including all of the students, has a cultural context and that people from different cultures have different ways of seeing the world.
  • Divide the class into groups and provide each group with butcher's paper and pens. Invite groups to think about their own cultures and lifestyles by comparing them with those of Dan and Waruwi. In particular, guide student responses to aspects of culture that are evident through accepted concepts and attitudes of ownership, respect, authority and responsibility. Ask students to think broadly about the concepts and attitudes to gain different perspectives.
  • Each group could consider and describe different aspects of these concepts and attitudes such as:
  1. Responsibilities: Waruwi's grandmother mentions that one of Waruwi's jobs is to collect firewood. Students could think about their own household responsibilities. They could compare the responsibilities of Dan and Waruwi in the 1780s with those that they may have. Would someone of Dan's age be allowed to join the armed forces today?
  2. Home and connection to country: Be aware that for Indigenous people 'country' is an important term that is often used to describe family origins and incorporates links with locations across Australia. Find out more about what the concept of country means to different Indigenous groups and individuals. Students could compare this concept of home and country to their own family's beliefs today.
  • As a class, discuss the 'Western' concept of the land: that individuals and groups can own property and animals, and that ownership can be demonstrated through legal documents. 
  •  Explain to students that Waruwi's perspective on the land and ownership of Lapa would be different to Dan's, as Indigenous peoples have their own styles of ownership. Each Indigenous language group is deeply connected to particular country and has distinct lores, a different language and a different culture from other language groups. An important part of much Indigenous cultural knowledge is an understanding of, respect for and spiritual connection with the natural landscape. No individual can own plants, animals or land, but these are the responsibility of the whole clan who act as custodians. They are responsible for caring for flora, fauna and the landscape in order to respect their spirituality and guarantee the country's survival for future generations. 
  • Students can investigate Indigenous concepts of land ownership and Native Title further by visiting their local or school library or websites to source information. If possible, link with local Indigenous people, groups or organisations to learn more about local understandings about land and ownership. If needed, each state and jurisdiction has Indigenous education staff who can help to guide you in building these links and relationships. 
  • A useful starting point might be:
    National Film & Sound Archive, 'Digital Learning Resources', Mabo: The Native Title Revolution - Land Bilong Islanders, www.nfsa.gov.au/digitallearning/mabo/mabo.shtml
  • Ask groups to keep a record of their ideas on their sheet of butcher's paper. Once each group has generated some ideas, allow time for the whole class to share and compare their answers.

  • As a class, view the clip where Dan and the other marines are expected to capture Lapa, Waruwi's native dog, as a gift for the governor. Dan and one of the marines discuss who the dingo belongs to. Dan wonders if Lapa belongs to a local Aboriginal person and the marine suggests that the local people may have a different understanding of ownership to the British.
  • Ask students to host a debate: one side develops a case for supporting Dan and his reasons for Lapa to stay with Waruwi and the other side develops a case for Captain Roberts giving Lapa as a gift to the governor. Each side will have between three and five main speakers for and against. The rest of the class will ask one question of either side. When completed, the class will vote on who had the strongest argument. Students can note some points for their argument using Student Activity Sheet H24.1: Lifestyles and cultures.


Activity 2: Resistance
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Historical events; Indigenous perspectives
  • As a class, watch the clip and discuss the concept of resistance. Ask students to imagine that they are Waruwi, who has just watched a group of foreign people steal her pet dingo Lapa. She has been watching the newcomers from a distance since they first arrived. They speak a language she does not understand; they look different and live differently from her. They carry powerful weapons and outnumber Waruwi and her people. Ask students to consider how they would plan to get Lapa back. Have students list three possible actions and analyse the advantages and disadvantages of each. They should complete the table in Student Activity Worksheet H24.2: Resistance with their responses.
  • Explain to students that various Aboriginal groups reacted to the arrival of European colonisers in different ways. Emphasise to students that historians have not always recognised that some Aboriginal groups chose to actively resist European colonisation and that it was not, in many places, as peaceful a process as many historians would lead us to believe. Point out that the word 'settlement' can ignore the reality of Indigenous peoples land being stolen from them and can imply that it was a peaceful process, ignoring the resistance of many Indigenous peoples and groups to save their land.
  • As a class watch the following clips on the First Australians website:
    SBS, First Australians, www.programs.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians/content/
  1. Bennelong
  2. Frontier War 1792
  3. Pemulwuy
  4. Recognizing the Wars
    Historian Richard Frankland explains the importance of recognising Indigenous active resistance as a part of the history of colonisation in Australia.
  • Ask students to take notes, filling in the table in Student Activity Worksheet H24.2: Resistance.
  • Ask students to analyse the different approaches and reactions of Bennelong and Pemelwuy to the arrival of Europeans. Have them respond to what they see as the advantages and disadvantages of each person's actions. 
  • Explore the issue of resistance further by viewing a virtual tour of the 'Resistance' exhibition.
    National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 'Education', Resistance Virtual Tour www.nma.gov.au/education/school_resources/indigenous/resistance_virtual_tour/
  • Follow up stories of resistance from your local area. Research online or discuss with local Indigenous families and groups (in sensitive ways).

  • Invite students to imagine they are a reporter for the local newspaper and they have been given an assignment to interview either Bennelong or Pemelwuy. In the interview, they are to ask questions about that person's perspective on what happened, why and to whom.


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