[Episode 21 | 1808 : Sarah]

After their outdoor adventure, Sarah and Alice have a moment of companionship but it is quickly ruined when Alice exerts her power over Sarah's position.


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 Macquarie collector's chest
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Subtheme(s): Culture

For early European visitors, Australian fauna and flora were strange and exotic. It was with wonder and excitement that scientists collected natural history specimens which exemplified the vast array of new life to be discovered on the southern continent. The Macquarie Collector's Chest, acquired by the State Library of New South Wales in 2004, is a fascinating cultural artefact used to display a collection of such specimens, including insects, butterflies, birds and seashells that were found in the colony. It includes 13 paintings of fauna and colonial landscapes, two of which depict Indigenous Australians in a naturalistic way. The chest, finely crafted and decorated, serves to remind us of the marvel and delight experienced by early European settlers when encountering the natural life of the Great South Land for the first time.

  • Ask students to explore the Macquarie Collector's Chest. The State Library of New South Wales provides a number of useful digital resources relating to the chest including the following:
  1. a full description of the chest: State Library of New South Wales, 'Collection Record: the Macquarie Collector's Chest',
  2. a digital album displaying photos of the chest: State Library of New South Wales, 'Album the Macquarie Collector's Chest',
  3. an online exhibition relating to the chest and exhibition guide: State Library of New South Wales, 'Exotica: the Macquarie Collector's Chest',;
  • Discuss with students what specimens were included in the chest and how these were arranged.
  • Discuss with students what the reactions of the Europeans to seeing such creatures as the kangaroo, koala, wombat and platypus would have been like. Facilitate a hot-seat role-play where the students pretend to be scientists or botanists of the time and answer questions from the class on their findings.

  • Ask students to select a drawer from within the Macquarie Collector's Chest. Ask them to pretend that they are an English visitor to Australia in the early 19th century and to write a letter describing the specimens in the drawer to someone at home in England who has never seen Australian fauna before.


Activity 2: A classless society
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Social order and education

In this clip, Alice is keen to put Sarah in her place as a servant who must obey the commands of her mistress. Alice's attitude reflects a class-based society very much in evidence in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many Australians today value their lack of an 'upper class' and a 'lower class' as a definitive value of the nation. A lack of class distinction among Australians struck DH Lawrence when he visited the country in the 1920s, and a levelling tendency clearly characterised cricketer Dennis Lillee's famous greeting to the Queen when he shook her hand with "G'day, how ya goin'?". Some social commentators and historians trace this ideal of egalitarianism back to Australia's convict heritage. However, while this is an ideal considered central to Australian identity, can Australia really be described as a classless society?

  • Ask students to consider what is understood by the term 'classless society' and which features of Australian society might be considered a part of this idea. You might like to stimulate class discussion by drawing on the following resource:
  1. Smith, B. The Australian 23 January 2010. In A Class of Our Own, 
  • Ask students to research Australian history and nominate an event or events where Australians fought to retain an egalitarian disposition, for example, the Eureka Stockade, the shearers'/miners' strikes and the Aboriginal tent embassy. Ask students if they feel that all people in Australia have the same rights and privileges as everyone else.

  • Ask students to consider whether they agree with the statement 'Australia is a classless society'. Mark out a straight line along the classroom floor and place markers (for example A for 'Agree', D for 'Disagree') at either end of the line. Mark the midpoint of the line as the 'Undecided' area. Ask students to position themselves along the line according to their belief in the statement. 
  • As a freeze-frame exercise, ask students to provide brief explanations of why they have assumed the position they have chosen. The teacher touches the shoulder of each student who then speaks about their views. The student could take the role of a worker in society and present their opinion.
  • Students can then move again to reflect their changing views.


Student Activity Sheet: H21.6: A classless society?

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