[Episode 17 | 1848: Johanna]

Johanna carries out a variety of chores around town. While delivering vegetables, she overhears a piece of gossip about her father. The local boys tease and attack her because of her bright-red hair.


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: Painted portraits
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Social order and education

In this clip, Johanna slips into the 'big' house to look at the portrait paintings on the wall. Johanna lived in a time before photography was widely used. Portrait paintings were luxury items that only the wealthy could afford. Because they were precious, portraits were often put in elaborate frames, helping make the sitter look more important.

  • As a class, discuss the concept of portraiture. Focus the discussion around the following questions:
  1. Why did people want to have their portrait painted?
  2. Why didn't everyone have their portrait painted?
  3. What are some similarities and differences between a photograph and a painting?
  4. Why might an artist have enhanced the way a person looked in a painting?
  • Discuss with students the importance of portraiture in Johanna's time (1840s) as a way of recording the physical appearance of a person. Students could find images of families from the 1840s using the internet and library resources. To aid their research students could look at artworks on the National Portrait Gallery website at
  • Ask students to research the other ways a person's likeness was recorded, for example, cut-paper silhouettes, engravings, sculpture, drawings and miniature enamelled jewellery.

  • Find images of wealthy people from the 1840s or use the characters in this episode. Ask students to create a series of portraits of one of the characters or use an image of their family from the 1840s.
  • Ask students to think about what the sitter might have worn, and the type of jewellery and personal effects they would have worn.
  • Men often had groomed facial hair, while women had elaborate hairstyles. The personality and status of the sitter was also important. The clothes they wore and the background and props all conveyed what the artists thought of the sitter.
  • Students should think about the frame of the portrait, which was oval, square or rectangular. They should also draw an intricate gold frame around their portraits using Australian flora and fauna as distinct motifs.
  • Students should write a description of the sitter that includes their name and a short personal history.


Activity 2: Servants
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Gender roles and stereotypes; Social order and education

In this clip, many servants work in the Owen's large house. Servants such as Aunt Maryann worked long and difficult hours with very free time.

  • As a class, discuss why wealthy landowners such as the Owen family employed many servants. Consider issues such as who made up the servant class, where did they usually comes from, what were their conditions of work, how did they move away from being a servant and what is the role of the servant in contemporary society.
  • Ask the students to create a lotus diagram about servants. A lotus diagram template is provided on Student Activity Sheet H17.2 Servants. You may need to enlarge the template to suit your classroom situation. A lotus diagram is made up of nine squares, each divided into nine boxes. The heading 'Servants' is placed in the middle box. Ask students to write eight subheadings or ideas using 'Servants' for inspiration. Then they should write these eight subheadings in the central box of the surrounding eight squares. Students should then add eight more ideas that relate to the subheadings in each of the boxes.
  • Using their lotus diagram as a tool, ask students to research the life of a house servant. Students should use the following web links to guide their research:
  1. Victorian Servants,
  2. Victorian Life, 'Servants',


Using the information students collect in their research, ask them to create a personal recount for Aunt Maryann or another imaginary servant in the 1840s. The recount should be based on a day in the life of a servant working in a large house. Students should consider the following questions when writing their recount.

  1. What work did servants do in a Victorian household?
  2. Why was it necessary for wealthy landowners to have servants?
  3. How were servants generally treated by the wealthy members of the household?
  4. What was the status of servants during this time? 
  5. Imagine how servants felt about the work they performed.


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