[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: 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: Working then and now
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Gender roles and stereotypes; Social order and education
  • Watch the clip and ask students to focus on the action involving Johanna. Ask them to consider what she is doing and why she is working. Identify the tasks Johanna is expected to do. For example, she must load and then pull a cart filled with vegetables, remember the order for each person to whom she delivers the vegetables and collect money in payment. As a class, compare these tasks with chores or paid work expected of children today. Ask students to use Student Activity Sheet 17.1: Working then and now to list chores or paid jobs undertaken by children at home or in the workplace, and to also record information for both eras about tools or technology used for these tasks.
  • Technology is one factor that distinguishes work in different eras. Modern examples are the use of dishwashers in today's homes and electronic cash registers and EFT machines in shops. Ask students to share their responses to the following questions:
  1. How are household chores today similar or different to those in the clip?
  2. What tools or machines help with household chores today?
  3. What is the minimum age for a child today to get a paid job?
  4. What tools or machines help people in the workplace?
  5. Compare the work expected of a child in 1848 and today. Which is easier and why?
  • Ask students to consider the type of education available to children in the mid-19th century. They should find out when schooling in Australia was established, the types of subjects taught and who went to school. Focus their attention on the scene at the school and on the age and gender of the characters. Ask students why there might be no girls or Indigenous students at school. Ask whether they think school attendance was possible for Johanna and what girls might be expected to do if they weren't able to attend school. Refer to the following websites for information:
  1. Genealogy in New South Wales,
  2. aussie educator, 'History of Australian Education',
  • Have students share their findings about education and start a wiki where they can post information. A good place to start creating your own wiki is Wikispaces,

  • Ask the class to review their earlier ideas about why Johanna may not have been at school, and then have them consider reasons why all children in Australia today are expected to attend school. Create a large class chart listing advantages and disadvantages of attending school during childhood.
  • Ask each student to use template in Student Activity Sheet E17.1: Working then and now to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper in 1848, advocating that all children, including girls and Indigenous children, should have the right to attend school. In the letter they should state the reasons why they believe everyone deserves the right to be taught to read and write.


Activity 2: It's all about class
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Subtheme(s): Character; Language and scripting; Social order and education
  • As a class, view the clip Torment and discuss the settings, main and secondary characters, and key events. Ask students to record the role and status of the major characters in the episode, including Granny Sarah, Johanna, Miss Hannah, the teacher and the schoolboys. Ask them to suggest who Mrs Banks might be, why Johanna runs out of the house and why Miss Hannah avoids answering Johanna's question about her mother's wedding. Refer to the ABC3, 'My Place' website, for more information about the characters. Develop a relationships sociogram of all the characters in the episode so that students can see the connections.
  • Instruct students to form pairs to read the script for this episode. The script is available on My Place for Teachers, 'Behind the scenes'. Ask the student pairs to search the script and highlight examples of language that provides information about social status and about the roles of women and girls in Australia at this time. Have each pair report their findings. As a class discuss the issues of class distinction, the position of women and girls, schooling and work during this era.
  • View the clip again and ask the class to observe the portraits on the walls inside the house. Ask the students to respond to these questions:
  1. Who are the people in the paintings? 
  2. Why are they important to the Owen family? 
  3. Would there be a painting of Johanna or her mother or grandmother on their walls? Why do you think this?
  • As a class, examine evidence about the relationships and status of people in the clip using the following to guide the discussion:
  1. Why do you think Johanna ran from the house before Miss Hannah returned to the front door?
  • Class distinction is also demonstrated in the clip when Johanna was teased and attacked by the schoolboys. Ask students to respond to the following:
  1. Describe the relationship between Johanna and the schoolboys. 
  2. What were the consequences given to the boys for their bullying behaviour? Is this fair? Why or why not?
  3. How does this treatment compare to consequences related to behaviour at school and at home today?

  • Ask students to consider why class and gender distinctions existed and seemed to be accepted in this era, and to think about Australian society today. Ask if they believe such distinctions still exist, and have them provide examples to support their assertions.
  • Incidents of bullying at school are reported in the media quite often. The media frequently seem to support one side and portray those involved as either the victim or the aggressor. They tend to paint each participant as either 'good' or 'bad'. Divide students into pairs and ask them to develop a script for a media report on the incident where Johanna is attacked by the boys at the school. Ask students to consider the selection of spoken language and non-verbal communication when they present the report. Each pair can enact a news report where one student is the news reporter and the other is either a bystander or the victim, giving an account of what has happened.


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