My father's house

[Episode 17 | 1848: Johanna]

Johanna asks a number of locals about her father but is concerned by the inconsistencies in the information she receives. When she confronts her grandmother about her father, she is given just one enigmatic fact. Johanna's aunt dresses her down for her pranks.


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: Houses
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Subtheme(s): Gender roles and stereotypes; Social order and education

Houses in the 1840s reflected their owner's wealth and status. Wealthy landowners like the Owen family possessed large houses built with multiple stories and many rooms. This is in contrast to Johanna's much smaller house as seen in the clip.

  • Ask students to describe the 'big house' that belongs to the Owen family. They could consider the following questions:
  1. What were the living rooms used for?
  2. How many rooms would be in the house?
  3. Where was the kitchen in relation to the bedrooms?
  4. What was the house made of?
  5. What was the style of the Owen's house?
  6. What types of window were used?
  7. What other buildings would have been erected beside the main house?
  8. Were there separate servant quarters in the house?
  • Ask the students to compare the Owen house to the modest house owned by Johanna's family. Ask students to consider:
  1. What was the style of Joanna's house?
  2. What was house made from?
  3. How many rooms were in the house?
  4. Were there any other structures outside the house?
  5. How many fireplaces were there in the house?
  6. Did the house have a separate kitchen and dining room?
  7. Were there any servant quarters?
  • Discuss with students the idea that many people had to share bedrooms and other areas in the house.
  • Ask students to research house styles used in the 19th century. They could find some examples of Australian homes. The following websites may be useful:
  1. Australian Heritage Council, 'Our house: histories of Australian homes',
  2. Culture Victoria, 'Melbourne's Homes',
  3. National Library of Australia, 'Cooee: Australia in the 19th century', 'Shelter',
  4. National Trusts of Australia,
  5. Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development, 'What house is that?',

  • Introduce the concept of house plans. Ask students to imagine they are looking down from the top of a house like a bird. Then ask students to imagine they can see through the roof to the rooms below. To help facilitate the understanding of this concept, students could be shown examples of architectural plans.
  • Ask students to draw a plan of the Owen's house. They could also draw a plan of Johanna's house.
  • Ask them to consider the location of the kitchen and bathroom. Ask students to think about how the basic amenities of houses are different to those in the houses of today. They could also find out if outdoor plumbing and toilets were a common feature, and how many houses had only a single heating source.


Activity 2: Toys of the past
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Subtheme(s): Entertainment and games; Social order and education; Gender roles and stereotypes

In this clip, Johanna plays with a doll that belongs to Mr Owen's young daughter. Toys have always been an important part of children's lives, reflecting many of the social and cultural values of the era in which they were made.

  • As a class, ask students to list five favourite toys that they play with today. They are to name them and answer the following questions:
  1. What are they made of?
  2. Where were they made?
  3. How do they operate?
  4. What source of power do they use?
  5. Who are they made for?
  • Ask students to research toys of the 19th century, considering the differences between toys of today and those of Johanna's time (1840s). As a class, ask students to consider:
  1. What types of toys would a girl have played with?
  2. What types of toys would a boy have played with?
  • Students could use the following websites to help them:
  1. Toys of the Past,
  2. Powerhouse Museum,
  3. Museum of Childhood, 'Toys',
  • Using a Venn diagram ask students to compare and contrast toys from Johanna's time with the types of toys they play with today.

  • Introduce students to a digital museum box tool at This tool will assist them to collect images, data and facts to help their reflection. A digital museum box provides a tool for students to collect information on an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box. You can display anything from a text file to a movie. Students should find examples and information on toys for both girls and boys.
  • Using the information and images they have collected in their museum boxes, students can create a Photo Story or slideshow presentation using the title Boys' and girls' toys: then and now. Within their presentations, students should be directed to reflect on how much has changed or not changed in how gender influences the manufacture of toys.


Student Activity Sheet H17.5: Toys of the past

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