Key Learning Students will investigate the living conditions on board the ships travelling to Australia in the 1800s. The Australian Curriculum


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Episode 25

2nd September 2014


Maritime Past
Key Learning

    Students will investigate the living conditions on board the ships travelling to Australia in the 1800s.

    The Australian Curriculum

      History / Historical Knowledge and Understanding / First Contacts

    Stories of the First Fleet, including reasons for the journey, who travelled to Australia, and their experiences following arrival. (ACHHK079) Year 4

      History / Historical Skills / Historical questions and research

    Pose a range of questions about the past (ACHHS083) Year 4

      History / Historical Skills / Explanation and Communication

    Develop texts, particularly narratives (ACHHS086) Year 4

    Use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies (ACHHS087) Year 4

      History / Historical Knowledge and Understanding/The Australian colonies

    The reasons people migrated to Australia from Europe and Asia, and the experiences and contributions of a particular migrant group within a colony Year 5

    Discussion Questions

  1. When did the First Fleet set sail to Australia?

  2. About how long did the trip from England to Australia take?

  3. Where do the kids in the story go to find out about life on the ships?

  4. Describe the conditions on the ship for third class passengers.

  5. What food did they get for dinner?

  6. What is scurvy and why did people contract it on the ships?
  7. How did they treat people when they developed gangrene?

  8. What were leeches used for?

  9. Deaths at sea were common. On average how many passengers never made it to Australia?

  10. Imagine you are a child on the ship. Write a paragraph describing what it was like.


Migration in the 1800s

Students will investigate why people migrated to Australia in the 1800s. Ask students’ to find out what the following terms mean:

  • Migration

  • Colonial Government

  • Free settlers

  • Assisted immigration

Students create a timeline of Australian migration in the 1800s. Discuss with students the significant events to include in their timeline. The Migration Heritage website may help students with their research

The Journey to Australia

    Show the journey from England to Australia including stops along the way by either hand drawing or using an online mapping tool like Google maps or Scribble maps

Life on board the ships

What did the BtN story tell you about living conditions on the ships travelling to Australia in the 1800s? Students research in more detail what life was like at sea for migrants on board the ships.

    Research questions

  • How long was the journey on the ships from England to Australia?

  • What was hygiene like on board the ships?

  • What food was eaten?

  • What was the accommodation like for passengers?

  • What pests were on the ships?

  • What diseases were common on board the ships (typhoid, malaria and scurvy)?

  • How were sick people treated?

  • How did weather affect the journey?

  • What was a typical day on board the ships (including daily routines)?

Source: State Library of Victoria

Students can show their learning in one of the following ways:

  • Write a letter to your family home in England describing the conditions on board the ship and how you’re feeling.

  • Write a diary entry that describes living conditions on board the ship including information about hygiene and sickness. Include a reflection on how you’re feeling about being on the ship.

  • Create an artwork that shows an aspect of life on board the ships.

Images from the ships

Below are some photos and drawings that show an aspect of life on board the ships. Students create a caption for each image and then choose one to explore in more detail. They can present the information as a poster and create a class display.


Students will reflect on their learning

  • I learned that...

  • I enjoyed/did not enjoy...

  • I want to know more about...

  • I was surprised to discover that...

8 Related Research Links

Behind the News – First Fleet

Museum Victoria – Journeys to Australia

Migration Heritage Centre – Objects Through Time

History SA – Hygiene on board

©ABC 2014


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