History sample unit Australia as a Nation

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History sample unit

Australia as a Nation

Stage 3

Duration: Two terms (20 weeks)

Unit description

This topic moves from colonial Australia to the development of Australia as a nation, particularly after 1901. Students explore the factors that led to Federation and experiences of democracy and citizenship over time. They understand the significance of Australia’s British heritage, the Westminster system and other models that influenced the development of Australia’s system of government. Students learn about the way of life of people who migrated to Australia and their contributions to Australia’s economic and social development.

Key inquiry questions

  • Why and how did Australia become a nation?

  • How did Australian society change throughout the twentieth century?

  • Who were the people who came to Australia? Why did they come?
  • What contributions have significant individuals and groups made to the development of Australian society?


Historical skills

Historical concepts

HT3-3: identifies change and continuity and describes the causes and effects of change on Australian society

HT3-4: describes and explains the struggles for rights and freedoms in Australia, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

HT3-5: applies a variety of skills of historical inquiry and communication

The following historical skills are integrated into the lesson sequences:

Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • respond, read and write, to show understanding of historical matters

  • sequence historic people and events

  • use historical terms and concepts

Analysis and use of sources

  • locate relevant information from sources provided

  • compare information from a range of sources

Perspectives and interpretations

  • identify different points of view in the past and present

Empathetic understanding

  • explain why the behaviour and attitudes of people from the past may differ from today


  • identify and pose questions to inform an historical inquiry

  • identify and locate a range of relevant sources to support an historical inquiry

Explanation and communication

  • develop historical texts, particularly narratives and descriptions, which incorporate source material

  • use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies

The following historical concepts are integrated into the lesson sequences:

Continuity and change: some things change over time and others remain the same

Cause and effect: events, decisions or developments in the past that produce later actions, results or effects

Perspectives: people from the past will have different views and experiences

Empathetic understanding: an understanding of another’s point of view, way of life and decisions made in a different time

Significance: the importance of an event, development or individual/group

Contestability: historical events or issues may be interpreted differently by historians


Teaching, learning and assessment


Key figures and events that led to Australia’s Federation, including British and American influences on Australia’s system of law and government (ACHHK113)

  • Pose the question: What is democracy? Use a Y-chart to explore what it looks, feels and sounds like.

  • Share an excerpt from a text where one of the characters is not acting democratically, eg excerpt from Alice in Wonderland where the Queen of Hearts is behaving like a tyrant. Discuss the type of behaviour exhibited.

  • Create a class definition of democracy. Students can also use Wordle to generate word clouds from text generated during Y-chart discussion.

  • Investigate the type of government that existed in Great Britain and the USA in the late nineteenth century. Pose the question: Do you think the forms of government in Great Britain and the USA had any influence on Australia’s system of government? How?

  • Using a research planner, students (independently or in small groups) choose a key figure or event in the development of Australian democracy prior to 1901 to research. Examples include Lachlan Macquarie, Peter Lalor, Eureka Stockade, Tenterfield Oration, Henry Parkes, Edmund Barton, Vida Goldstein and Mary Lee. Pose questions to guide research. Groups report what each person did to affect (influence) change in the development of Australian democracy, its significance in history and whether society changed as a consequence.

  • Based on students’ notes made for their research planner, discuss what the main challenges were during their research.

Assessment activity 1

Students work in pairs and create a dialogue between two characters who have played significant roles in the development of Australian democracy. The characters represent historical personalities whose experiences have shaped the nation. Possible pairs of characters can be suggested, eg Queen Victoria and Sir Henry Parkes on her Australian colonies wishing to become a united country; Louisa Lawson advising her son, Henry Lawson, on the importance of women in the new nation; Edmund Barton explaining the importance of Federation to a young soldier who has fought against the Boers in South Africa; Vida Goldstein and a male opponent to women’s right to vote; the editor of the magazine The Bulletin has a discussion with an Indigenous Australian about the representation of Indigenous Australians in the magazine. Dialogues may be presented as a live performance, script, audio, video, cartoon or storyboard, animation or exchange of letters.

  • Create an illustrated timeline displaying significant events in the development of democracy in Australia. Prezi could be used here.

  • Research information to discover the reasons for Federation and create a Federation poster or series of images encouraging Federation.

  • Following the formation of the Federal Government in 1901, Australia has a three-tiered system of government. Using the Parliamentary Education Office (PEO) website, use technology or a variety of graphic organisers to show the responsibilities and structures for each level. Students compare their similarities and differences.

Dictionary of Classroom Strategies K–6, BOS (Y chart)

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


Research planner

Australian government websites:



Parliamentary education website:


Possible excursion – Canberra

  • Old Parliament House

  • Parliament House

  • National Museum

Note the following hyperlinks:


Timeline Maker


Experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, women and children (ACHHK114)

  • View and discuss key ideas presented in a variety of technological clips that explore the concept of Human Rights.

  • Students think, pair and share in order to form a definition of human rights. Discuss three important qualities of human rights: inherent, inalienable and universal.

  • Investigate the significance of at least ONE of the following in the struggle for rights and freedoms:

  • the Stolen Generation

  • the 1967 referendum

  • the Mabo decision

  • women

  • migrants.

  • Following the investigation, discuss how Australian society has changed throughout the twentieth century.

  • Continue the illustrated timeline of democratic developments in Australia.

Audio-visuals about human rights

Australian Human Rights Commission website:


Stories of groups of people who migrated to Australia (including from ONE Asian country) and the reasons they migrated, such as World War II and Australian migration programs since the war (ACHHK115)

  • Brainstorm and record reasons why people might migrate to Australia. Students add to lists after they have listened to stories of experiences family, neighbours or friends may have had.
  • Share the story of a migrant from an Asian country, eg The Little Refugee by Anh Do. This text is the inspirational story of how Anh Do’s family escaped from war-torn Vietnam and explores experiences of his childhood in Australia. Anh Do is now an Australian comedian and author. Using pictures from the story, students sequence and explain reasons for migrating.

  • Ask students to adopt the role of a character in the story to explore different perspectives.

  • Invite a guest speaker, hold a video conference, or use YouTube to investigate a different migrant story.

  • Students find a story to share. They may choose to interview someone they know, make a video, or find a story from a book, film, documentary or YouTube.

  • Students continue to add to reasons why people have migrated to Australia. Are there any common reasons for migration?

  • Discuss the difference between secondary and primary sources. What sources did you use when you found your story? How do you know?

The Little Refugee by Anh Do

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

The contribution of individuals and groups, including Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders and migrants, to the development of Australian society, for example in areas such as the economy, education, sciences, the arts, sport (ACHHK116)

  • Choose an individual or group that has made a contribution to the development of Australian society. Investigate the contribution made and in which area of Australian society the contribution was made. Pose the following questions: Do you consider this contribution to be significant? Why? Consider what criteria need to be considered to decide what is significant. Does the contribution need to be significant?

  • Using the information gained from both the migrant stories and the discussion above, what contribution(s) have these people made to Australian society?

Assessment activity 2

Students create a series of photographs/pictures/images/captions to portray the contributions of migrants to Australian society. During a group conference with the teacher, students explain the contributions of the people represented and why their contribution was significant.

This could be a website that could link together as a class achievement, or a Wiki page: www.wikispaces.com.


Assessment overview

  • Ongoing assessment – student understanding may be assessed through the use of observational checklists, anecdotal records and analysis of contributions to class discussions.

  • Students complete a variety of work samples, including designated assessment activities. When completing designated assessment activities, students engage in peer-assessment, based upon jointly derived criteria for activity completion. Students undertake self-assessment of their learning in relation to the assessment criteria in these activities. They also receive peer and teacher feedback through the use of an evaluation sheet.

Assessment activity 1

Students work in pairs and create a dialogue between two characters who have played significant roles in the development of Australian democracy.

Assessment activity 2

Students create a series of photographs/pictures/images/captions that portray the contributions of migrants to Australian society. During a group conference with the teacher, students explain the contributions of the people represented and why their contributions were significant. Students combine a sequence of images and video into a digital presentation.

My research planner

Questions to ask

My planning


What questions will I ask?

What do I need to find out?

What are my key terms/concepts?

What do I need to do?


What do I already know?

Where can I find information?


What information is useful?

What information is reliable?

What information can I leave out?

How will I record my information?


Do I have enough information to answer my questions?

How can I best use my information?


What is the best way to present my information?

Who is my audience?

What do I need to present my information?

What have I learnt?

Did I achieve my purpose?

Did I answer my questions?

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