Top 10 Ideas for Teaching Australian History to Kids

1. Use Australian Living Books

One of the most enjoyable ways to learn history is through living books. Living books bring a depth and richness into history studies.

An Australian History spine is a living  book that weaves the whole of Australia’s story into a rich tapestry, it is an overview that covers the core of Australia’s history. A spine is like a historical washing line a place to hang your pegs of knowledge.

  • The Australia Book by Eve Pownell © 1956. Republished  2008. This book tells the story of Australia. This 32 page quarto size book has excellent illustrations and would be perfect for young students.
    Age range 4-7years old.
  • Our Sunburnt Country by Arthur Baillie ©2008 is an updated version of his popular 1964 work. This 140 page books spans history from Aboriginal settlement to the present. It has wonderful illustrations and a literary style.
    Age range 7-Adult.
  • A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark © 2008 (updated).
    This book is at a high school and university level.
  • Even though this is not a comprehensive history of Australia I highly recommend this book also. Papunya School Book of Country History by Nadia Wheatley
    © 2001.
    Written for the Papunya school as a record of history when white settlers came into central Australia and how this affected the Aboriginal people that lived around the region.

Once you have chosen your spine read it aloud if possible to your children. Engage the children with the narratives and don’t read too much in one sitting. Have them begging for more.

Here are some booklist suggestions.

2. Narrations Oral and Written

Have your children narrate what they read. That is, tell back in their words, what they have heard you read (or they read). Narrations help the child and parent understand what is being comprehended. With the younger children this may be orally or with older children (from around 10 years old) it can be written. This is an acquired art. One I have not perfected, but I’m working on it.

3. Unit Study

Unit studies weave a web of connections and don’t always fall into neatly packaged subjects. Often topics overlap at times, or lead towards another subject. This is all part of the learning journey.

Our Australian Book Traveller teaches Australian history, art, science and geography using living picture books.

You can also focus on a particular topic and make a history lesson from that. It could be Prime Ministers of Australia ,The Australian Flag, or Australian cooking (Pavlova, Anzac Biscuits, Damper and Bush Tucker).

Saint Mary MacKillop Lapbook is a hands-on activity, written with passion, that can be used to teach children in a fun and interesting way about the life of Australia’s first canonised saint in the Catholic church.

4. Australian Architecture

Studying architecture can reveal different aspects of Australian history. Here are some starting points.

  • Francis Greenway –Convict architect
  • Governor Macquarie’s town planning.
  • The Harbour Bridge
  • The Opera House
  • The Rabbit Proof Fence
  • Old and New Parliament house

5. Australian Art.

Australian art reveals what life was like in the times gone by.

  • “Gwion” Bradshaw rockpaintings in the Kimberley.
  • Megafauna aboriginal rock paintings.
  • Joseph Lycett Convict artist (1724-1825).
  • Tom Roberts, (1856-1931) and Fredrick McCubbin (1855-1917)
  • Albert Namatjira (1902–1959) Famous Aboriginal Painter
  • D’Arcy Doyle (1932-2001) had a deep affinity with the Australian bush and his work focuses on horses, sheep, drovers, and other farm activities as well as children’s games and sport

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Teach your students about their place in history - Australian Schools

My Place in History is a free web-based program designed to teach students about the concepts of change and diversity – of backgrounds, in family structures, and the many economic, political and social circumstances in both our distant and more recent history that have contributed to who we are today and how we all came to be living in Australia.

Students will explore their own personal family history, creating family trees online, whilst learning about the key drivers of change within society during the lives of their ancestors - wherever they came from - and how these changes impacted their own identity, as well as that of their family and society more generally.

My Place in History has been designed for teachers by teachers and is tailored to each state’s individual curriculum. A collection of specially designed online resources and activities have been developed to make learning about history, and their family’s role within this, both educational and engaging. Better still, it’s completely free!

My Place in History is powered by, Australia’s leading online family history resource and part of the global network of websites.

Unit 1: Change through History

Students will learn about significant changes that have occurred over time in transport, communication, manufacturing, housing, leisure, food, technology, purchasing, and medicine.

Unit 2: My Society through History

Students will develop an understanding of history as it applies to their community. The initial focus is on the school; the subsequent focus is on a section of a nearby community.

Unit 3 My Family History

Students will research and understand a minimum of two generations of their own family through the use of oral history and interactive resources.

The website also provides a secure area for each teacher to upload and store their digital own resources.

We would love you to register, download the appropriate state program and explore the website.

As our aim is to continue developing this web-based resource, we would be keen to hear any feedback that you may have.

Access it here