Aboriginal women of Sydney

Topic: First Contacts
Learning Activity
Schools & Teachers
Stage 2
History: Year 4
Students learn about European exploration and colonisation in Australia and throughout the world up to the early 1800s. They examine the impact of exploration on other societies, how these societies interacted with newcomers, and how these experiences contributed to their cultural diversity.

Key inquiry question #1

What was life like for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples before the arrival of the Europeans?

Content Summary

The nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Islanders and others, and the Europeans, and the effects of these interactions on, for example families and the environment (ACHHK080)


  • describe the nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and others, including Aboriginal resistance.

Background Notes for Teachers

It is difficult to know what life was like for the Aboriginal people of Sydney Cove before the arrival of the British, because they did not record their activities in the same way as Europeans. Theirs was an oral culture and most of the visual records they created in rock carvings and paintings along the shores of the harbour were destroyed long ago with the clearing of the land and building construction.

The information we can deduce about the pre-colonial lifeways of Aboriginal people comes from British settlers who recorded what they saw in the first few years of contact and, more recently, from archaeological research. We must remember that in many respects the British saw Aboriginal people as a curiosity. Therefore, our knowledge of Aboriginal life before British colonisation can only be seen through the lens of the colonists and has to be extrapolated from their observations of Aboriginal people at the time of first contact.

Teachers should be aware that, in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, hearing names or seeing images of deceased persons may cause sadness or distress, particularly to the relatives of these people.

Student Activities

Aboriginal Women

Students use images and written sources to ask historical questions about the past.

  • the activities are designed to  introduce students to images as historical records of people, places and events in the past.
  • students examine images from the State Library of NSW to investigate the everyday life activities of Aboriginal women during the early years of the British colony.
Number of set tasks:

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum History K - 10

HT2-3 describes people, events and actions related to world exploration and its effects 

Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • use historical terms (ACHHS066, ACHHS082)

Use of sources

  • locate relevant information from sources provided (ACHHS068, ACHHS084, ACHHS215, ACHHS216)


  • pose a range of questions about the past (ACHHS067, ACHHS083)

Explanation and communication

  • develop texts, particularly narratives (ACHHS070, ACHHS086)
  • use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies (ACHHS071, ACHHS087)

Perspectives and interpretations

  • identify different points of view (ACHHS069, ACHHS085)
  • Continuity and change: Some things change over time and others remain the same.
  • Perspectives: people from the past will have different views and experiences.

Learning across the curriculum

  • Literacy
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priority provides opportunities for all learners to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the world’s oldest continuous living cultures. This knowledge and understanding will enrich their ability to participate positively in the ongoing development of Australia.


OI.3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have unique belief systems and are spiritually connected to the land, sea, sky and waterways.


OI.6 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have lived in Australia for tens of thousands of years and experiences can be viewed through historical, social and political lenses.


OI.8 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have sophisticated family and kinship structures.