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Life in Sydney

Student activities

Task no. 1

Understanding life in Sydney during Henry Lawson's Lifetime

Read the background information on Henry Lawson below.

Henry Lawson was born in 1867 in NSW, Australia. During this time Australia existed as separate colonies rather than a nation. There was no national flag, women could not vote and working conditions were harsh. People still identified with being British, however this was a pivotal period of Australia's history. Lawson's writing is still loved today for its rich source of information about the Australian bush and the people and has been identified as playing a key role in forging the identity of Australia. Many of Lawson's writings were based on events and people in his life.

For more information about Henry Lawson's life, click here.

Libby Hathorn is a well-known Australian author and she has written and narrated the clip below about Henry Lawson. Watch the video as a class and answer the discussion questions below.

  • What can you tell of life in Sydney during the time Henry Lawson lived?
  • What do you notice about the area he lived?
  • What do you notice about the style and features of Henry Lawson's poems?

State Library of NSW presents Libby Hathorn's Poets of Australia: Henry Lawson

Caption on bottom

Task no. 2

Primary sources

Pictures can be an important source of information and we can discover much about the past through them. 

As a class view some photos from the State Library collection known as primary sources and analyse them for their information. Discuss the meaning of this term and how reliable a primary source is.

Take a look at the source below, of Louise Lawson and her son Charles William in front of their bark hut. This photo was taken between 1870-1875.

  • Look closely at the photo to discover what information you can gather about early Sydney.
  • Write down everything you notice in the picture.
  • Share your discoveries with the class. Make sure to draw attention to clothing, building materials, building construction and the neighbourhood, if this has not been mentioned.

These conditions impacted Henry Lawson's experiences growing up and consequently, his writing.

Louisa Lawson and her son Charles William in front of their bark hut, Gulgong area, 1870-1875
View collection item detail

Task no. 3

Portraits of Henry Lawson

Working in pairs, analyse the portraits of Henry Lawson below.

  • What can you tell about his personality from the photos?
  • Write down 4 adjectives on post-it notes and display them on a class poster.
Item 122g: Henry Lawson, 1915 / photographer William Johnson, 1915
View collection item detail