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Spot the Difference

Students compare paintings of Sydney Cove over time and uncover the reason why Aboriginal people were included in these paintings. 

Student activities

Task no. 1

Spot the Difference

Examine the primary sources, below. They are images of Warrane/Sydney Cove from 1789, and 14 years later in 1803.  

Zoom into the details and notice change over time. Spot the differences.

West view of Sydney-Cove taken from the Rocks, at the rear of the General Hospital, [1789], [1789]
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[Sydney from the western side of the Cove, ca 1803 / attributed to G.W. Evans], [ca. 1803]
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Answer these questions:   

  • What is different?  
  • What has remained the same?  
  • Why is that so? 
  • Is there any evidence of the type of Aboriginal shelter that existed prior to the arrival of the First Fleet? Is that evidence erased or can we see it?  
  • What is the impact of the European buildings on the environment?  
  • What is the impact on Aboriginal people? 

The two-storey building on the other side of the cove is the Governor’s residence. Notice how it has had an extension since it was first built and now has a verandah.  

Answer this question:  

  • Why might a verandah have been added? 

Look at the painting from 1803 and observe the Aboriginal people in the foreground. Many paintings from this era had similar inclusions. 

Answer these questions:  

  • Were the Aboriginal people always conveniently in the foreground of every scene when an artist was working? If not, why did the artist add Aboriginal people to the painting if they were not there? [Answer in Additional Information.] 
  • Could artists have omitted or added or changed any details? 

Imagine you were a convict who had arrived in 1788. You would have been a witness to this enormous change over time from a natural bushland setting to a thriving port town. Describe the change to someone who was not there to witness it.