Teaching Stage 3 History: Australia as a nation

Learning Activity
Schools & Teachers
Teacher Professional Learning

This resource was developed by Dr Jennifer Lawless, State Library of NSW Fellow 2016.


Australia as a Nation moves from colonial Australia to the development of Australia as a nation, particularly after 1901. Students explore the factors leading to Federation and experiences of democracy and citizenship. Students understand the significance of Australia’s British heritage, the Westminster system & other models that influence the development of Australia’s system of government. Students learn about migrants to Australia and their contributions to Australia’s economic and social development.

The following are teaching ideas for this stage that incorporate skills and concepts, with links to the State Library of NSW’s teaching and learning collection. The teaching ideas are not in any sequence. Teachers should choose those that are suitable for their class and integrate them into their program where relevant.

Syllabus links

  • Why & how did Australia become a nation?
  • How did Australian society change throughout the C20th?
  • Who were the people who came to Australia? Why did they come?
  • What contributions have significant individuals & groups made to the development of Australian society? 

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

HT-3-4: describes and explains the struggles for rights and freedoms in Australia, including Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples.

HT-3-5: applies a variety of skills of historical inquiry and communication.

Throughout the content, the relevant historical skills and concepts should be taught. The skills and concepts of Perspectives and Empathetic Understanding have been integrated.

History Skills: How Can We Integrate Them?

Comprehension: chronology, terms & concepts

  • Respond, read and write to show understanding of historical matters
  • Sequence historical people and events
  • Use historical terms & concepts.


  • on a time line, sequence the political developments leading to Federation or the struggle for rights and freedoms of Aboriginal people and women.
  • create a timeline of immigration to Australia linked to world events, such as the Vietnam War
  • use historical terms such as Federation, democracy, rights & freedoms, migration.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Analysis and Use of Sources

Locate information relevant to inquiry questions in a range of sources

  • Compare information from a range of sources.


  • brainstorm what they know about Federation and pose a range of relevant questions to be researched
  • select a political figure in the development of Australian democracy and write an obituary in 50 words.
  • brainstorm possible oral history questions to ask a migrant family to learn of their reasons for migration and experiences in Australia and then complete such an interview. Findings are collated as a class.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Perspectives and Interpretations (Skill and Concept)

  • Identify different points of view in the past & present.


  • are provided with opposing views towards Federation and explain why each view may have been held.
  • identify varying attitudes to granting votes for women and explain their reasons for holding such a view
  • consider the different points of view of Australian and Turkish soldiers at Gallipoli.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Empathetic Understanding (Skill and Concept)

  • Explain why the behavior & attitudes of people from the past may differ from today.


  • research the experiences of Aboriginal people or women agitating for the right to vote and write a letter to the Government of the time outlining your arguments.


  • Identify & pose questions to inform an historical inquiry.
  • Identify & locate a range of relevant sources to support an historical inquiry.


  • using Australian coins and stamps as sources, identify the major historical events or issues that are shown.
  • research the ‘push‘ and ‘pull’ factors that influence migration and collate findings as a class.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Explanation and Communication

  • Develop historical texts, particularly narratives & descriptions, which incorporate source material
  • Use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) & digital technologies.


  • write a newspaper article describing the advantages of Federation for Australians.
  • using at least three sources, explain why a particular migrant group came to Australia.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Historical Concepts: How Can We Integrate Them?

Continuity and Change

Some things change over time & others remain the same.

  • Aspects of both continuity & change in Australian society over time.


  • complete an illustrated time-line of aspects of Australian life that has changed or remained the same throughout the C20th.
  • locate images such as drawings or photographs that show how women’s lives have changed in the C20th.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Cause and effect

  • Students can develop an understanding of reasons why events or developments in the past produced later actions, results or effects.
  • Some causes & effects of an historical event or development eg migration to Australia.


  • research the various ‘push‘ factors that have caused migrations to Australia.
  • interview a migrant family about why they migrated to Australia and present findings to the class. Collate the responses.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:


  • The importance of the contributions of individuals and groups to their times.


  • what was the significance of the Stolen Generations to Aboriginal peoples?
  • why is Mabo a significant historical figure?
  • debate who has been the most significant Prime Minister since Federation, based on historical evidence.
  • create a timeline of ‘milestones’ of Australian C20th history.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:


Historical events or issues may be interpreted differently by historians eg. British ‘invasion’  or ‘settlement’.


  • are provided with differing views of historians to a particular Prime Minister . Why and how do they vary?  

State Library of NSW Learning Sequences and Resources

David Unaipon

Students explore the life of David Unaipon and the contributions he made to Australian society.

Concepts: Cause & effect and Significance


Actions for Aboriginal Rights

The development of Australia as a nation after 1901, including the struggle for Aboriginal Rights.

Concepts: Cause & effect and Perspectives


Frank Hurley

Students investigate the contributions that rank Hurley made & his influence on Australia.

Concepts: Significance


The Move to Federation

Students explore the factors leading to Federation & experiences of democracy & citizenship over time.

Concepts: Continuity & change and Perspectives