Teaching Stage 3 History: the Australian colonies

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

Featured Content

Tasman map

Caption on bottom

To download the Tasman Map transcript, click here.


In Stage 3, The Australian Colonies provides a study of colonial Australia in the 1800s. Students look at the founding of British colonies and the development of a colony. They learn about what life was like for different groups in the colonial period. They examine significant events and people, political and economic developments, social structures and settlement patterns.

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

  • What do we know about the lives of people in Australia’s colonial past and how do we know?
  • How did an Australian colony develop over time and why?
  • How did colonial settlement change the environment?
  • What were the significant events and who were the significant people that shaped Australian colonies?


HT-3-1: describes & explains the significance of people, groups, places & events to the development of Australia.

HT-3-2: describes and explains different experiences of people living in Australia over time

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.


  • construct a timeline and map of the formation of the varying states leading to Federation
  • through discussion and writing, use historical terms and concepts such as Federation, colonial, exploration, environment, frontier conflict.

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.


  • through a range of sources, investigate the impact of European settlement and exploration on Aboriginal peoples
  • examine a range of sources for colonial life and compose a range of questions to be researched as a class

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Perspectives and Interpretations (Skill & Concept)

People from the past (or present) will have different views and experiences.

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


  • research and discuss two varying views towards Federation at the time.
  • conduct a class debate between the two varying views towards Federation.
  • on a map of the world, locate the countries from which migrants came to Australian in the C19th. Choose a migrant group and explain why they came and their contribution to the society. Identify the range of reasons for migration.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Empathetic Understanding (Skill & Concept)

Students develop an understanding of another’s views, life and decisions made.

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


  • select a range of people in C19th Australia and from sources, compare their experiences and consider how they may vary in their attitude to life in the colony eg convict women, wealthy merchants, landowners, Aboriginal women.
  • write a diary account of a day in their life.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:


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


  • compose interview questions that they may ask an historical character from the time.
  • select an early explorer and through sources, explain why the journey was undertaken, the challenges of the journey and the result.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Explanation and Communication

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


  • compose a newspaper article from the time describing life on the goldfields – or reporting the Eureka Stockade.
  • present a book review to class that has contributed to their understanding of C19th Australia.
  • in character, students narrate their experiences as an early migrant to C19th 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.


  • identify how life in C19th Australia either changed or remained the same over time eg food, transport, population, work.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:

Cause and effect

Some causes and effects of an historical event or development eg migration to Australia. 


  • discuss the reasons for sending convicts to Australia from Britain
  • examine the impact of the early Sydney settlement on the local Aboriginal peoples.

Links to Library Learning Sequences:


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


  • are given 5 important early settlers or officials to NSW. They research their lives and decide why each was most significant to the development of the colony. Students justify their choice.
  • research the Eureka Stockade. How significant was this event to Australian democracy?
  • debate: Ned Kelly : hero or villain?

Links to Library Learning Sequences:


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


  • are provided with each of the above arguments and decide which is the most plausible based on available sources.     

State Library of NSW Learning Sequences and Resources

Greenway and Macquarie

Through an examination of the work of Francis Greenway, students learn about the nature of the early colony of Sydney during the early 1800s.

Concepts: Significance


Migration to Australia in the 1800s

Students learn about the founding of British colonies.

Concepts: Perspectives and Empathetic Understanding


Johnny Kangatong

Students use images & written sources by Johhny Kangatong, an early Aboriginal artist.

Concepts: Perspectives and Empathetic understanding


Caroline Chisholm

Students research Caroline Chisholm & her contributions to the shaping of the early colony.

Concepts: Significance and Cause & effect


Mary Reibey

Students use a range of sources to investigate the role of Mary Reibey & the contribution she made to the early colony.

Concepts: Significance and Perspectives


The Gold Rush

Students examine sources relating to gold rushes and the resulting social change.

Concepts: Cause & effect and Significance


Governor Macquarie

Students examine sources relating to Macquarie & the impact he had on the early colony.

Concepts: Cause & effect and Significance