Review Blog

Oct 05 2012

Australian Origins: Where the people of Australia came from by Victoria Macleay

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Trocadero Publishing, 2012. Volume 1: Afghanistan to Italy. ISBN 9780864271266. Volume 2: Japan to Zimbabwe. ISBN 9780864271273.
Among the key inquiry questions for Year 6 in the history strand of the Australian National Curriculum are these:
1. Who were the people who came to Australia? Why did they come?
2. What contribution have significant individuals and groups made to the development of Australian society?
These two books from Trocadero's series The National Identity are perfect resources for helping students research the answers to these questions, so they not only have a sound understanding of the multi-national makeup of our population, but also a solid basis for the more specialised studies undertaken in history in later years.
Arranged in alphabetical order, there are clear and easily readable details about each country, its relationship to Australia and a brief national history which puts the immigration patterns into context. The information is in easily readable chunks accompanied by a map, photos and a flag. There's even a pie graph that shows the number and proportion of each nationality within the overall population - apparently there are currently 544,171 New Zealand-born people here, of which I am one! Kiwis are the second largest source for immigration after those from the UK, which is not surprising.
Because my natural instinct was to look up the stats for my origins, it would make sense to use these resources in a similar way with your students. Ask them, 'Were you (or your parents) the first person from ____ to come to live in Australia?' Given the answer is probably 'No,' this would provide an opportunity for them to kickstart their research using these resources and then lead into a deeper investigation of the history of their home country and why people choose to migrate. The influence of war is powerful. From this, a parallel study of the plight of refugees and the contemporary issue of asylum seekers and 'boat people' could ensue, as well as comparing how Australians have treated migrants in the past, such as the shunning of the Chinese during the gold rush, the White Australia policy, the impact of European immigration after the war, the current requirements for entry and so on. It would help students understand how the past influences the present and perhaps help answer that perennial question about why we need to study history. Students might then read Marsden's Home and Away and investigate which country they might flee to, or, if they are leaving in more convivial circumstances, which country they might go to and its requirements for entry, work permits and so forth. Is the grass greener? For a more mathematical slant, students could use the stats to build a graph of the makeup of Australia's population (an authentic task for learning pie graphs); perhaps compare it to the makeup of the school's population and suggest reasons for any differences such as the tendency for some groups to choose to live near each other and the implications for this; and then investigate the wealth of information that is available on the website of the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Australian Origins is just one in a number of series being published by Trocadero as it works to provide current, relevant resources to support the history curriculum. Others include Asia-Pacific Relations; Asia-Pacific Timelines; Australia Year by Year; Australian Decades; Defending Australia; Linking the Nation; and The National Identity (which would also support the Year 6 curriculum). To see the complete list (as well as what's planned) go to and to find those that will meet the needs of a particular year group go to As the implementation of the Australian National Curriculum is rolled out across the country, these are some excellent resources purposely produced to support it.
Barbara Braxton

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