We Are Australian: Activity 3: The Australian identity over time

How your personal identity can change over time

As an introduction to the following activities discuss how the students' own identities might change over time, as they get older.

Focus Question

  • What events and experiences might change you?
  • What changes might take place? (eg appearance, attitudes, beliefs, language, role in society, behaviours)
  • How will these affect your view about yourself, your sense of who you are, your identity?

How a nation's identity can change over time

Raise similar questions about the nation.

Focus Question

  • Has Australia's identity changed over time as the nation has 'grown up'?
  • What experiences and events have changed the way Australians like to see themselves?
  • What things have stayed the same?

Australia 100 years ago

Play the song 'Waltzing Matilda' to the class. (Source note: This song is sung on the Stories of Democracy CD-ROM.) Discuss the lyrics, the story and the meaning of the song. Emphasise the bush, the swagman, the squatter, the challenge to authority and the feeling of the song.

Focus Question

  • Are any of these values and characteristics typical of today's Australians?
  • Would this song make a good national anthem?

Continue to explore the bush theme by looking at the painting 'Shearing of the Rams' by Tom Roberts on page 26 of the Australian Readers. Read the accompanying text and analyse the picture with the class.

Focus Question

  • What is this scene about?
  • What are the different characters doing?
  • How are they dressed?
  • What do the people in this picture have in common?
  • Does it look pleasant or unpleasant work? Why?
  • Would we be able to see this work going on today? Where? How would it be different?
  • Would this work be a common activity today?
  • Have any students seen this sort of work or been a part of it?

Discuss with the class: What do the song and the painting suggest about the way Australians liked to see themselves in the 1890s?

Ask students to imagine they are standing in the shearing shed of this picture. Ask them to describe, in writing, what is happening and who the people are in the picture. Ask them to examine the work the people are doing in the painting and then to describe the sensations: the sounds, the smells, the feelings involved in the work. They then share their written responses with each other.

Extension activity

Enlarge this picture on the photocopier and ask students to write their responses underneath it to display in the class or school.

Summative discussion

  • How is the Australian identity of the past different from those qualities listed already on the wall mural? What qualities could be added?
  • Do these qualities still exist in Australians? If so, how are they shown today?

Introduction | Activity 1 | Activity 2 | Activity 3 | Activity 4 | Activity 5