Australian Studies

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Contents
Australian Fauna
Australian Flora
Discovery of Australia
Ancient Australia
Our First People
Australian Dinosaurs
Know Your Australia
Australian Icons
Australian Emblems & Symbols
ANZAC
Australian Songs, Ballads and Poems
Australiana Crosswords 

Australian Fauna
**click kangaroo for print version**

Australian Mammals 1

Provide information about each animal, including any special characteristics. Mention at least three of the following: appearance, habitat, diet, distribution, predators, prey.

kangaroo  

koala          

platypus   

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Australian Mammals 2

Echidna

Many people do not know that echidnas are named after a monster in ancient Greek mythology, Echidna, who is half woman, half snake.

Echidnas, together with platypuses, are the only mammals that lay eggs. Such mammals are called monotremes.

Echidnas are small (35-53cm long) and covered with coarse hair and spines; with their diet consisting largely of ants and termites echidnas are also known as spiny anteaters.

Echidnas’ long, slender snouts functiοn as both mouth (eating) and nose (smelling). Their mouth is tiny and their jaw toothless. They feed by tearing open soft logs and anthills and use their long, sticky tongue, which protrudes from their snout, to collect their prey.

Echidnas have very short, strong limbs with large claws and they are powerful diggers.

The female lays a single soft-shelled, leathery egg and deposits it directly into her pouch.

Hatching takes place after ten days; the young echidna, called a puggle, then sucks milk from the pores of the two milk patches (monotremes have no nipples) and remains in the pouch for 45 to 55 days, at which time it starts to develop spines.

The mother digs a burrow and deposits the puggle, returning every five days to suckle it.

Talk about or Write about

1) What do echidnas have in common with reptiles and birds?

2) Echidnas have coarse hair. What does coarse mean?

3) How might an echidna’s spines be of use to it?

4) Echidnas have a tiny mouth and no teeth. Does this ‘fit’ with its diet?

5) An echidna’s tongue protrudes from its snout. What does protrudes mean?

6) Here is something to think about and if you can come up with a good answer you’re very clever! … How do mother echidnas know when 5 days have passed by? (see final sentence in the passage) Hint: take a guess or do some research.

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Australian Mammals 3

Numbat

Numbats are animals that are found only in Western Australia. They are small (35-45 cm in length) and have a long pointy snout. Numbats have black and white stripes and a bushy tail.

Numbats live in hollow logs and they feed on termites. A numbat can eat up to 20 000 termites in a day; it digs up the termites from loose earth with its front claws and captures them with its long sticky tongue.

Numbats are marsupials. Marsupials are mammals which have a pouch to carry their young. Australia has more kinds of marsupials than any other country.

Talk about or Write about

1) In which Australian State are numbats found?

2)  Are numbats longer than your school ruler?

3) Can you think of a reason why a numbat’s snout needs to be pointy?

4) Numbats have stripes. What are some other animals that have stripes?

5) Which two parts of its body does a numbat use to capture termites?

6) Can you think of another word for capture?

7) Are all mammals marsupials or are all marsupials mammals?

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Australian Reptiles & Amphibians 

Provide information about each animal, including any special characteristics. Mention at least three of the following: appearance, habitat, diet, distribution, predators, prey.

 frill-neck lizard         

Green Tree Frog       

tiger snake                  

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Australian Birds

Provide information about each bird, including any special characteristics. Mention at least three of the following: appearance, habitat, diet, distribution, predators, prey.

emu               

brolga                       

kookaburra         

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Insects & Arachnids 

Provide information about each creature, including any special characteristics. Mention at least three of the following: appearance, habitat, diet, distribution, predators, prey.

red back spider                   

forest scorpion                 

Bombardier Beetle                

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Australian Flora
**click flower for print version** 

Australian Trees 1

For each Australian tree below indicate its distribution on the map.
Then, in the spaces to the left and right of the map, write the tree’s botanical name and three or four other facts of interest. 

Blackboys               

Eucalyptus                

Moreton Bay Fig Tree      

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Australian Flowers 1

Find 5 interesting facts about each of these Australian flowers.

Sturt’s Desert Pea  

Golden Wattle        

Banksia                    

Kangaroo Paw      

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Australian Flowers 2

The Golden Wattle (Australia’s Floral Emblem)

The Golden Wattle has been the Floral Emblem of Australia for many years though it only
became the official emblem in 1988 (Australia’s Bicentenary).
The Golden Wattle (scientific name Acacia pycnantha) is just one of about 900 species of
wattle (Acacia) in Australia. Its flowers are bright yellow and scented; its leaves are a shiny
dark green. When it flowers in late winter and spring, a mass of fragrant, fluffy, golden flowers are produced.
The Golden Wattle is found in all southern parts of Australia from east to west, very often in
the under-storey of eucalypt forests; it thrives in dry, shallow soils.
The Australian Coat of Arms includes a wreath of wattle and the green and gold colours.

Australians representing their country in international sporting events usually wear the national colours, green and gold, said to be based on wattle foliage and flowers.      

Here are some stamps and coins featuring the Golden Wattle.
         
             

Talk about or Write about
1) How many years ago did the Golden Wattle officially become the Floral Emblem of
Australia?
2) Name the months when the Golden Wattle’s flowers appear.
3) What do you think is meant by ‘the under-storey of eucalypt forests’?
4) What does thrives mean?
5) Australia’s Olympic athletes wear uniforms of green and gold -based on the colours of the Golden Wattle. Do you think our athletes’ uniforms should, instead, be in the red, white and blue colours of the Australian flag?

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Discovery of Australia
**click Captain Cook for print version**

 

Early Voyagers 

There are some (notably British historian Gavin Menzies) who claim that the Chinese were the first mariners to discover Australia. These assertions are yet to be proved.

The first records of European mariners sailing into Australian waters date to 1606, and includes their observations of the land known as Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land).
The first ship and crew to chart the Australian coast and meet with Aboriginal people was the Duyfken captained by Dutchman, Willem Janszoon.

Between 1606 and 1770, an estimated 54 European ships (many being Dutch and French) made contact. Prominent among these were merchant ships from the Dutch East Indies Company and included the vessels of Abel Tasman. Tasman charted parts of the north, west and south coasts of Australia which was then known as New Holland.


This map was made in 1753 by Frenchman Jacques Nicolas Bellin.
The east coast had not yet been charted so an imaginary line was drawn between Tasmania and Papua New Guinea.

In 1770, Englishman Captain James Cook charted the Australian east coast in his ship Endeavour. Under instruction from King George III of England, Cook claimed the east coast on 22 August 1770 at Possession Island, naming eastern Australia New South Wales.

The coast of Australia, featuring Tasmania as a separate island, was mapped in detail by the English mariners and navigators Bass and Flinders, and the French mariner, Baudin.

A nearly completed map of the coastline was published by Flinders -who was the first to circumnavigate Australia- in 1814.

Talk about or Write about

1. Suppose that some day it is proven true that the Chinese were the first to discover Australia. If they were the first, and if Australia had been claimed as a Chinese colony (just as the British claimed Australia as theirs) how do you think our country might be different from what it is today?

2. Dutch mariners were the first to meet with Australia’s Aboriginal people. When these two very different groups first encountered one another what might have been some thoughts, feelings and emotions experienced by (a) the Dutch and (b) the Aboriginals?

3. Merchants are traders…buyers or sellers of goods. Why might merchant ships from Europe have been in waters near Australia, so far from their home countries?

4. The 1753 map by Frenchman Jacques Nicolas Bellin (above) clearly shows that the west coast of Australia was more thoroughly mapped before the east coast. Yet it was the east coast where settlements began and flourished; why do you think this might have occurred?

5. King George III of England holds a special place in Australia’s history. For what reason(s) might the King have instructed Captain Cook to claim the east coast of this distant land for England?

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European Mariners

Below are some of the first Europeans to visit Australia’s shores and all ventured from a different country.
For each of these brave mariners provide the following information….
Country of origin:      Date(s) of voyage(s):      Name of ship:     Why is this explorer important in Australia’s history?

Willem Janszoon                        

Antoine Bruni d’Entrecasteaux 

William Dampier                             

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Captain James Cook

Obtain factual information from research. Then give brief but thoughtful answers to each question below.

                                 
Why is Captain Cook such an important figure in Australia’s history?

                               
Tell how Captain Cook’s ‘HMS Endeavour’ was almost shipwrecked on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

                   

Why do you think Joseph Banks, a botanist, was sent with Captain Cook on the long voyage to Australia?

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Ancient Australia
**click on green map for print version**

Pangaea and Gondwana

Long, long ago there was no Australia.                                                                          

Going back in time more than 200 million years there was just one continent on Earth, a supercontinent scientists call Pangaea.

Then, in the Triassic Period, Pangaea broke into two, Gondwana in the south and Laurasia in the north.

The great land mass Gondwana consisted of South America, Antarctica, Africa, Madagascar, India and Australia.

About 184 million years ago South America began to drift slowly westward from Africa and, at about the same time, Madagascar began moving away from Africa to the east, Antarctica drifted south while India moved northward.

                           

Part of Antarctica broke away around 100 million years ago; this became New Zealand. Australia began to separate from Antarctica soon after. Over the years Australia moved further and further north, its shape gradually changing into what it is today.

If ever you visit Albany at the southern tip of Western Australia you can see a sign set amid an outcrop of granite rock at the coast. The sign mentions that the rocks and general geology of this area is of the same type and same age as that along the northern coast of Antarctica.

Talk about or Write about

1)  What is interesting about the shapes of the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa?

2) What caused Pangaea and then Gondwana to break apart?

3) There was life on Earth at the time of Gondwana. What kinds of life were there?

4) Imagine that Australia and all the other continents miraculously came back together again -with no calamities- and everyone on Earth lived on a single continent, similar to Pangaea. How would things be different? (some key words to get you started: travel, communication, nationalism, wars, climate, trade, …).

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Our First People
**click on children for print version** 

        

World’s Oldest Art?
  

Photo: Robert Gunn.         Image and text reproduced here with kind permission of Jane Resture.

Rock art found in central Arnhem Land could be among the oldest examples of rock painting in the world – if the birds depicted in the painting prove to be what scientists think they are. Rock art specialists suspect that the paintings depicted the long-extinct genyornis.

The genyornis, a flightless bird which stood three times the height of an emu, was one of many megafauna to became extinct when humans began burning the continent for hunting and land-clearing 40 000 years ago.

The paintings showed a thick, rounded beak, which was a characteristic of the genyornis. The painted birds, the largest of which is a metre in height, also feature a crop or a muscular pouch near the throat which forms part of the digestive tract and short, very solid legs.

Certainly, if the image was that of a genyornis it would date the paintings as at least 40 000 years old, making it one of the oldest examples of rock art in the world. It would certainly predate some of the oldest reliably dated rock art of parts of Europe, which go back 30 000 years.

Talk about or Write about

1. In what ways is painting on rock different from most other forms of painting?

2. What do you think depicted means? (1st para) 

3. What are megafauna?

4. What caused the megafauna to go extinct?

5. Genyornis had a thick, rounded beak and the paintings show this. How else could we know what genyornis’s beak looked like?

6. Many palaeontologists believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Can you think of any resemblance(s) between genyornis and a dinosaur you know about? If so, what are the common characteristics?

7. Why do you think genyornis would have been an important animal in the lives of ancient Aboriginals?

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Inma Ceremony


Two boys from the Coonana Aboriginal Community in Western Australia prepare for an ‘Inma’ – a dance to welcome home the kids who have been out in the desert for months learning tribal law from the elders.      Picture © Alastair McNaughton. 

An Inma is a celebration of the earth and land with song, dance and feasting. Inma Maku is a chance for modern Aboriginal kids to learn a bit about the old ways of their people. Maku means ‘witchetty grub’.

The kids dig in the roots of acacia trees to find plump white witchetty grubs (larvae of the cossid moth). Witchetty grubs made a traditional meal for Aboriginal tribes in the days when they roamed the land, hunting and gathering their food. Today, Aboriginal people often live in towns and cities, so events like Inma Maku help them not to lose touch with their past. They tell stories about ‘The Dreamtime’, paint their faces and bodies with ancient designs and perform traditional dances by the firelight after feasting on the grubs.

Talk about or Write about

1) Aboriginal kids learn tribal law from the elders. What could be some advantages in learning directly from older people rather than learning from computers and books?

2) Would you eat a  witchetty grub? Why/Why not?

3) Is eating live witchetty grubs any more cruel than eating larger animals that have been slaughtered, as occurs in many modern civilizations?

4) Why do you think participants in an Inma might paint their faces and bodies with ancient designs?

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Iconography

      
Thunder -as described by Janet Long Nakamarra. © Jinta Desert Art

This icon tells about thunder and lightning.

The circle in the centre represents the water (soakage). The two snake
symbols represent the thunder and the strokes (straight lines) is the lightning.

Thunder and lightning represent an aspect of the Rain Dreaming.

Talk about or Write about

1) How might a thunderstorm have affected tribal Aboriginal people’s activities?

2) What kinds of places could offer shelter from electrical storms?

3) Which would have been more of an influence, night-time storms or storms that occurred in daylight hours?

4) Thunder and lightning is often accompanied by drenching rain. Would desert Aboriginals have been disadvantaged by big downpours, would they have welcomed this rain or would it depend on their particular circumstances (time since last rain, places for shelter, etc)?

5) What would you say native animals (kangaroos, wombats etc) do during thunderstorms? What about birds?

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Indigenous Art: Dugong Dugong

                 
© Duncan Roughsey (artist);  Rainbow Serpent, www.rainbowserpent.com.au

This painting tells of a young boy who wanted to see how long he could stay under water, but when he came up for air he came up in the form of a dugong so he remained in the sea until this day.

Talk about or Write about

1) Do you think there might be a moral in the caption above?

2) What is a dugong?

3) In the picture there are two fish and two dugongs (dugongs are mammals). Note the difference in their tails. How does a dugong’s tail move differently from a fish’s?

4) Not all tribal Aboriginals would have come into contact with dugongs. Why would this be?

5) Most people think of Aboriginals as living in the outback or desert regions of Australia where animals such as kangaroos, goannas and emus were hunted for food. How, and with what weapons, might dugongs and fish have been captured?

6) What advantages and disadvantages would coastal tribes have had compared with their counterparts who lived far from the sea, and how -if at all- would their lifestyle have been different?

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Recreation: Woggabaliri

Note to Teachers: This Indigenous game offers an ideal supplement to PE and sports sessions. It may be played by both boys and girls, suits most ages, is a lot of fun and is excellent for developing co-ordination and concentration. Woggabaliri provides a nice ‘bridge’ for inter-cultural awareness and is ideal for inclusion in any Indigenous Studies program.

Woggabaliri is a non-competitive game played with a ball made of Bulrush roots wrapped in possum fur where the aim is to keep the ball in the air using football (soccer) type skills of teamwork and ball control. Played by the Wiradjuri and surrounding peoples before European arrival, Woggabaliri is the Ngunnawal word for “play”. A similar game with a ball made of grass covered in beeswax was also played by the Jingili people of the Northern Territory.

Woggabaliri is recognised by the Australian Sports Commission as one the oldest Indigenous ball games.

Basic rules: The game is played by groups of four to six players standing in a circle 2 metres apart and uses either a football (soccer) or a volleyball. Using feet and knees only, in no set order but without consecutive touches, the players attempt to keep the ball from touching the ground. The group that has the most touches in a set time wins. If the ball touches the ground the count is restarted.

Team rules: Two teams of four play on a volleyball court sized pitch with football (soccer) goals at each end. A game consists of two halves lasting 10 minutes each. Players may use feet, knees, thighs, chest and head to keep the ball aloft with the team losing possession if the ball touches the ground, is intercepted or an infringement occurs. Tackling is not permitted, and goals can be scored from any part of the pitch.

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Artefacts: Didgeridoo

The didgeridoo is one of the oldest musical instruments known.

It consists of a long tube, without finger holes, through which the player blows.

It is sometimes fitted with a mouthpiece of beeswax.

Didgeridoos are traditionally made from the wood of eucalyptus (gum) trees.

In tribal situations the didgeridoo is played only by men, usually as an accompaniment to ceremonial or recreational singing, or, much more rarely, as a solo instrument.

Skilled players use the technique of circular breathing to achieve a continuous sound, and also use techniques for creating multiple harmonies.

Although the instrument was not formerly widespread around the country -it was only used by Aboriginal groups in the most northerly areas- today it is commonly considered the national instrument of the Australian aborigines and is known around the world as an Australian icon.

Famous players include Djalu Gurruwiwi, Mark Atkins, William Barton, David Hudson and Joe Geia, as well as white virtuoso Charlie McMahon.

Talk about or Write about

1) How many syllables does the word didgeridoo have, and what are they?

2) Mention a few ways in which the didgeridoo is different from some other wind instruments you know.

3) Why might beeswax be used on the mouthpiece?

4) Didgeridoos are played only by men. What could be reasons for this?

5) How do didgeridoo players achieve a continuous sound?

6) What is meant by ‘an Australian icon’?

7) What is a virtuoso?

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Hunting and Gathering


© Colin Jones and Trish Smith (artists); Aboriginal Australia Arts Pty Ltd

This painting is entitled ‘Hunters and Gatherers of the Savannah’. It depicts an Aboriginal family hunting and gathering and shows tracking the kangaroo (as a food source); camp sites (represented by circles) can also be seen.      

Talk about or Write about

1) What do you see in the picture?

2) What weapon(s) were used to capture the kangaroo?

3) How is the kangaroo being carried?

4) To where might these people be walking?

5) How would you think these Aboriginal people might feast on their catch? (where, what time of day, eating utensils?, camp fire?)

6) An aboriginal woman is carrying a bowl on her head. What might be in this bowl?

7) How are the Aborigines dressed? Why do they not wear much clothing?

8) The people in this picture are tribal Aborigines. What does tribal mean?

9) What do you think is meant by ‘hunters and gatherers’?

10) Savannah (usually spelt without the h) is flat land where the main plant-life is grass (not trees or flowers).
(a) Which Australian animals or birds might live on the savannah? Say why.
(b) Which Australian animals or birds could not live here? Say why not.

11)  What are some differences in the way we obtain and eat our food to how tribal Aborigines obtain and eat theirs?

12) What foods might tribal Aborigines have that we don’t?

13) What foods might we have that tribal Aborigines don’t?

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Artefacts: Boomerang

Boomerangs have many uses and for Aborigines they have always been valuable possessions. They could be used to hunt game, create fire, as digging tools and as musical instruments.

At a corroboree (tribal gathering), two boomerangs would be clapped together to accompany song and dance.

The boomerang’s most common use was as a hunting weapon. It would be thrown into a flock of birds with the chance of bringing down more than one, or in hunting larger land animals.

The boomerang was shaped from wood. In central Australia mulga wood was commonly used. In other parts of Australia black wattle, bat willow, needlewood or mangrove were used.

Boomerangs were often painted with ochre and were sometimes decorated with designs showing spirit heroes. Other boomerangs were painted with dots arranged in circles -these were symbols of meeting places or campsites- and joining the dots together were the travel lines (paths) the tribes took to each meeting place.

Ancient Aboriginal stories describe how the Australian landscape was formed and shaped by the ancestors in the Dreamtime. In this time, many features of the land were created by mythological spears, clubs and boomerangs which were hurled into mountains, deserts, rivers and the sea.

Talk about or Write about

1) Describe the appearance of a boomerang.

2) Boomerangs are used to hunt game. What is ‘game’?

3) What would you say a corroboree is?

4) What would be the reason that boomerangs were not always made from the same type of wood?

5) Ochre, which comes from clay in the earth, is a natural substance that can be yellow, orange or brown (‘earthy’ colours). What is the difference between a natural substance and an artificial substance?

6) What did the dots and lines on some boomerangs represent?

7) What is meant by the Australian landscape?

8) What does mythological mean?

9) The final paragraph shows that Aboriginal people are very spiritual.  (a) What does it mean to be spiritual? (b) Can you think of any reason(s) why the Aborigines were so spiritual?

10) Sketch and decorate a boomerang using Aboriginal symbols (dots, lines, animals,..). Discuss your decorations (what they mean and what they show) with classmates.

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Dreamtime Story The Rainbow Serpent

“The story of the Rainbow Serpent is a story from the Dreamtime, told by Aboriginal people long, long ago. Children in the tribe learnt the story from the older people. In those days there were no computers, and not even books. Paper had not yet been invented so nothing was written down. All stories were passed on by telling, often around a fire in the desert at night.”

The Aborigines told of a gigantic snake that came up from beneath the earth, winding from side to side. This was the Rainbow Serpent, who lived in deep waterholes. The sun beating down on the great snake’s wet skin gave it a rainbow colour.

When the Rainbow Serpent came from beneath the ground it created huge ridges, mountains and gorges as it pushed upward. The snake’s twisting movements made the great rivers flow from its path.

The aboriginal tribes sprung from the Rainbow Serpent’s body; all the animals and birds of Australia came into being in the same way.

The Rainbow Serpent was spoken about in a hushed voice because if you made it angry by not obeying tribal rules it would harm you. But it would protect all the people who did the right thing.

The various aboriginal tribes had different names for the Rainbow Serpent. The Gunwinggu people in Australia’s north called the great snake Ngalyod.

Talk about or Write about

1) Why was the Rainbow Serpent always wet?

2) How did the Rainbow Serpent get its colours?

3) How were the great rivers formed?

4) Do you think the Rainbow Serpent was good, evil or both? (say why)

5) Try saying these words:     Gunwinggu     Ngalyod

6) Either draw the Rainbow Serpent coming out of a waterhole, showing mountains and gorges being created or draw the Rainbow Serpent slithering along the ground, forming great rivers.

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Indigenous Art

Teacher shows students pictures of aboriginal art from school library book(s).

The first people to live in our land were the Aborigines. They made beautiful art.
Some of the aborigines used symbols in their paintings.
Note to teachers: The symbols were not universal; they varied over time and from tribe to tribe. Teachers may wish to sketch some or all of these symbols on the blackboard or whiteboard.
          

Can you make a painting (or drawing) using some of these symbols? Give your painting some bright colours. When you’ve finished, show your drawing to your classmates; tell them what’s happening in your picture.

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Aboriginal Origins

Text adapted from “The extinction of the Australian pygmies” by Keith Windschuttle and Tim Gillin, ‘Quadrant’, June 2002. This information is for educative purposes: the views expressed here are not necessarily those of Australian Teacher or its authors.

Anthropologists and other researches aren’t in agreement as to when and from where the Aboriginal people first came to Australia. Not only that, there are those who think that Australian Aboriginals’ origins are diverse and they are not, in fact, one distinct race.

Waves of Migration

As recently as the 1950s, scholars thought that Australia had only been occupied for about 8 000 years. Now, however, we have evidence of human habitation extending back more than 40 000 years. For at least 30 000 of these years, recurring ice ages raised and lowered the sea levels between Australia and Asia, eliminating the Arafura Sea and Torres Strait more than once and reducing the furthest distance needed to cross deep water between Asia and either Australia or New Guinea to less than 100 kilometres.

Some believe there were three major waves of migration of quite different ancient people who came to the Australian continent from southeast Asia.

The theory is that more than 40 000 years ago, when sea levels were much lower and Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania comprised one landmass (called Sahul) the first people to arrive were very small with dark skin and very frizzy hair. They were Negritos (a Spanish word meaning “little negro”).

About 20 000 years ago, a second type of people arrived from Asia. These newcomers, called Murrayians, were comparatively lightly skinned, wavy-haired, stocky in build, with a lot of body hair. They drove away the Negritos, forcing them to retreat to the highlands of New Guinea, the rainforests of North Queensland and to then ice-capped Tasmania. The Murrayians became the dominant population on the east coast of Australia, and the open grasslands and parklands of the south and west of the continent.

Then, about 15 000 years ago, a third wave of hunter-gatherers arrived. They were comparatively tall, straight-haired and dark skinned, with very little body hair. Named Carpentarians, they colonised northern and central Australia.

All three of these ancient Australian races, according to the ‘Waves’ theory, originated in Africa in the very distant past (DNA studies show that modern humans’ oldest ancestor is the 200 000 year-old African woman, “Mitochondrial Eve”).

Australian Pygmies

What is not in doubt is that there were pygmies in Australia. They lived in North Queensland, in the wilds of the tropical rainforests. Some of their tribes were the Djabuganjdji, Mbarbaram and Yidinjdji, all of whom shared similar languages and culture. These were a small, curly-haired people whose languages had distinctive features. The adult males were only about 140-150 centimetres tall while females were some 15-30 centimetres shorter. They have been described as being small and slightly-built with dark skin and hair that was tightly curled and woolly.

The first real contact between Europeans and Australian pygmies occurred in the 1890s just south of Cairns, Queensland. These people were not just small but were very unlike any other Aborigines in Australia though their child-like faces were remarkably similar to those of the now extinct Tasmanian Aboriginals. In the mid 1950s the Australian anthropologists Norman Tindale and H.A. Lindsay produced two books for schoolchildren. ‘The First Walkabout’, a story about a family of Negrito pygmies migrating to Australia, won the award as best Australian book of the year for children in 1956.

Australian Pygmies Aboriginal encampment in rainforest behind Cairns, 1890.

Some researchers, such as Josephine Flood, disagree that the pygmy Australians were racially different from other Aborigines. She (Flood) claims that the pygmies’ small stature could be explained by genetic mutation and/or adaptation to different climates and environments. Though Flood admits that Australian Aborigines are among the world’s most physically varying people she says they had one common origin, only evolving differently when separated from other, larger populations. Flood makes a similar point about Tasmania: “The differences observed between Tasmanian and mainland Aborigines in historic times are now considered to result from genetic change in a small, isolated population.” In other words, the Tasmanians didn’t have their frizzy hair and different-looking faces when they arrived there, but these features evolved during the eight-to-ten thousand years that Tasmania had been separated from the mainland. Similarly, the tribes around Cairns were not short, slender, frizzy-haired and of Negrito appearance when they first came to the district; these characteristics evolved naturally over the period they lived in the rainforests.

The fact that there are many who say that Australian Aborigines are all one people, while others disagree, is interesting. Someday, with new discoveries (burial sites, tools, rock art, etc) and better, more accurate methods of analysing and dating, the question of the ‘oneness’ or otherwise of our indigenous people might be more fully understood.

Talk about or Write about

1) There is evidence of human habitation in Australia extending back more than
40 000 years. What kind of evidence could this be?

2)  What made it possible for Australia’s original people to reach our continent from south-east Asia?

3) Does it really matter whether or not Australian Aborigines are not all descended from one original wave of humans who came to our land? Why/Why not?

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Uluru Ayers Rock

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in central Australia. 
Rising 348 metres above the surrounding land, Uluru is almost 2 km wide and just over 9 km around the base. The climbing track (which crosses an important Aboriginal sacred site) is 1.6 km long.

Uluru is notable for appearing to change colour as the different light strikes it at different times of the day and year, with sunset a remarkable sight when it briefly glows red.

A World Heritage Site, Uluru has many springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Rock engravings (petroglyphs) at Uluru were created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading.

History
Archaeological findings to the east and west indicate that humans settled in the area more than 10 000 years ago. Ernest Giles and William Gosse were the first European explorers to the area. While exploring the region in 1872, Giles sighted Kata Tjuta from a location near Kings Canyon and called it Mount Olga; the following year Gosse observed Uluru and named it Ayers Rock, in honour of a South Australia dignitary, Sir Henry Ayers.

The Anangu, Tjukurpa and Tjukaritja
Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the local Aboriginal people. The Anangu are often referred to as the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people (Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara are actually the two languages spoken by the Anangu). The Anangu do not climb Uluru because of its great spiritual significance. They request that visitors do not climb the Rock either, as the path crosses a sacred traditional Dreamtime track. The visitors guide says “the climb is not prohibited, but we prefer that, as a guest on Anangu land, you will choose to respect our law and culture by not climbing.”

The foundation of Anangu life and society is Tjukurpa. This is the creation period when ancestral beings, Tjukaritja, created the world as we know it, and from this the religion, Law and moral systems.

Fauna
  
In the surrounding land the Anangu continue to hunt and gather animal species, including the Red Kangaroo, Bush Turkey, Emu and lizards such as the Sand Goanna and Perentie. Other mammals living near Uluru include the marsupial mole and at least seven bat species that live within the Rock’s caves and crevices. 73 species of reptiles have been recorded, among them the Woma Python and Great Desert Skink. Four species of frog live at the base of Uluru.

Flora                                                                                                                                                
Plants are an important part of Tjukurpa, and there are ceremonies for each of the major plant foods. Many plants are associated with ancestral beings. The flora around Uluru consist of Punu (trees), Puti (shrubs), Tjulpun-tjulpunpa (flowers) and Ukiri (grasses).

Trees such as the Mulga and Centralian Bloodwood are used to make tools such as spearheads, boomerangs and bowls. The red sap of the bloodwood is used as a disinfectant and an inhalant for coughs and colds.

Climate                                                                                                                                          
Uluru receives little rainfall, just over 300mm per year. The average maximum temperature in summer (December–January) is 37.8 °C while the average minimum temperature in winter (June–July) is 4.7 °C.

The local Aboriginal people recognise five seasons: (1) Wanitjunkupai (April/May) -cooler weather (2) Wari (June/July) -cold season, with morning frosts (3) Piriyakutu (August/September/October) -animals breed and food plants flower (4) Mai Wiyaringkupai (November/December) -the hot season when food becomes scarce and (5) Itjanu (January/February/March) -sporadic storms can roll in suddenly.

Myths, legends and Aboriginal traditions
The Anangu, traditional landowners of Uluru, have several stories relating to the formation of Uluru.

One story that has been passed down through countless generations tells of two tribes of ancestral spirits who were invited to a feast, but were distracted by the beautiful Sleepy Lizard Women and did not show up. In response, the angry hosts sang evil into a mud sculpture that came to life as the dingo. There followed a great battle which ended in the deaths of the leaders of both tribes. The earth itself rose up in grief at the bloodshed, becoming Uluru.

Talk about or Write about 

(1) What could be the reason(s) for Uluru changing colour at different times of (a) the day (b) the year?

(2) Uluru is a World Heritage site. What does this mean?

(3) William Gosse was the first non-indigenous person to sight Uluru. What thoughts, feelings and impressions might have passed through Gosse’s mind then?

(4) Uluru is sacred to the Anangu. What does this mean?

(5) Following on from the previous question, why do you think the Anangu regard Uluru as sacred?

(6) The Anangu request that visitors do not climb Uluru as the path crosses a sacred traditional Dreamtime track. The Anangu would know that this track has spiritual importance only to Aboriginals so do you find it surprising that they request non Aboriginals not to cross the track?

(7) It may be said that the fauna and flora around Uluru offer Aboriginals a wealth of bush tucker. What is meant by this statement?

(8) What are the three uses Anangu people make of the flora near Uluru?

(9) Thinking back to the two previous questions can you understand whyTjukaritja, those ancestral beings whom the Anangu believe created the world -including animals and plants- are so revered by the Aboriginals in and around Uluru?

(10) What adjustment to their lifestyle might the Anangu make during the cold Wari season, when morning frosts arrive and temperatures drop below 5°C?

(11) Food becomes scarce during the hot Mai Wiyaringkupai season. Why might this be?

(12) The Anangu story about two tribes of ancestral spirits who were distracted by the Sleepy Lizard Women reveals the close relationship that Aboriginals have with their environment. What, in the story, provides clear proof of this relationship?

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Recreation: Marn Grook


Australian Aboriginal domestic scene depicting traditional recreation, including one child kicking the “ball”, with the object and caption being to “never let the ball hit the ground”. (From William Blandowski’s Australien in 142 Photographischen Abbildungen, 1857, (Haddon Library, Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge)

Marn Grook (also spelt marngrook), literally meaning “Game ball”, is a collective name given to a number of traditional Indigenous Australian recreational pastimes believed to have been played at gatherings and celebrations of up to 50 players. It is often confused with a separate indigenous game, Woggabaliri.

Marn Grook was a football game which featured punt kicking and catching a stuffed ‘ball’. It involved large numbers of players, and games were played over an extremely large area. The game appeared to lack a team objective, having no real rules, scoring or winner. Individual players who consistently exhibited outstanding skills, such as leaping high over others to catch the ball, were often commented on.

Evidence supports such games being played primarily by the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali people and other tribes in western Victoria (which are commonly associated with the name “Marn Grook”); however, according to some accounts, the range extended to the Wurundjeri in the Yarra Valley, the Gunai people of Gippsland region in Victoria and the Riverina in south western New South Wales. The Walpiri tribe of Central Australia played a very similar kicking and catching game with possum skins known as Pultja.

The earliest accounts emerged decades after the European settlement of Australia, mostly from the colonial Victorian explorers and settlers. The earliest anecdotal account was in 1841 while the written account dates back to 1857. Although the consensus among historians is that marn grook existed before European arrival, not enough is known by anthropologists about the prehistoric customs of Indigenous Australians to determine how long the game had been played in Victoria or elsewhere on the Australian continent.

Some historians claim that Marngrook had a role in the origins of Australian rules football. This connection has become culturally important to many Indigenous Australians, including celebrities and professional footballers from communities in which Australian rules football is highly popular.

Eye-witness accounts: William Thomas, a Protector of Aborigines in Victoria, stated that in about 1841 he had witnessed Wurundjeri Aborigines playing the game.

The men and boys joyfully assemble when this game is to be played. One makes a ball of possum skin, somewhat elastic, but firm and strong. The players of this game do not throw the ball as a white man might do, but drop it and at the same time kick it with the foot, using the instep for that purpose. …the tallest men have the best chances in this game. …some of them will leap as high as five feet from the ground to catch the ball. The person who secures the ball kicks it. …this continues for hours and the natives never seem to tire of the exercise.     (adapted)

The game was a favourite of the Wurundjeri-william clan and the two teams were sometimes based on the traditional totemic moeties of Bunjil (eagle) and Waang (crow). Robert Brough-Smyth saw the game played at Coranderrk Mission Station, where ngurungaeta William Barak discouraged the playing of imported games like cricket and encouraged the traditional native game of marn grook.

An 1857 sketch found in 2007 describes an observation by Victorian scientist William Blandowski, of the Latjilatji people playing a football game near Merbein, on his expedition to the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. However the Australian Sports Commission considers this sketch to be depicting Woggabaliri, a football game more closely resembling soccer than Australian Rules Football. The image is inscribed:
A group of children is playing with a ball. The ball is made out of typha roots (roots of the bulrush). It is not thrown or hit with a bat, but is kicked up in the air with a foot. The aim of the game – never let the ball touch the ground.

Historian Greg de Moore comments:
What I can say for certain is that it’s the first image of any kind of football that’s been discovered in Australia. It pre-dates the first European images of any kind of football, by almost ten years in Australia. Whether or not there is a link between the two games in some way for me is immaterial because it really highlights that games such as Marn Grook, which is one of the names for Aboriginal football, were played by Aborigines and should be celebrated in their own right.

In 1889, anthropologist Alfred Howitt wrote that the game was played between large groups on a totemic basis — the white cockatoos versus the black cockatoos, for example, which accorded with their skin system. Acclaim and recognition went to the players who could leap or kick the highest. Howitt wrote:

This game of ball-playing was also practised among the Kurnai, the Wolgal (Tumut river people), the Wotjoballuk as well as by the Woiworung, and was probably known to most tribes of south-eastern Australia. The Kurnai made the ball from the scrotum of an “old man kangaroo”, the Woiworung made it of tightly rolled up pieces of possum skin. It was called by them “mangurt”. In this tribe the two exogamous divisions, Bunjil and Waa, played on opposite sides. The Wotjoballuk also played this game, with Krokitch on one side and Gamutch on the other. The mangurt was sent as a token of friendship from one to another.

Relationship with Australian Rules Football and Soccer: 
Tom Wills monument in Moyston makes a strong claim to the Marngrook connection…

“While playing as a child with aboriginal children in this area (Moyston) he (Tom Wills) developed a game which he later utilised in the formation of Australian Football.” —as written by Col Hutchison on the plaque at Moyston donated by the Australian Football League in 1998.

Some commentators say that Tom Wills could have been inspired by Marngrook. The tribe was one that is believed to have played marngrook and the relationship of the Wills family with local Djabwurrung people is well documented.

Wills was raised in Victoria’s western districts. As the only white child in the district, it is said that he was fluent in the local dialect and frequently played with local Aboriginal children on his father’s property, Lexington, outside of the town of Moyston. This story has been passed down through the generations of his family.

Comparisons with Australian Rules Football:
Catching of the kicked ball (the mark) and the high jumping to catch the ball (the spectacular mark) are attributes of both games.

In Popular Culture: 
Due to the theories of shared origins, Marngrook features heavily in Australian rules football and Indigenous culture. In 2002, in a game at Stadium Australia, the Sydney Swans and Essendon Football Club began to compete for the Marngrook Trophy, awarded after home-and-away matches each year between the two teams in the Australian Football League. Though it commemorates marngrook, the match is played under normal rules of the AFL, rather than the traditional aboriginal game.

The Marngrook Footy Show an indigenous variation of the AFL Footy Show began in Melbourne in 2007 and has since been broadcast on National Indigenous Television and Channel 31.

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Dreamtime and Dreaming

The Dreamtime for Aboriginal people is the time which the earth received its present form and in which the patterns and cycles of life began. The term is commonly used to refer to the ‘time before time’, or ‘the time of the creation of all things.

Dreaming is used to refer to an individual’s or group’s beliefs, especially the actions of Ancestral Beings who created the natural world.

When an Aboriginal Dreaming story is told outside of the region to which it belongs, then it is respected as a story from that area; within its own region it remains a sacred Dreaming story and it is important that others give recognition to its origins.

                                                                
Image above: Some of the rock art found 130km north-west of Sydney is believed to represent paths associated with Dreamtime beings, such as the eagle ancestor.  (©Paul Taçon)

Dreaming stories give meaning to human life. The stories deal with Aborigines’ close relationship with the land. It is believed by many Aboriginal people that the same spirits who created the land, sea, waterways, animals and plants are involved in the conception and birth of every child. Hence today a direct link to Ancestral Beings and all life (including human) continues.

Dreaming stories were spoken, sung, danced, painted and carved. Some stories explain the origins of human life on Earth. Often these have been called Creation stories as they are concerned with the creation of human beings and of life in general.

Most Aboriginal people believe that they came from the land. Ancestral Beings who created the land, seas, waterways, people, flora and fauna are known by different names depending on the local language group. These Ancestral Beings should be regarded with respect as their actions provide the knowledge and understandings that guide rules for living; treating other people in a socially responsible manner, managing resources, care of the environment, and religious and cultural ceremonies. The Ancestral Beings reveal themselves in rock formations, animals, plant life, waterways and seas, all these serving as constant reminders of Creation and the spirits of the Ancestors.

Talk about or Write about

For all Aboriginal people The Dreamtime is the time of creation. The Dreaming, on the other hand, is a set of beliefs held by Aboriginals within a certain region, and consists of stories passed down through the generations; as tribal groups separated by large distances had different languages and could not communicate with one another it is easy to see that Dreaming stories had some variations and that certain stories were probably unique to particular tribes.

**(1) It is commonly thought that all Aboriginals believe in Ancestral Spirits of the Dreaming, even though tribal groups with different languages were spread far and wide throughout our vast land. What kinds of evidence could show that Ancestral Spirits are important in the belief systems of allAboriginal tribes, no matter which region of Australia they inhabited and no matter which language they spoke? 

(2) Do you think that Aboriginals are more spiritual than non-Aboriginals? Say why/why not.

(3) What thoughts, feelings and emotions might you have if you were an Aboriginal child sitting around a campfire at night listening to an elder telling a Dreaming story?

(4) You live in a house or apartment. When the sun goes down in the evening you turn on the lights and go about your night-time activities (dinner, reading, homework, computer, television, Playstation, etc etc). Your family probably has all the ‘home comforts’ (electrical appliances such as heater, air conditioner, oven, stove and maybe even a coffee-making machine). For entertainment you watch TV or DVDs (at home) or take in a movie at the cinema. Contacting friends and relatives is quickly and easily accomplished by phone or computer. A vacuum cleaner and maybe a dishwasher are on hand to assist with daily cleaning chores. Your family car makes it easy to visit friends and family who don’t live close by; if the car is out of order most of us have either buses, trains, trams or even ferries available to help us get around. Outside at night there are street lights which enable us to see while walking or driving. There are shops close by so obtaining food each day is easy (and what a variety of foods and drinks we are able to choose from!); warm clothing for winter days and nights is readily available in department stores while specialist shops offer goods for sporting and other leisure pursuits. We have schools nearby where learning certain life skills and gaining knowledge of the world is carried out in a very organised manner. We have parks with playing equipment and barbecue facilities. Trains, buses, ships and planes allow us to enjoy wonderful holidays in far-away places. Most adults have jobs in safe and secure workplaces and this employment allows them to maintain a lifestyle of comfort and abundance.

Now turn your thoughts to Australia’s Indigenous people and the way they’ve lived from day to day down through the years. Is it any wonder they’ve always been more ‘in tune’ with the environment (animals, plants, rivers, rocks, mountains…..)? While we’re inside a warm house at night watching television Aboriginal people sit by a fire and look up at the stars. And as they gaze upwards they ponder the hows and whys of everything, including how and why the world (and everything in it) began. Then, when they awake in the morning, they’ll begin to plan their new day: a day of hunting and gathering, tracking, exploring, making artefacts, playing, dancing, listening to stories.

Which is the better life, the richer life, the happier life, the more fulfilling life, the healthier life? (Key words and considerations: weather, shelter, adventure, routine, laws, family life, time, safety, nature, pollution, creativity, environment, health and fitness, stress, comfort, life skills, communication, survival)

**Teachers: evidence could include rock art from different regions, anecdotal evidence such as encounters with Europeans in different parts of the country, etc.

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Australian Dinosaurs (1)
**click dinosaur for print version** 

                                                   image courtesy and © Dann Pigdon

Dinosaur remains have been found in the opal fields of South Australia and New South Wales. 
Kakuru is represented by a single almost-complete tibia (lower leg bone) from Andamooka in South Australia. The word “Kakuru” means “rainbow serpent” in the local Aboriginal language, probably because the opalised fossil sparkles with many colours. Other South Australian fossil material includes a juvenile hypsilophodontid vertebra from Andemooka, and an ankle bone of a large ornithopod, perhaps something like Muttaburrasaurus, from Coober Pedy.

Talk about or Write about

1. When people learn that dinosaurs lived in Australia many don’t realise that our land looked nothing like it does now. The Australian continent had not long broken away from Antarctica and would have had a different size and shape than what it has today. Also, there was a large inland sea occupying about a third of Australia’s land area. So what does it actually mean to say that dinosaur remains have been found in South Australia?

2. What do opals and rainbows have in common?

3. Looking at the image above, how tall and how long would you say Kakuru was?

4. What would you estimate the height and length of Muttaburrasaurus to be?

5. Of the four dinosaurs in the picture, three are bipeds and the other is quadrupedal. What does this mean?

6. What modern-day creature does Kakuru most remind you of?

7. If you were lucky enough to find an opalised dinosaur fossil would you value it more for its beauty or its rarity? What would you do with it?

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Australian Dinosaurs (2)
**click graphic for dinosaur lessons** 

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Know Your Australia
**click the graphic for print version**

Australian Quiz 

 1. I am an Australian inland explorer. I travelled overland from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria with my accomplice Robert O’Hara Burke. Who am I?   

2. I am a mammal found in Australia’s outback. I arrived in Australia from SE Asia 3500-4000 years ago. My most common colour is yellow-ginger. What am I?     

3. I am one of Australia’s most valuable exports. I am mainly found in rocks more than 600 million years old. 95% of my Australian production is in WA. What am I?   

4. I was born Helen Mitchell in 1861. Appointed Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire in 1927 I was the first Australian to appear on the cover of Time magazine. Who am I?     

5. I am a large town/ small city in outback Australia. Home to a large rodeo in August I am one of the largest producers of both lead and silver in the Western world. I am ……?    

6. I am an island situated 112 km from a major Australian city. With a population of about 4 000 I am Australia’s 3rd largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island. I am  …?   

7. Rising 546 m above the surrounding plain I am a group of 36 large domed rock formations in the NT. My aboriginal name means ‘many heads’. I am……..?    

8. Born on the Grenfell goldfields in 1867 I became famous for my Australian bush ballads. I was depicted on early versions of the Australian $10 note. Who am I?     

9. I am a reptile found in areas of northern Australia. My length can be up to one metre. A large ruff of skin attached to my neck flares out when I’m frightened. I am…?    

10. I am an Australian wild flower. I have a covering of fine coloured hairs. My red and green variety became the floral emblem of Western Australia in 1960. What is my name?   

Solutions to Australian Quiz  

1.   William John Wills

2.  dingo

3.  iron ore

4.  Dame Nellie Melba

5.  Mt Isa

6.  Kangaroo Island

7.  Kata Tjuta (the Olgas)

8.  Henry Lawson

9.  frill-necked lizard

10.  kangaroo paw

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Australian Icons
**click vegemite for print version**

ANZAC Biscuits

During World War 1, the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers were concerned about the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men.

There was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometres per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible for periods in excess of two months. A group of women came up with the answer  -a biscuit with all the nutritional value possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats.

These oats were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.

The ingredients they used were: rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bicarbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers’ Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.

A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle. Eggs that were sent long distances were coated with a product called ke peg (like Vaseline) then packed in airtight containers filled with sand to cushion the eggs and keep out the air.

As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women’s Association), church groups, schools and other women’s organisations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins, such as Billy Tea tins. You can see some of these tins appearing in your supermarket as exact replicas of the ones of earlier years.
Look around. The tins were airtight, thus no moisture in the air was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft. Most people would agree there is nothing worse than a soft biscuit.

During World War 2, with refrigeration in so many Merchant Navy Ships, the biscuits were not made to any great extent. It was now possible to send a greater variety of food, like fruit cake.

ANZAC biscuits are still made today. They can also be purchased from supermarkets and specialty biscuit shops. Around ANZAC Day, these biscuits are also often used by veterans’ organisations to raise funds for the care and welfare of aged war veterans.

Anzac Biscuits Recipe (Melt & Mix Method)

     Ingredients:
125 gm Butter
2 tablespoons Golden Syrup
1 Cup Coconut
2 teaspoons  Bicarbonate Soda
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Rolled Oats
2 tablespoons Boiling Water

     Method:
1. Melt butter and Golden Syrup.
2. Dissolve soda in boiling water.
3. Add liquids to dry ingredients.
4. Place in teaspoon-size lumps on a greased baking tray.
5. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 18 -20 mins.
6. Cool on cake cooler.

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Merino Sheep

Does Australia have more people or more sheep?
What do you think?

In 2010 there were 22 million people living in Australia. And 110 million sheep! This means that for every person in Australia there are five sheep.

You might have about 25 people in your class. If there were schools for sheep there would be around 125 sheep in every class!

Sheep give us wool. Australia produces more wool than any other country in the world. Much of this wool is sold to other countries and this brings quite a bit of money into Australia; it’s not surprising that people have said, “Australia rides on the sheep’s back.”

Merino sheep were brought here from England by John Macarthur in 1796 (more than 200 years ago). These sheep were originally from Spain. So, unlike koalas, kangaroos, wombats, echidnas and platypuses, sheep are not native to Australia.

Merino sheep have thick, fine fleece that is suitable for spinning and weaving into a fine fibre that is mainly used to make clothing.

We also get meat from sheep.

Talk about or Write about

1) What clothing made of wool do you own?

2) What else, apart from clothing, is made of wool?

3) Why have some people said, “Australia rides on the sheep’s back”?

4) What kinds of places would not be suitable for sheep farming?

5) Do you know what kind of meat we get from sheep?

6) Choose an Australian native animal from paragraph 5. 

        (a) In what ways is it different from a sheep? 

        (b) In what ways is it the same as a sheep?

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Australian Emblems & Symbols
**click flag for print version**

The Australian flag has the Union Flag (the flag of the United Kingdom and commonly known as the Union Jack) in the upper left corner, with a large white seven-pointed star known as the Commonwealth Star underneath. The Commonwealth Star is a seven-pointed star symbolising the Federation of Australia (which came into being on New Year’s Day 1901). Six points of the Star represent the six states of the Commonwealth of Australia, while the seventh point represents the territories. The right half of the flag features the Southern Cross constellation, made up of five white stars…one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars. The Southern Cross is one of the most distinctive constellations visible in the Southern Hemisphere. All six stars on the flag are on a dark blue background.

The flagpole atop Parliament House in Canberra is an impressive sight. It is 81 metres tall and measures 12.8 by 6.4 metres (the size of half a tennis court).

Guidelines for flying the flag are laid out in the 1953 Flags Act. The guidelines say that the Australian National Flag is allowed to be flown on every day of the year and that it “should be treated with the respect and dignity it deserves as the nation’s most important national symbol”.

The flag must be flown in all government buildings and displayed in polling stations when there is a national election.

The flag should only be flown during daylight hours, unless it is illuminated. The flag should not be displayed upside down under any circumstances, not even to express a situation of distress. The flag is not to be placed or dropped on the ground. Flags that have decayed or faded should not be displayed.

The Australian flag is flown at half-mast on solemn occasions; these include the death of a member of the British Royal Family, ANZAC Day (until noon) and Remembrance Day.

There are many people who would like the Australian flag changed; they would like it to have a completely different design. These people believe the flag should be more ‘Australian’, perhaps in the green and gold colours of our Olympic teams and maybe featuring an Australian animal -probably a kangaroo. Many say that the current flag doesn’t recognize that Australia as a nation has matured and that the Union Flag should be removed. Also, according to these same people, our flag is too similar to some other nation’s flags, especially that of New Zealand.

Talk about or Write about

(1) What do you think of the Australian flag? Do you like it? (say why or why not)

(2) When (if ever) have you waved an Australian flag? Did it make you feel proud to be Australian?

(3) Mainland Australia has six states and two territories (we have other territories offshore, for example in Antarctica). Can you name all our states and territories? Maybe you could sketch a large Commonwealth Star and write the names of the states and territories next to the seven points (write the two territories’ names alongside one of the points). 

(4a) What is a constellation?   (4b) Why do you think the Southern Cross constellation is so-called?   (4c) Have you ever looked up into the night sky and seen the Southern Cross? (if not, try it!)

(5) The Flags Act of 1953 states that the Australian flag should be treated with respect and dignity yet there have been a few occasions when individuals and groups have desecrated our flag (some have even burnt it). What might lead some people to do this? Do you think these people should be punished or penalised? If so, what could be a suitable punishment?

(6) Do you agree that the Australian flag should be flown at half-mast upon the death of a member of the British Royal Family? (after all, these persons are not Australian)

(7) Do you think our flag should be changed and have a new design? If so, what should it look like? (you may wish to sketch your new Australian flag)

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ANZAC
**click graphic for printable lessons**

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Australian Songs, Ballads and Poems
**click graphic for printable lessons**

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Australiana Crosswords
**click stamp for printable crosswords**

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Request
So that we can make this site as classroom-friendly as possible we would be pleased to hear from teachers who have tried any of our ideas, suggestions or lessons with their classes.
Just a very short note mentioning year level, idea/suggestion used, whether it was a written exercise, class discussion or debate, and any other useful feedback would be appreciated.
(school name optional but State would be of interest)
                               Send feedback to info[at]australianteacher.org 

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‘Terms of Use’ link on menu.

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© Madison Rey Pty Ltd (ABN: 72 089 245 090)
PO Box 670, Hillarys, WA  6923, Australia.    Email: info[at]australianteacher.org

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