Unit 7: Changing Lives Changing Ways


This unit is about the arrival of the First Fleet and the impact it had on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, convicts, soldiers and free settlers. During this unit students explore why the British came and who was involved. They investigate how Indigenous Australians lived prior to European colonisation, and the consequent changes to the lives of all those involved as a result of the event. Students will be required to consider the impact from different viewpoints gaining insight into the massive upheaval it created. They will begin to view sources of information with a critical lens questioning the perspectives of the authors. Students will be encouraged to make links between what happened in the past and Australian society today.


  • Many different groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lived in Australia for more than 60,000 years.
  • The arrival of the first fleet in 1778 created huge life changes for all the people involved.
  • European colonisation caused conflict and violence and Indigenous Australians did not give up their land passively or easily.
  • The people who record history retell events from their own perspective.
  • As Australians it is important to have an accurate knowledge of the events that make up Australia’s history.

Rich Question

Dean stewartHow does an accurate knowledge of events in Australia’s past help us to understand Australia today?

Contributing Questions

  • How did the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live before Europeans came to Australia?
  • Why did the British seek to colonise Australia?
  • Who was affected by European colonisation, and how?
  • What were living conditions like during the first years of European colonisation for all the people involved?
  • Why did European colonisation cause so many conflicts?
  • How do we know what really happened?

Background Notes

From the Yarra Healing website: essential learnings.

  • teacher talkingKoorie people cared for specific areas of land. Knowledge regarding the extent of and responsibilities for this land was passed on by the Elders through generations. Territories were based on language group and clan associations, which in turn gave a person his/her strongest sense of identity.
  • As with all societies, the resources, climate and topography within a territory strongly influenced the way of life of the Indigenous people who live there. The specific distribution of plants, animals and other resources was unique in each territory and affected the precise way the Koorie people developed a relationship with that specific environment. Within south-eastern Australia, Koorie lifestyles varied enormously.
  • The dramatic decline in numbers and the destruction of clan groups was caused by disease and killings during the early years of European acts of invasion. Colonial expansion denied the use of traditional languages, land use and cultural transmission. Epidemics of imported diseases such as smallpox, measles, and influenza carried by sailors and convicts devastated many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
  • studentAccess to sacred sites, and rights to perform certain associated ceremonies, were denied to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and spiritual connections and expressions were undermined.
  • By introducing stock, converting forests to farmland and destroying native flora and fauna, Europeans caused the destruction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's traditional ways of life.
  • Conflict and violence were long and protracted. Indigenous Australians did not concede their land passively or easily.
  • In spite of heroic resistance by Indigenous Australian groups, their numbers were drastically reduced. European weaponry and the physical and psychological effects of the culture clash made resistance difficult.


Written texts

French, J, 2006, The Goat Who Sailed the World, Harper Collins, Sydney.

French, J, 2004, Tom Appleby, Convict Boy, Angus and Robertson, Melbourne.

French, J, 2005, Fair Dinkum Histories: Grim Crims And Convicts. Scholastic Press Gosford NSW

French, J, 2006, Fair Dinkum Histories: Shipwreck, Sailors and 60,000 Years. Scholastic Press Gosford NSW

Isaacs, J (Ed), 2005, Australian Dreaming: 40,000 Years of Aboriginal History, New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.

Marsden, J, and Tan, S, 2003, The Rabbits, Lothian, Port Melbourne.

McClish, B, 2003, Australian Library: Ancient Australia, Reed International Books, Port Melbourne, Victoria.

Nicholson, J, 1997, The First Fleet, Allen and Unwin, Australia.

Sheppard, 2005, Echidna Books, Timeline Australia: Book 1 58,000BCE-1854, Port Melbourne, Victoria.


Audio Visual

First Australians Series DVD, (2008) episode 1- ‘They came to stay’

Captain James Cook, ABC DVD, (2006)

Captain Cook; Obsession and Discovery, ABC DVD, (2008)

Buried Alive: Sydney 1788-1792 Eyewitness accounts of the making of a nation, an ABC DVD, (2005)

ABC series “Our History” series

•    Indigenous Australians
•    Living in Country
•    The Eora

Guest speaker – an historian