Topic 3: Significant events

Print Topic National Childrens Day

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have inhabited Australia since millennia, and their cultures, laws, ceremonies and connection to the land are strong and enduring.
(Reconciliation Australia)

This topic explores historical and contemporary events for Indigenous Australia, and provides opportunities for you to acknowledge and celebrate significant cultural events in our classrooms.

Get StartedExplore the concepts, activities and assessment tasks below or use the Get Started button to work through the content in the suggested sequence.


NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week is an Australian observance lasting from the first Sunday in July until the following Sunday. NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The week is celebrated not just in the Indigenous communities but also in increasing numbers of government agencies, schools, local councils and workplaces.


Suggested readings for Topic 3: Significant events
Anaya, S 2004, Indigenous Peoples in International Law, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, NY. [Parts 1 and 2] Behrendt, L 2001, ‘Indigenous self-determination: Rethinking the relationship between rights and economic development’, UNSW Law Journal, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 850–861. Craven, R & Price, K 2011, 'Misconceptions, stereotypes and racism: Let's face the facts' in Craven, R (ed), Teaching Aboriginal Studies, Allen & Unwin. Department of Education and Training, Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in schools. A guide for school learning communities, Queensland Government, viewed 1 September 2016, <>. Gorski, P, Hamline University & EdChange 2000, A Narrative on Whiteness and Multicultural Education, EdChange, viewed 23 August 2016 <>. Hokari, M 2000, 'History Happening in/between Body and Place: Journey to the Aboriginal Way of Historical Practice', in Habitus 2000: A Sense of Place, p. 2. King, T 2003, The Truth About Stories. A Native Narrative, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Langton, M 2000, ‘Sacred Geography Western Desert traditions of landscape art’, Papunya Tula Genesis and Genius, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Phillips, J & Lampert J (eds) 2012, Introductory Indigenous Studies in Education: Reflection and the importance of knowing, 2nd edn, Pearson Education Australia, NSW.
Image: Banner from Critical Multicultural Pavilion website -

Cultural events

Activity: Design a unit of study around the anniversary of significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events.
Design a unit of work around one of the following events:
  • NAIDOC Week
  • Reconciliation Week
  • Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations
or a significant cultural event in your local community.

Reconciliation timeline

Activity: Consider events that have had an impact on rights and recognition.
As a group, view the Reconciliation timeline resource (PDF file) produced by Reconciliation Australia in 2017 as a means of highlighting events that have made an impact on the rights and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Read through the list of timeline events and invite students to share further information or ideas that they may have about any particular event, as well as to identify those events which they feel they would like to learn more about.
  • Encourage each student to select one event from the timeline to research. Support them to create an information poster about their chosen event to contribute to a whole-class reconciliation timeline on the wall (soft copy posters can also be posted on tutorial group e-Learning websites in the case of external students, and as a means of archiving work for later viewing/revisiting).
  • Students can then volunteer (or can be selected) to explain and discuss their poster with their peers in a pair-based or whole-class context.  Explain to students that information gained through this activity will prepare them to complete later assessment activities in this Topic.
It may be useful for students to engage with the 2016 National Reconciliation Week themeOur History, Our Story, Our Future—to support them with understanding the conceptual framework and contemporary relevance of this activity.

Symbols in schools

Activity: What do the visual artefacts and symbolic acts at a school say about the school itself?
In small groups construct a list of the ‘visual’ artefacts and symbolic acts from a school you recently visited.

You might like to consider:

  • festivities/celebrations
  • flags
  • paintings/posters/murals
  • national anthem
  • Acknowledgment of Country
  • house names
  • who are the special guests invited to special assemblies and school events?
  • newsletters
  • SRC representatives

Questions for discussion:

What do the visual artefacts and symbolic acts reveal about the school’s culture/attitude to cultural diversity and promoting students’ identity and belonging in the school?
  • Is the school culture open and accepting or narrow and/closed?
  • Whose culture and identity is being represented and promoted?
  • What do the visual artefacts and symbolic acts say to students and families about Australian cultures and Australian history?
  • By looking around the school and being part of school events and celebrations, who would you say would have a sense of ’belonging’?
  • Does your group’s list of visual artefacts and symbolic acts reflect Australia’s cultural diversity?
Report what you discussed in your groups to your class and come back to the big question: What do the visual artefacts and symbolic acts in a school say about the school itself?
Image: YouTube

Create a cultural calendar

Assessment objective

Create a cultural calendar that would be useful to you in the classroom.



This calendar will be accompanied by a 1500 word essay explaining how you went about your research. The calendar can be presented in digital format or in any other innovative way, but must be in a format that allows assessment. Use the Brambuk Interpretive Matrix and the Miriwoong Seasonal calendar and film to give you some ideas on what you can produce for your chosen region.The following has been provided to assist you in researching information:

Regional characteristics

In small groups select an Australian region of significance to you in your lives and identify the following elements:
  1.  Aboriginal Nation name/s
  2. Boundaries of Country
  3. Weather<
  4. Geology
  5. Physically image the Country, waters
  6. Animals
  7. Plants
  8. Astronomy
  9. Aboriginal spiritual and cultural connection to the chosen Country/Torres Strait Islander spiritual and cultural connections to Place
  10. Changes over time: think of 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, 2000s, present
  11. Impact of changes over time
  12. Land management over time

Investigate local history

Assessment objective

Investigate a local community context—the history and contemporary issues and their impact on education and submit a result of your investigation (800 words). Recent education scholarship argues that to be an effective educator you must know your students and their local community context in an in-depth way to establish positive relationships and develop relevant learning programs.


AssessmentGuide to investigation 
  • Select a school and investigate its local community context. The school and its local community should be selected from the Professional Experience (PRAC) that you have either been on or will go on or be selected from a school/local community context.
  • Your review should include:
Cultural groups
  1. Identify the traditional owners of the area and identify the current cultural/language group/s of the area.
    1. What is the name of the cultural/language group/s?
    2. Where is their country?
    3. What is the current status of their language?
    4. Note any specific kinship systems.
    5. Include any other interesting or relevant information you find.
  1. Provide the contact details of the people/organisation/s who could connect you to the Elders of the cultural/language group/s of the area (i.e. Land Council; Aboriginal Education Consultative Group) AND identify the Elders of the cultural/language group/s of the area if possible and culturally appropriate. Identify their roles in their present communities. Inquire how their roles evolved (if they have), the factors involved in this role evolution and the impact to the community.
Local Indigenous history
  1. Provide an overview of the history/ies of the specific Indigenous Australian cultural/language group/s of the region.
    1. How were the local Indigenous people affected by policies and practices such as colonisation/invasion, dispossession, protectionism, segregation, assimilation, Stolen Generations and reserves/missions?
    2. Are there any key features or events of their history i.e. notable leaders, particular happenings, evidence of resistance, community action?
Current context
  1. Provide an overview of the position/s of Indigenous cultures and peoples of the selected local town/suburb/place.
    1. How would you describe current Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationships and what is your evidence of this?
    2. Do you see evidence of reconciliation, social justice, self-determination at work?
    3. Refer to the Reconciliation Barometer as a basis for your discussion.
  1. Reflect on the role of a local history study. Comment on the significance of local history in education in terms of curriculum and pedagogy.
Assessment activity contributed by Charles Sturt University

Topic review

Significant events

This topic explored historical and contemporary events for Indigenous Australia, and provided opportunities for you to acknowledge and celebrate significant cultural events in your classroom. From developing a reconciliation timeline and investigating your local history to making critical observations in schools, this topic offered opportunities to extend your knowledge and understanding of significant events and Indigenous perspectives at a local, school and national level.

Questions for review:

  • What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of this topic? Why/ What could you do to better prepare yourself to teach about significant events in Australia?
  • Consider whether your knowledge of significant events in Australia has influenced your understanding of reconciliation.
  • What major significant events would you include in your teaching that were not included in your own primary and secondary education?

Choose one Focus Area of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers where you could apply the knowledge and skills you have gained from Topic 3, such as:

4.1 Support student participationProfessional knowledge

Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities. (Graduate level)

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Graduate teachers)

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