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Focus question 4: How and why have Australian symbols and events changed over the years?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Australian flags (60 min) ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Coat of Arms (30 min) ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: Special days of the past (90 min + homework) ESL Activity 3
Activity 4: Changes in commemoration (45 min) ESL Activity 4
Activity 5: Why symbols change (45 min) ESL Activity 5

Poster Destiny

Activity 1: Australian flags (60 min)

Explain that a competition was held to design the Australian flag and that there had been various other flags before that. Look at Card 1b or distribute handouts of the same information printed from the One Destiny! CD ROM to smaller groups. Refer to the segment 'A Flag for a Nation - Colonial Designs' and look at the designs.

The following questions could be discussed:
The One Destiny! CD ROM has an activity called 'Design your own flag', which could be included here. The Internet site Ausflag would also be of interest, for students to follow a flag design competition currently in progress.

  • What similarities are there in these flags?
  • What are the main differences?
  • Why do you think the final symbols were chosen?
  • What do they say about Australia?
  • Would most people in Australia like them? Why? Why not?
  • Would you ever want different ones?
  • Do you think your parents or grandparents would ever want to change these designs? Why/why not?
  • Have you heard any suggestions for changing the flag? What were they?

Activity 2: Coat of Arms (30 min)

Show students Card 2b (Commonwealth Coat of Arms). Ask what the image is and where they have seen it. Explain that changes were made to the original Coat of Arms after a few years, and have a 'spot the difference' competition. Discuss the changes that were made. (The 1908 version was unpopular. The State governments complained that there were no specific references to States, so State badges were included. The positions of the supporters were changed to more graceful attitudes and ornamental rests were added. The colours of the wreath under the Federation Star were altered to blue and gold. Wattle replaced the grassy mound.) Poster

Discuss the following questions:

  • What is the major change?
  • Who would have asked for it?
  • Why was it important?
  • Does the Coat of Arms represent all of Australia today?
  • Would you make any changes? If so, what would they be?
  • What reasons can you give for any changes you suggest?

Activity 3: Special days of the past (90 min + homework)

3a On the board list the following: Empire Day, Arbor Day, Federation Day, Wattle Day, VP Day, and the opening of the Provisional House of Parliament (now known as Old Parliament House). Ask students what they already know about these days and list the information on the board.

Handout 13-14

3b Divide the class into groups. Groups will be responsible for conducting research on an important event commemorated in the past and explaining it to the rest of the class. Print out reference materials and distribute Handouts 13 and 14. Two groups can look at the Discovering Democracy Primary Video 'We Remember' segment, Part 2 on the opening of Old Parliament House and VP Day and another can use the One Destiny! CD ROM to look at video clips and pictures of Federation Day.

Discuss useful ways of recording and collecting data. Direct students' research by suggesting four main questions:

  • When did this happen?
  • What happened at that time?
  • Why was it important?
  • How is it different to today?

Students collect as much data as possible and list it in their notebooks under the headings: when, what, who and why.

3c For homework, students should survey parents, relatives or family friends for any information they may have, using the same questions.

3d Allow time for writing up the results of the research on posters, then have each group teach the other groups about their topic, referring to pictures and video clips wherever possible. Students could submit questions to be answered by the rest of the class at the end of their presentation, as an assessment of understanding.

3e Have a general class discussion on the significance of these events in the history of Australia. Alternatively, have a re-enactment by some groups according to the suggested program in Handout 13, or other information collected by students.

Handout 15Video

Activity 4: Changes in commemoration (45 min)

4a Watch the Discovering Democracy Primary Video 'We Remember' segment, Part 2. Discuss the differences between special days we celebrate today and those celebrated a century ago. Distribute Handout 15, and compare the days listed. Discuss any additions or deletions.

4b Discuss the changes that have happened over time in the ways we commemorate important events and list them on the board. Consider the following points:

International celebrations such as United Nations Day, or more recent events such as the Bicentenary of European settlement or the 1967 Referendum on Aborigines could be studied as an extension activity.

  • Do we celebrate those days now?
  • Do all Australians celebrate them?
  • What sorts of things happen on those days?
  • Why don't we celebrate some of the old special days any more?
  • Do you think we should?
  • Are there some days that you believe we should commemorate more regularly?

Activity 5: Why symbols change (45 min)

5a Students choose four symbols each and develop a retrieval chart in their notebooks using these headings:

Symbol name

What has changed?

Why did it change?

5b Follow this with a discussion of why symbols need to change.


Collect the notebook research and assess using the following criteria. The student can:

  • outline changes in commemoration and suggest reasons.

ESL activities

Back to 'We Remember - At a glance'

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