Activity 2: Myall Creek massacre and the rule of law (70-90 min)
2a Refer students to Handout 16 and read through 'The Myall Creek massacre 1838' with them.
2b Explain that there were numerous massacres of Aboriginal people during white settlement.
2c Highlight the fact that while Aboriginal people were entitled to be protected by British law they were not permitted to give evidence in a court. It was claimed that most Aboriginal people were not Christians and therefore could not take the oath to tell the truth.
2d Ask students what they think was the result of the Myall Creek massacre.
- Do you think the murderers will be brought to trial?
- If so, what do you think will be the outcome of the trial?
2e Record their responses on the board.
2f Discuss the idea that Aboriginal people could not appear before courts or give evidence. Ask students what they think would happen in court because of this. For example, if there are only Aboriginal survivors and no white witnesses to the crime, how can the court find out what happened?
2g Distribute Handout 17 to half the groups and Handout 18 to the rest. Groups should consider the questions and produce a written group response on the following:
- who was charged with murder at the trial and for what crime
- the rights of the Aboriginal people under the rule of law
- the outcome of the trial
- the different responses to the verdict
- your group's opinion of the verdict.
2h Take responses from representatives of groups working on Handout 17 and record them on the board.
2i Discuss why there was such a variety of responses to the trial at the time.
2j Discuss with the groups how the government felt. Governor Gipps had tried to uphold the law and failed. How lawful would Australia have looked in the eyes of the British?
2k Take responses from representatives of groups working on Handout 18 and record them on the board.
2l Discuss why there was such a variety of responses to this trial at the time.
2m Discuss how the British Government might have felt about the final outcome.
2n Explain that Myall Creek was famous because it was the first time that white settlers had been executed under British law for the murder of Aboriginal people in Australia.
Activity 3: 'The Law Rules' chart (5 min)
Refer students to 'The Law Rules' chart and complete entries for the table in Focus question 5, Activity 2.
Activity 4: Newspaper article (60 min)
4a Students work in groups to write an article for a newspaper at the time of the Myall Creek massacre.
4b The article should include:
- an 'eyewitness quote' from an Aboriginal person who escaped
- a statement from one of the settlers involved
- a statement from a judge
- a report of the judgements of the courts
- reasons why this is an important judgement in the history of Australia (because it makes it clear that all people must be treated equally by the law).
4c Students write a paragraph stating what they think should have happened and why, commenting on the decision of the court.
This task will be assessed according to the following criteria. The student can:
- make use of different views on the Myall Creek massacre
- understand the judgement of the court (that we are all equal before the law)
- clearly support a personal opinion.
Activity 5: Are we equal before the law?
5a Present the following scenarios to the class: