• Audience
    Primary school, Secondary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4
  • Learning area
    English, Mathematics, History, Creative Arts, First Nations
  • Type
    Teaching resources

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'How we are Unsettled' is a nine-lesson unit of inquiry that will engage students in the people, themes, stories and artworks of the Australian Museum's Unsettled exhibition. The unit addresses the untold stories of Australia's foundation story with the central idea that 'First Nations perspectives of Australia's history have an impact'.

The unit is delivered through a series of nine smartboard-ready interactive lessons: Unsettled's seven thematic sections are addressed in Lessons 2-8 as well as an introduction and conclusion lesson. Each lesson's themes, learning intentions and curriculum links are addressed in the downloadable PDF slideshows below, with embedded discussion topics, activities, videos and worksheets.

The development of these education resources was funded by an anonymous donation through the Australian Museum Foundation.


Please be aware that the Unsettled exhibition and these learning resources deal with some confronting topics, including massacres and genocide. Some of the content may be distressing, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This should be taken into account when preparing your learning plan. You may want to consider additional classroom support or to give students the choice of opting out of the sessions.

If you would like some more information and advice when teaching this unit, you can find a support letter from our Education team here.


If you are looking for resources to support your upcoming visit to Unsettled, you may want to access our learning journey for primary school students or learning journeys for secondary school students focusing on either art or history. These learning journeys include pre-visit stimulus, exhibition activities for when you are at the Museum and post-visit classroom ideas. You can also access and download our Power through Poetry booklet, designed in partnership with Red Room Poetry to deepen student's engagement with the themes of this powerful exhibition.

If you are learning from home or in the classroom, you can also view our virtual tour of Unsettled, or hear more from one of the curators, Dr Mariko Smith, in our Curator in conversation: Unsettled virtual tour talk.



Download the unit of inquiry lessons

  • What do we think we know?

    In the first lesson of the unit of inquiry, students will define what the term 'unsettled' means to them, identify their understanding of 'Australia's foundation story' and examine our history from the perspective of First Nations people. They will engage with three objects from the exhibition, and visualise the length of time that First Nations peoples have been managing and sustaining Country.


    Near Lake Mungo
    Dr Ian Grahame, Colin McGregor, the AMBS team and photographer Stuart Humphreys were sent to a secret location near lake Mungo to document, collate and conserve an incredible find - 20,000 year old footprints. These are the images from that trip in April 2006 Image: Stuart Humphreys
    © Australian Museum

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; MA2-2WM, MA2-9MG; EN2-1A, EN2-7B, EN2-11D.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-3, HT3-5; MA3-2WM, MA3-9MG, MA3-13MG; EN3-1A, EN3-7C, EN3-8D.
    Stage 4: HT4-1, HT4-2, HT4-5, HT4-6, HT4-8; MA4-2WM; EN4-4B.

  • How do we read the signs around us?

    In the second lesson of the unit of inquiry, students will explore different means of communication, learn about signal fires and how they relate to 'Australia's foundation story' and look for the messages and signs all around us. Students will also engage with the importance of honouring Ancestors and create an artwork to honour someone important to them.


    bugia naway gabun buridja (Learn Today from Yesterday for a Better Tomorrow) 2021
    bugia naway gabun buridja (Learn Today from Yesterday for a Better Tomorrow) 2021 Uncle Noel Butler, Budawang, Yuin Carved spotted gum from bushfire ravaged Country. Australian Museum Collection Commission. Photographed for the Unsettled catalogue March 2021 Image: Finton Mahony
    © Australian Museum

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; Creative Arts: VAS2.2, VAS2.3, VAS2.4.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-3, HT3-5; GE3-2; EN3-5B, EN3-8D; Creative Arts: VAS3.2, VAS3.4.
    Stage 4: HT4-2, HT4-7; GE4-3, GE4-4; EN4-3B, EN4-8D; Visual Arts: 4.2, 4.5, 4.6, 4.8.

  • What happened here?

    In Lesson 3, students will learn about perspectives in history and examine some historical sources for evidence about the past. They will also analyse an artwork for visual storytelling and examine what it tells us about the impact of terra nullius.


    Invasion Day 2018
    Invasion Day 2018 Uncle Gordon Syron, Worimi, Birpai Oil on canvas. Australian Museum Collection Acquisition. Image: Abram Powell
    © Australian Museum

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-1, HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; Creative Arts: VAS2.3, VAS2.4.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-3, HT3-4, H3-5; Creative Arts: VAS3.3, VAS3.4.
    Stage 4: HT4-2, HT4-3, HT4-5, HT4-6, HT4-7, HT4-8, HT4-9; Visual Arts: 4.7, 4.8, 4.9

  • What did resistance look like?

    In Lesson 4, students will learn about the frontier wars of the early colony, fought between colonists and Aboriginal resistance fighters. They will also discuss how we can better remember our past and pay respect to the First Nations warriors who died fighting for their families and homes.


    Death Spear
    Death Spear 2021 Raymond Timbery, Bidjigal Dharrawal, and Joel Deaves, Gumea Dharrawal Silcrete, resin, plant fibre, sinew, shell, mingo (grass tree). Australian Museum Collection Commission Photographed for the Unsettled exhibition March 2021 Image: Abram Powell
    © Australian Museum, by Raymond Timbery

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-1, HT2-2, HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; Creative Arts: VAS2.3, VAS2.4, DA2.3.
    Stage 3: HT3-2, HT3-3, HT3-4, H3-5; Creative Arts: VAS3.3, VAS3.4, DAS3.3.
    Stage 4: HT4-2, HT4-3, HT4-4, HT4-5, HT4-7, HT4-9; Visual Arts: 4.7, 4.8.

  • What don't we know about our history?

    The fifth lesson of the unit examines the memories of massacres in our shared history and the pain that still exists in First Nations communities and through Country today. Students will also be looking at a primary source to see how some colonists reacted to these killings.


    Dark Days - Brendan Beirne
    Poison Waterholes Creek, Narrandera NSW, circa 1820. Massacres exist in the memories of all First Nations communities today; they are much more than death toll statistics. The land and its spirits will forever remember the blood spilt and innocent lives taken so violently. These images of landscapes illustrate the unquiet places where Aboriginal people have been slaughtered. Many sites visited, known or occupied by Australians have hidden histories. Using infrared camera technology to capture a sense of the unseen history through the seemingly peaceful-looking landscapes, these images allow us to understand that the lands we live, work and play on have contested and unsettled histories. Image: Brendan Beirne
    © Brendan Beirne

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; Creative Arts: VAS2.3, VAS2.4; EN2-1A, EN2-2A, EN2-7B, EN2-10C.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-3, HT3-4, H3-5; Creative Arts: VAS3.3, VAS3.4; EN3-1A, EN3-2A, EN3-7C.
    Stage 4: HT4-1 , HT4-2, HT4-3, HT4-5, HT4-6, HT4-7, HT4-8, HT4-9; Visual Arts: 4.7, 4.8; EN4-1A, EN4-2A.

  • Without your identity, who are you?

    In Lesson 6, students will document their ideas on humans rights and gain an understanding of the definition of genocide. Students will examine objects from the Unsettled exhibition, and work together to uncover the stories they tell. They will also learn about the Stolen Generations and how First Nations peoples were harmed, yet survived, intentional acts of genocide.


    One Way Ticket to Hell 2012-2020
    One Way Ticket to Hell 2012-2020 Aunty Fay Moseley, Wiradjuri Acrylic on canvas. Australian Museum Collection Acquisition Image: Abram Powell
    © Aunty Fay Moseley

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; Creative Arts: VAS2.3, VAS2.4; EN2-1A, EN2-8B, EN2-10C.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-4, H3-5; Creative Arts: VAS3.3, VAS3.4; EN3-1A, EN3-3A EN3-7C, EN3-8D.
    Stage 4: HT4-1, HT4-5, HT4-6, HT4-7, HT4-8, HT4-9, HT4-10; Visual Arts: 4.7, 4.8; EN4-1A, EN4-2A, EN4-8D.

  • What does resistance look like now?

    What does resistance look like now? In Lesson 7, students will look at the First Nations political movements, campaigns and protests for civil rights, land rights and self-determination. They will also be investigating visual art and creative expression, and seeing how it can tell stories about the resilience of First Nations peoples.


    Fanny Balbuk (1840-1907) Blood Money – Fifty Dollar Note – Fanny Balbuk Commemorative 2011
    Fanny Balbuk (1840-1907) Blood Money – Fifty Dollar Note – Fanny Balbuk Commemorative 2011 Dr Ryan Presley, Marri Ngarr Reproduction of the artwork. Australian Museum Collection Digital Acquisition Fanny Balbuk was a Noongar Elder who defied the incursion of settlements and urban expansion on her traditional lands. She witnessed the devastation of Country by colonisers in Perth. In the 1890s, the railway station and other buildings were erected on important hunting grounds that had sustained her people from time immemorial. Fanny was renowned for protesting such occupation of her traditional lands. One of her most frequent protests was to stand at the entrance to Government House, reviling all who lived behind those stone gates that enclosed her grandmother’s burial ground. Image: Ryan Presley
    © Ryan Presley

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-1, HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; Creative Arts: VAS2.1, VAS2.1, VAS2.3, VAS2.4.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-3, HT3-4, H3-5; Creative Arts: VAS3.1, VAS3.2, VAS3.3, VAS3.4.
    Stage 4: HT4-2, HT4-3, HT4-4, HT4-5, HT4-7, HT4-8, HT4-9, HT4-10; Visual Arts: 4.7, 4.8, 4.9, 4.10.

  • How can we work together to heal?

    In Lesson 8, students will look at the importance of truth-telling when examining how we came to be a nation. They will also complete an activity that asks them to acknowledge their unconscious biases and how these might shape their view of the world. Finally, students will look at the importance of choice and self-determination.


    Weaving Woman
    Weaving Woman 2019 Genevieve Stewart, Kuku Yalanji Ink on paper. Australian Museum Collection Acquisition. Image: Abram Powell
    © Genevieve Stewart

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-1, HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; Creative Arts: VAS2.3, VAS2.4.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-4; Creative Arts: VAS3.3, VAS3.4.
    Stage 4: HT4-3, HT4-4, HT4-7; Visual Arts: 4.1, 4.2, 4.7, 4.8.

  • What do we know now?

    The final lesson of the unit of inquiry asks students to reflect on all they have learnt over the course of the unit. They will take steps to listen to and learn from First Nations peoples' voices, histories and cultures to build a better future for the nation.


    Unsettled exhibition
    Visitors in Unsettled exhibition, May 2021 Image: Anna Kučera
    © Australian Museum

    NSW syllabus outcomes

    Stage 2: HT2-1, HT2-3, HT2-4, HT2-5; EN2-2A, EN2-8B, EN2-10C.
    Stage 3: HT3-1, HT3-2, HT3-4; EN3-2A, EN3-7C, EN3-8D.
    Stage 4: HT4-3, HT4-9, HT4-10; EN4-1A, EN4-5C, EN4-8D.