It’s hard to say I’m sorry – A history of Australia’s indigenous people

By Gudula Brandmayr


In Austria, teachers and students from the regions of Styria and Vorarlberg participated in Critical Review. In alphabetical order: Gudula Brandmayr (BG Rein), Gerhard Hosp (BG Rebberggasse Feldkirch), Sabine Lenz-Johann (BG Gallus Bregenz), Georg Marschnig (BG/BRG Kirchengasse), Walter Müller (Collegium Bernardi Bregenz), Barbara Pürstinger (University of Graz), Anja Reder (BG/BRG Kirchengasse), Vanessa Tautter (University of Graz) and Christoph Thöny (BG Bludenz).


Gudula Brandmayr regards her teaching and learning unit on Aboriginal Australia as “very extensive and detailed. The TLU contextualized the in Austria mostly unknown topic of the Stolen Generations.” Her colleagues from BG Rein state, “For that, it uses very good original sources and works on emotional level. The TLU is designed for experts or teachers who are willing to invest more time in preparation. Did you know that Gudula lived in Australia, studying on Aboriginal people? She is an expert.”


A pupil, who participated in the testing, enjoyed the primary sources used without hiding linguistic challenges: “The sources are very exciting, in particular the original videos in English – although some sequences are not easy to understand because of the unfamiliar accent of the Aboriginal Australian people.” Based on the feedback gathered after the testing, we revised the exercise on the video interviews and made in optional as homework.


On other pupil relished the ice-breaking exercise on stereotypes at the beginning of the TLU and the positive outlook at its end: “Indeed, it affected me emotionally dealing with realities from the other side of the world. It makes me think about my reality and the interconnection of our “Global Village”.


ABSTRACT 5:  Südwind (Austria)


Title: It’s hard to say I’m sorry – A history of Australia’s indigenous people

Subjects: History and social studies/political education, transdisciplinary with English

Age: 11th grade (16 to 17 years)

Duration: 5 lessons




Australia has become a favourite travel destination especially for young people because far away countries are within easy and cheap reach in our globalised world. The images communicated of “Down Under” by the tourism advertising industry paint a very positive picture and focus mainly on sports activities and the extraordinary flora, fauna and geology. In the field of art and culture, one can also find the ‘dream time culture’ of Australia’s indigenous peoples, who are marketed under the umbrella term of ‘Aboriginals’. Only rarely does anyone mention their history after the British settlement or their political and social situation. The students shall gain an understanding of the current situation of Australia’s indigenous peoples, how it came about and what attempts at a solution were made over the centuries, always in the context of their time. Through portrayals of individual aspects of indigenous cultures, the students will learn that in a global context, there have been and still remain today a variety of ways of life that in principle do not require any kind of evaluation.


Link to National Curriculum


11th grade: "social, ecological, political, economical and cultural inequalities and development of sustainable solution strategies“


Learning Objectives


  1. The students can describe the difference between stereotypes and prejudices, assign them to a cultural, historical and socio-political context and contrast them with the current life situation of Aboriginals.
  2. The students can explain the policies adopted with regards to Aboriginals, especially the systematic theft of their children. The students can illustrate the similarities and differences in the treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
  3. The students are able to objectively discuss emotional personal stories.
  4. The students are able to deconstruct official sources and evaluate the reaction of the media to the reconciliation process in Australia.




Historical methodological competence: Analysis and deconstruction of historical sources


Historical professional competence: Understanding the concept of colonialism and its forms based on the example of Australia


Historical orientation skills: Understanding the impacts of Australia’s colonisation on the lives of Aboriginal people today


Historical question competence: Posing of questions about the history of Australia and Aboriginals


Political decision-making and responsibility: Articulating and voicing of opinions about how politicians treated minorities based on the example of the Aboriginal people


Political professional competence: Comprehending processes like assimilation and concepts like eugenics, as well as their consequences


Political competence of judgement: Evaluating the reasons and consequences of policies of assimilation, eugenics and the Terra Nullius doctrine


Political methodological competence: Analysing official government publications and UN declarations







“Critical review of the historical and social disciplines for a formal education suited to the global society”

ABSTRACT 5:  Südwind (Austria)

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