Australian History Lesson: Migration and Settlement in Australia


The aim of this lesson is to teach students how to explain the causes, effects and patterns of intercontinental migration to Australia and Oceania. Students will be able to explain the different ways that people interact during intercontinental migration, describe different reasons for intercontinental migration and will use various media and primary sources to answer questions about history.

Australian Curriculum Links:

  • Year 5 – The nature of convict or colonial presence, including the factors that influenced patterns of development, aspects of the daily life of the inhabitants (including Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples) and how the environment changed. (ACHHK094)
  • Year 5 – The impact of a significant development or event on a colony; for example, frontier conflict, the gold rushes, the Eureka Stockade, internal exploration, the advent of rail, the expansion of farming, drought. (ACHHK095)
  • Year 5 – The reasons people migrated to Australia from Europe and Asia, and the experiences and contributions of a particular migrant group within a colony.(ACHHK096)
  • Year 6 – Stories of groups of people who migrated to Australia (including from ONE Asian country) and the reasons they migrated, such as World War II and Australian migration programs since the war. (ACHHK115)
  • Year 6 – Key figures and events that led to Australia’s Federation, including British and American influences on Australia’s system of law and government. (ACHHK113)


Students respond in their journal to the questions written on the board:
1) Based on what you already know, what do you think are some reasons people might want to explore other parts of the world?
2) Based on what we have learned about Aboriginal people in Australia, how do you think their way of life might have changed when settlers from other parts of the world arrived?  5 minutes
Body: Teacher Instruction
  1. Ask students to share what they came up with for the first answer, adding “reasons for exploration” to a web on the board.
  2. Write the word “migration” on the board and ask students if they know what it means. Define and discuss global migration. (Ask students if they remember what “intercontinental” means.)
  3. Instruction will focus on the causes and reasons for migration to Australia. Explain that the day’s lesson will focus on how migration from Europe impacted people in Australia, and how interactions between the groups shaped Australian history.
  4. Begin explaining the major migration groups, especially Captain Cook and how Australia was originally used as a penal colony for Britain. Write “penal colony” on the board and discuss its meaning.
  5. Ask the class: “why would Great Britain want to move its criminals to another part of the world?” Discuss overcrowding in Britain and the need for expansion. Close by asking “What impact do you think this might have had on Aboriginal people in Australia?” 15 minutes

Key terms: intercontinental migration, penal colony, colonization, overcrowding, settlement

Body: Student Activities

Student activities will focus on the impact migration and colonization had on life in Australia. You will need to break students up into 3 groups and ask them to research a specific topic. Each group will be provided with a text book and a series of primary sources and will be asked to look for ways to answer a specific question.

  • The first group’s question is, “How did European settlement in Australia impact land, life, and environment?” Their primary sources will be maps and treaties, and their goal is to find examples of effects on physical and political geography.
  • The second group’s question is “How did Aboriginal people in Australia impact European settlers?” Their primary sources will include settler accounts of interactions with Aboriginal people as well as images and documents about Aboriginal people like Bungaree, who aided European exploration. Their goal is to find examples of cultural, and technological contributions of Aboriginal people.
  • The final group’s question is “How did European settlement impact Aboriginal culture?” Their primary sources will include descriptions and images of war and forced migration, loss of land and language, as well as images of Aboriginal people using European tools and culture in positive ways. Their goal will to be to find examples of how Europeans permanently change the ways of life for Aboriginal people in negative and positive ways.

Each group will compile their ideas and “evidence” on a large piece of paper where they can organize the information in any way.


Each group will share their research with the entire class. On the board, the phrase “impact of European migration in Australia” will be written, and students will be called upon to add one concept to  the web. This share-out, as well as the artifacts created in groups, will serve as an assessment for student participation and comprehension.


  • Anecdotal
  • Group Samples
  • You can create a team work criteria
  • Summary of findings at the end of the session.




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