Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' histories and perspectives are central to a range of important conversations in Australian society relating to social justice, public policy and national identity.

This unit is designed to offer students a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, history and contemporary issues, and to apply this knowledge to a range of contemporary contexts and debates. Major themes will include: traditional cultures and histories, changing historical and contemporary cultures, Indigenous movements and issues as well as the contributions of Indigenous people in the making of Australia. The unit also develops key historical skills in analysing primary sources and secondary materials.

The aim of this unit is to focus students on the diversity of Indigenous Australia with particular emphasis on the cultures and history of the region in which it is being taught, through involvement of, and consultation with, Indigenous community members in planning and implementation.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe a range of factual knowledge of the histories of Australian Indigenous peoples in historical settings (GA1, GA2, GA5) 

LO2 - Communicate clearly in written and/or oral form (GA9) 

LO3 - Use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary sources relevant to the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australian history to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argument (GA3, GA10) 

LO4 - Apply critical reading skills to your understanding of the histories of Australian Indigenous peoples (GA4) 

LO5 - Identify and reflect on key ethical and historical debates relating to real-world situations/case studies relating to Australian Indigenous peoples over time (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • Local case studies developed in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the region in which the unit is being offered  
  • Pre-contact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and societies 
  • The impact of European invasion and colonisation, and the responses from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 
  • The history of government policies; segregation and protection; establishment of reserves and missions; assimilation; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activism, self- determination and reconciliation 
  • Theories and experiences of racism and contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues 
  • Contemporary expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, lifestyles and histories 
  • Contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to all aspects of Australian life.   

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This 10 credit-point unit is delivered as a face-to face-class in order to immerse students in Active Learning through activities which facilitate the development of skills fundamental to the discipline of history and deep understanding of course content. This unit engages students in active learning activities, such as reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class content. Students use case studies to explore how what they have learned applies to real world situations. 

Students in this unit will be encouraged to develop specific skills in reading and understanding primary sources; begin to understand the dynamics of historical and historiographical debate and incorporate secondary material into their own research and analysis. This unit introduces students to historical strategies for understanding how to interpret a broad sweep of history. 

This unit has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as lectures, tutorials, reading, reflection, discussion, film screenings, skills workshops, and assignments etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In the History discipline, first year units are designed to include a selection of the following assessment tasks to build skills around the discipline: 

  • Primary source document analyses (maps, images and documents) 
  • Analytical reading challenges 
  • In-class debates 
  • Library exercises 
  • Research Essay/Challenges  
  • Online discussion boards 
  • Short answer responses 
  • Short quizzes/In-class tests 
  • Tutorial assignments/presentations. 

The assessment for this unit embeds Indigenous perspectives, requiring students to engage with Indigenous-created historical accounts, sources and narratives. The assessments are scaffolded to require students to develop historical skills progressively, beginning with concrete practical skills.   

  • The history skills exercise requires students to answer questions in order to demonstrate developing competency in fundamental skills required to write history assignments.  
  • This will be followed by a critical analysis of primary and secondary sources requiring students to apply critical analysis and skills fundamental to the discipline of history to respond to a question or questions using both primary and secondary sources.  
  • Finally, students will complete an historical essay, demonstrating the skills and techniques developed in Assignments 1 and 2 in the form of a sustained piece of historical essay writing. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Learning to Think Historically 

The purpose of this exercise is to develop knowledge around the use of primary and secondary materials relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to introduce students to different approaches to historical thinking. 


LO1, LO2  

GA1, GA2, GA5, GA10 

Analysis of Primary and Secondary Sources  

The function of this assessment is to develop skills in critical reading, the use of evidence and clear communication. 


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA4, GA5, GA9, GA10 

Historical Essay 

This essay provides a forum for students to apply knowledge and skills in the construction of an evidence-based historical narrative or argument. 


LO2, LO4, LO5, LO6 

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA9, GA10 

* At least one assignment should require students to engage with Australian Indigenous perspectives on history through such sources as Indigenous guest speakers, Indigenous-created exhibitions, or Indigenous-authored histories/testimonies. 

Representative texts and references

Attwood, B. & Markus, A. (eds) The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: a documentary history. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1999. 

Broome, R. Aboriginal Australians: a history since 1788. 4th ed., Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2010. 

Curthoys, A., Genovese, A., and Reilly, A. Rights and Redemption: History, law and Indigenous people. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2012. 

Haebich, A. Broken Circles: Fragmenting Indigenous families, 1800-2000. Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2000. 

McKenna, Mark. Looking for Blackfellas' Point: an Australian history of place. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2014. 

Moreton-Robinson, A. The White Possessive: Property, Power and Indigenous Sovereignty. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. 

Pearson, N. Up from the Mission: Selected writings. Melbourne: Black Inc., 2011. 

Perkins, R. and Langton, M. (eds.) First Australians: An illustrated history. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2010. 

Price, K. (ed.) Knowledge of Life: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 

Rintoul, S. The Wailing: a national black oral history, Melbourne: William Heinemann, 1993. 

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