Narara Valley High School, NSW

Narara Valley High School

This case study was written by Julianne Beek, who wrote the 'Freedom Rides' component of the 'Getting Things Done' program, developed by members of the History Department at Narara Valley High School. The school won a Discovering Democracy award for the development of the program, described below.

The school

Narara Valley High School is a fully comprehensive, years 7 to 12, coeducational government secondary school. Located on the New South Wales Central Coast, it services an area immediately north of Gosford, drawing largely from the communities of Narara, Wyoming and Niagara Park. The school population is approximately 830 students; of this 5 per cent are identified as Indigenous students. The school includes a Support Unit and an active Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness (ASSPA) Committee. There is a teaching staff of 65 and a History faculty of four full-time history teachers, and several others shared with the English faculty.

Contact details:

Address:Fountains RoadPhone:(02) 4329 3780
 Narara NSW 2250Facsimile:(02) 4328 3609

The Central Coast is located midway between the cities of Sydney and Newcastle. With a population of approximately 280,000, the Central Coast is a growth area known for its diverse natural, social and economic assets. Identified as a holiday and retirement area it is undergoing growth and development in all sectors, including tourism.

Further information about the Central Coast region and community can be found at:

Central Coast Tourism Inc –

Central Coast Regional Development Corporation – Valley High School students

Program overview

The year 10 unit 'Freedom Rides' is a 30-hour unit developed as a part of a thematic Stage 5 Teaching and Learning History Program using the Discovering Democracy concept of 'Getting Things Done'. It was designed to inform students about Indigenous issues on a local and national level under toimages 5, 6 and 7 of the New South Wales Junior History Syllabus:

  1. Post war Australia to the 1970s
  2. Social and Political Issues from the 1970s to the 1990s
  3. Contemporary Australia.

'Getting Things Done' was chosen by the History faculty as the most appropriate for the students. It was felt that for students to really adopt Civics education as a meaningful concept, it was important for them to be exposed to historical examples of how Australians, of all backgrounds and interests, have involved themselves in their wider community.

Although the underlying theme for the unit was 'Getting Things Done', information drawn from the Discovering Democracy material was not limited to this topic. A basic requirement of the program was that all relevant inquiry questions within the syllabus should be incorporated. This meant that a variety of Discovering Democracy materials were utilised and incorporated with additional resources. Information adapted from Discovering Democracy materials for the 'Freedom Rides' unit included:

  • Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Units – 'Men and Women in Political Life' (pp 131–4), 'Democratic Struggles' (pp 95–8)
  • Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Units – 'Human Rights' (pp 55–7, 67–71)
  • Discovering Democracy Stories of Democracy CD-ROM – Middle Secondary 'Gibbs' and 'Ferguson'
  • Discovering Democracy Stories of Democracy CD-ROM–Upper Primary 'People Power'
  • Discovering Democracy Stories of Democracy CD-ROM–Lower Secondary 'Charles Perkins'
  • Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Collection–'Political People' (pp 17-18) and 'Equality and Difference' (pp 36-40)
  • Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Units Assessment Resources–'Human Rights: Rights Denied to Indigenous Australians' (pp 40-2)

Narara Valley High School students

The students

The 'Freedom Rides' unit was developed for year 10 students. There are six classes with between 25 and 30 students in each.

As a comprehensive high school with approximately 165 students in year 10, Narara Valley's student literacy and numeracy levels vary enormously, both within and between classes. The school organises students into two A-level and four B-level mixed ability classes with gifted and talented students and learning difficulties students represented.

The majority of students are of white Anglo-Saxon socio-cultural background. The school has a 5 per cent Indigenous student population.

Students undertaking this program will have completed an 'Indigenous Peoples, Colonisation and Contact History–Aboriginal Australia' unit in year 8 as well as Australian History units from 1901 to 1945 in year 9. The skills and knowledge developed in these and other History units, combined with their own general knowledge, will provide the background knowledge and skills needed to undertake this unit.

Learning needs

The underlying need was to address the Syllabus inquiry questions and in doing so to incorporate civics and citizenship themes into a meaningful framework for students. Specifically, the 'Freedom Rides' unit was developed to allow students to gain an understanding of the experiences of Indigenous Australians within the context of the 'Getting Things Done' concept. This was identified as a need due to an obvious lack of accurate knowledge and understanding among the general student population about recent Aboriginal history and issues.

Learning outcomes

Outcomes targeted were the mandatory Stage 5 outcomes of the New South Wales Junior History Syllabus. The current Junior History Syllabus is available at:

Knowledge and understanding

A student:

M5.1 recounts major historical events in chronological order

M5.2 sequences major historical events to show understanding of continuity, change and causation

M5.4 explains the impact of international events on Australia's history and evaluates Australia's role

M5.5 recounts some of the key events and developments in Australian political history

M5.6 explains political events and evaluates their impact on civic life in Australia

M5.7 describes major features of social and cultural life at different times in Australia's history

M5.8 compares and contrasts the social and cultural experiences of different people at various times

M5.9 recounts some major events in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations

M5.10 accounts for how and why the nature of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations has changed

M5.11 identifies various marginalised groups who have struggled for rights and freedoms

M5.12 accounts for how and why rights and freedoms of various groups in Australian society have changed.


A student:

M5.13 uses historical terms and concepts in appropriate contexts to answer historical questions with some argument

M5.14 explains the meaning, purpose and context of historical sources in order to deduce their usefulness for the purpose of an inquiry

M5.15 explains different perspectives and historical interpretations about individuals, groups, events and issues

M5.16 locates, selects and organises historical information from a number of different sources, utilising a variety of technological processes to address complex historical problems and issues, with some independence

M5.17 defines the purpose of an historical investigation and plans and conducts appropriate research, with some independence


M5.18 selects and uses appropriate written, oral and graphic forms to communicate effectively about the past for different audiences, with clear purpose

M5.19 creates well-structured texts using evidence to describe, recount, explain, argue, challenge and discuss increasingly complex problems and issues.

These outcomes were then linked to the key Inquiry Questions listed in the Syllabus (as indicated in each of the programs included).

Program outline

Narara Valley High School painting

This unit reviews Aboriginal History/Issues in post WWII Australia. 'Freedom Rides' was chosen because it epitomises a positive aspect of the experiences of Aboriginal people. In line with the three areas of the syllabus covered, the 'Freedom Rides' unit is divided into three distinct parts:

Aboriginal Protest Movements 1940s–1972 (12 hours)

Reviews the range of responses of Aboriginal people to invasion and various forms of resistance, addressing the policies of assimilation and integration. A case study compares the USA Civil Rights movement with the Freedom Rides in Australia. The 1972 Tent Embassy and 1967 referendum highlight the power of the vote.

Aboriginal Land Rights 1972–1990s (10 hours)

Through a review of lyrics and documents, students assess the impact of Mabo, Wik and the notion of terra nullius on Australian society. Through this they assess the role of stakeholder groups and individuals.

Towards Reconciliation (8 hours)

This section looks at Aboriginal issues facing contemporary Australia, from the Stolen Generation to self-determination and reconciliation. Students assess why 'sorry' is so hard to say and study an issue affecting the local Aboriginal community. This is a topic that will be modified as contemporary issues arise. An example of this is Corroboree 2000 and the walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The links above are to teacher resource sheets, from which you can download the corresponding Word document.

The links below are to student worksheets, which include both a Word document download and a link to the Student response page.

Developing the program

The 'Getting Things Done' program was conceived by Bernie Howitt (History Head of Department) and History staff members (Ken Macdonald, Lynda Jacobsen and Julianne Beek). The 'Freedom Rides' component was written by Julianne Beek.

Professional development for key staff members was funded by a Discovering Democracy grant of $5,000 for curriculum development.

Professional development undertaken prior to developing the unit included one day for all teachers involved to discuss ideas and approaches to developing a program that integrated civics and citizenship themes into a meaningful framework. Each teacher then independently formulated their unit of work. For the 'Freedom Rides' unit, this included liaison with Aboriginal community member Jenny Ronning as to the content and approach of the unit.

The Discovering Democracy funding allowed each teacher the time to formulate ideas and incorporate the Discovering Democracy materials to meet both the outcomes of the Stage 5 course and to provide students with the opportunity to understand how and why Australians have used their citizenship responsibilities to shape modern Australia.


This is the second year students have followed the program, it having been first implemented in 2000. It has been well received by students who have displayed evidence of real critical thought and historical research. One problem, which has occurred statewide, is the difficulty of finding sufficient time to do justice to any particular issue. Although the unit 'Freedom Rides' provides ample time, it needs to be viewed in the context of the entire 'Getting Things Done' program. It is therefore important to adhere to the time allocated.

The program is an ongoing work that has been and will continue to be remodelled, as resources become available (eg Australian Readers, Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Collection and Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Units Assessment Resources), and as examination requirements are provided. The program should be viewed as more of a guide than a document that must be adhered to.

Methods of assessment

Students underwent both summative and ongoing assessment. The activities were manageable for the lower ability students and provided opportunities for extension for the more able students. Main areas for assessment were:

  • the skills of source analysis throughout the unit's progression
  • the ability of students to work in groups (an adaptation of the Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Units Assessment Resources task on pp 40-2), and
  • the ability to research and organise information for the final task in the 'Towards Reconciliation' section.

Learning outcomes

Assessment of the outcomes was both formal and informal. Students were provided with the opportunity to achieve the Stage 5 History outcomes of the New South Wales Junior History Syllabus. The activities also targeted civics and citizenship and the notion that people can get things done.


Factors contributing to success were:

  • that the unit provided a link between USA and Australian civil rights; this allowed students the opportunity to develop a sense of social justice
  • the creation of a context of achievement in 'Getting Things Done'; the 'Freedom Rides' unit was a natural addition to this
  • that work was able to be modified to suit all levels of ability – from those with learning difficulties to gifted and talented students
  • that the variety of activities catered for a range of learning styles
  • the Discovering Democracy funding, which provided the opportunity to allocate time for real reflection on the Syllabus, teaching philosophies, civics and citizenship, and programming approaches.

Obstacles to be overcome included:

  • time constraints of the Stage 5 History Syllabus
  • overcoming the resistance of students to a study of Aboriginal issues – the 'not another Aboriginal unit' mentality.

Changes in future programs:

Changes are to be developed and driven by the identifiable needs of the group and further evaluation each year. The contemporary issues section will be modified each year as new issues arise.

Curriculum resources

Anderson, M and Ashton, P 1993, Focus on Australian History, Macmillan Education Australia, South Melbourne.

Attwood, B 1996, In the Age of Mabo: History, Aborigines and Australia, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

Attwood, B and Markus, A 1999, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

Babakiueria (video recording) 1986, ABC Drama Department, Sydney.

Baker, S 1999, State Election Kit '99: Teacher's Resource Book, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, Sydney.

Berwick, C, Myers, J and Burgess, C 1998a, Please Explain? Aboriginal Issues series, Redfern, NSW.

______ 1998b, Stolen Generation, Aboriginal Issues series, Redfern, NSW.

______ 1999a, Protests, Aboriginal Issues series, Redfern, NSW.

______ 1999b, Reconciliation, Aboriginal Issues series, Redfern, NSW.

Bird, C 1998, The Stolen Children: Their Story, Random House, Milsons Point, NSW.

Commonwealth of Australia 1998a, Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Units, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South, Vic.

______ 1998b, Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Units, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South, Vic.

______ 1998c, Discovering Democracy Stories of Democracy CD-ROM, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South, Vic.

______ 1999a, Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Collection, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South, Vic.

______ 1999b, Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Collection, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South, Vic.

Cotter, R 1998, Change and Continuity: 20th Century Australian History, Macmillan Education Australia, South Yarra, Vic.

Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Australian Association of Adult and Community Education Inc. 1993, Australians for Reconciliation: Study Circle Kit, Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Parkes, ACT.

Darlington, R and Hospodaryk, J 1993, Understanding Australian History: An Enquiry-based Approach, Heinemann, Port Melbourne, Vic.

Darlington, R, Hospodaryk, J and Carrodus, C 1998, History: Australia in the Twentieth Century, Heinemann, Port Melbourne, Vic.

Dickson, E 1995, Official Voter Guide: Region A, NSW Electoral Commission.

Education Department of South Australia 1990, Aboriginal Land Rights, Education Department of South Australia, Adelaide.

Eshuys, J, Guest, V and Phelan, P 1996, Discovering Australian History, Macmillan Education Australia, South Melbourne.

The Freedom Rides (video recording) 1993, Blood Brothers series, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Gallagher, N (ed) 1992, A Story to Tell: The Working Lives of Ten Aboriginal Australians, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and Melbourne.

Glass, C and Weller, A 1987, Us Fellas: An Anthology of Aboriginal Writing, Artlook Books, Perth.

Griffiths, M 1995, Aboriginal Affairs: A Short History 1788-1995, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW.

Guilliatt, R 1999, 'Their Day in Court', Good Weekend Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November 1999, pp 18-24.

Gwilliam, H 1998, Cathy Freeman, Hodder Education, Rydalmere, NSW.

Habel, N 1999, Reconciliation: Searching for Australia's Soul, HarperCollins, Sydney.

Healey, K 1992, A Question of Colour: Issues for the Nineties, The Spinney Press, Wentworth Falls, NSW.

______ 1998, The Stolen Generation: Issues in Society, vol 91, The Spinney Press, Balmain, NSW.

______ 1999, The Racism Debate: Issues in Society, vol 104, The Spinney Press, Balmain, NSW.


Kauffman, P 1998, Wik, Mining and Aborigines, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

Kelly, B 1998, Collective Wisdom, Clown Publishers, Strathfield, NSW.

Kelly, P 1999, Don't Start Me Talking: Lyrics 1984-1999, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

Kendall, C, Clayton-Brown, B and Read, P 1995, Link-up, Link-up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation, Lawson, NSW.

Kennedy, G, Jones, R and Pockley, K 1997 (eds), Everyone Is Talking About It, But What Is Reconciliation? Streetwise Comics, Leichhardt, NSW.

Kitson, J 1994, Topic Area: Aboriginal Experiences – My Place by Sally Morgan, OTEN (cassette), Redfern, NSW.

Loos, N and Mabo, K 1996, Edward Koiki Mabo: His Life and Struggle for Land Rights, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld.

Luker, T 1997, Hot Toimages, Number 14: Native Title, Legal Information Access Centre. Sydney.

McCallum, A 1996, Evidence of War: Studying the First World War through Sources, Heinemann, Port Melbourne, Vic.

McCloy, P 1995, The Survival Dreaming, Management Interface, Lindfield, NSW.

McLennan, W 1996, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey 194: Australia's Indigenous Youth, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Merkur, J 1999, Mum Shirl, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Miles, S and Van Berendonk, K, 1996, Australia: Studies of Society and Environment, Hodder Education, Rydalmere, NSW.

Morgan, S 1987, My Place, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, South Fremantle, WA.

Neidjie, B 1989, Story about Feeling, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.

Newbury, P 1999, Aboriginal Heroes of the Resistance: From Pemulwuy to Mabo, Action for World Development, Surry Hills, NSW.

Nicholls, G, Emmelkamp, M, Prince, F and Pollock, A 1994, Images of Australian History, Thomas Nelson Australia, South Melbourne.

NSW Department of Education and Training, Aboriginal Programs Unit 1996, Aboriginal Education Policy Training and Development ResourceParticipants' Handbook, NSW Department of Education and Training.

Office of the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs 1997, Rebutting the Myths: Some Facts about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Parbury, N 1986, Survival, A History of Aboriginal Life in New South Wales, Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (NSW), Chippendale, NSW.

Poad, D, West, A and Miller, R 1990, Contact: An Australian History, Heinemann, Port Melbourne, NSW.

Pyne, M, Anderson, C, Clark, B, Hewitt, A, Moore, S and Dunshea, C 1993, Checkerboard: Themes and Skills in Australian History, Longman Cheshire, South Melbourne.

Read, P 1990, Charles Perkins: A Biography, Viking (Penguin Books), Ringwood, Vic.

Squires, W 1999, 'Sydney: A Celebration in Pictures', The Daily Telegraph, vol 6, p 6.

Swain, D 1988, 200 in the Shade: An Historical Selection of Cartoons about Aborigines, Collins Publishers Australia, Sydney.

Taylor, G 1999a, Albert Namatjira, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

______ 1999b, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Yunupingu, G 1997, Our Land is Our Life: Land Rights–Past, Present and Future, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld.

Internet resources
Australasian Legal Information Institute
Information about the Mabo, Wik, native title legislation and court cases
Oxfam, Community Aid Abroad
(See publications/briefing/wik)
Wik and extinguishment of native title. Briefing paper no 19 August, 1997
The Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action
This site, established by people from Indigenous communities, includes information and links to related sites, including the subsite:
National Indigenous Working Group for Native Title.
This subsite includes information about the role of the working group as well as information and links to related sites.
National Native Title Tribunal
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
Look for the issues page for ATSIC. It includes links to articles and reports about land rights and native title.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation
Includes information about issues including background information on native title
Koori net service from Sydney University
Includes articles, information and links to related sites
Look for 8080/Blacktracka, the Indigenous Australian Internet Search Engine.
A Canadian website that provides links to information about Indigenous People from around the world. Extensive links to Aboriginal Australia sites on law and legislation
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Search within the site for information and links to items such as an online native title newsletter, native title research services and fact sheets.
Links to a variety of newspaper articles about native title available online
Search engine for Aboriginal issues
InformOz – First Australians Citizen Futures site
Includes information such as John Howard's 'Address to the Nation' (ABC 30/11/97); Kim Beazley's 'Native Title Reply' (1/12/97).
Radio National – Life Matters interviews
The Wik 10 point plan explained. Norman Swan's interview with Ian Viner, QC, Deputy Chair of the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council, November 21, 1997


Curriculum Corporation would like to acknowledge the work of the History Faculty staff and the School Executive at Narara Valley High School; Julianne Beek, the author of the case study, and Jenny Ronning, the consultant for the local Aboriginal Community; the following students: Kahley Snelson, Michelle Johnston, Sarah Boyd and Damien Ronning; and the New South Wales Department of Education and Training for the grant allocation to the school that allowed time for professional development.