AAU: the backstory

It all started with a visit to the high school where I used to be an English/History teacher.

I went to spruik the Young Archaeologists’ Program to the Head of Humanities. While I was there, she mentioned how desperate teachers were for a book on Ancient Australia, a unit that focuses on the Indigenous past. In response to this, I set up this blog Ask the Archaeologist to explain the key terms for Ancient Australia in a way I thought teachers might find helpful.

Then, in July this year, I presented a 1-hour seminar on Ancient Australia at a state history conference, and the same question was asked: Why wasn’t there a textbook about Ancient Australia yet? Where could teachers access quality and comprehensive resources about this elusive topic?

I began a thorough investigation into currently available resources and soon learned why teachers found the textbooks so unhelpful.

There’s virtually nothing available.

In fact, several popular history textbooks from large publishers barely even mention Ancient Australia. The best information I could find had been written in consultation with a top museum curator, and while the resource is of high quality, it, too, is lacking the depth needed to teach such a vast and layered topic.

It was at this point that I decided to address the problem and write a book.

As soon as I decided to write the book, I knew I had to self-publish. Going through “traditional” publication routes was going to take too long. Teachers need this information now, not in one or two years.

It’s also important that I have the freedom to include as many illustrations as I think is necessary (many publishers have limited image quotas, and I want to include loads of pictures – after all, it has to appeal to kids as well as their teachers!).

I also want some say in the book design and format. While I’m not a great designer by any stretch of the imagination, I have firm views about how I want the book to unfold chronologically and visually, and I suspect a mainstream educational publisher would not permit an author to enjoy the level of creative input that I will give to this book.

With this project, I see myself not so much as a writer or educator, but more as a translator and guide. The bulk of information about Ancient Australia is locked away in archaeology reports and academic journal papers. And which teachers have time to sift through a hundred articles on an unfamiliar subject then create engaging lessons for an 8-week unit? None that I know.

Fortunately, I have a bit of time up my sleeve. Ancient Australia Unearthed is well underway, with a first draft nearing completion. It will be a unique book – the first of its kind – that uses archaeology to teach Australia’s ancient history. While the primary purpose will be educational, I feel that the aesthetics of the book are equally, if not more, important than the text. It would be so easy for my book to become boring, and I’m determined to prevent that from happening. This is why I’ve chosen to crowdfund – so that I can invest in great design and illustrations to make the book both educational and beautiful.

The Pozible tally for Day 6 is $605! Thanks to everyone who’s supported so far. There’s still heaps of time to register your pledge – just go to pozible.com/ancientaustralia


Day 4

What a whirlwind the last few days have been! SInce launching the Ancient Australia Unearthed project on Pozible, I’ve been madly writing, planning, emailing and tweeting, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.

The pledge tally so far is $425!

Two wonderful people have opted to receive a hard copy of the book when it’s published, and others will be receiving magnets, stickers, badges and cool military-style hats! I’m thrilled with the support so far, and am excited about the potential of this project.

Here’s a quick progress report on the book:

I like to have non-fiction works figured out in advance, so at the moment, the book is a jumble of headings and text, but very soon, this mess will become a neat document that corresponds with this storyboard plan:


I’ve taken over the dining table, and my housemate has been ever so gracious and understanding!


I’ll be uploading a video shortly of some midget-sized fans who really want to see this book published! Stay tuned.

There are 49 days to go, but that’s not a lot of time in the world of crowdfunding, so please keep spreading the word and help me get this project off the ground!

Ancient Australia Unearthed – using archaeology to teach Australia’s prehistory.

Pozible campaign is officially launched!

Ancient Australia Unearthed is a unique book for kids that uses archaeology to teach Australia’s ancient history.

Over the past six months, I’ve had heaps of teachers ask me for information – websites, books or anything else useful – that will help them teach the new Australian Curriculum history topic ‘Ancient Australia’. This unit is all about the Indigenous past, and while there are a handful of amazing online activities for kids, there are a total of zero comprehensive books devoted to this topic for a high school audience.

21Yep. Zero.

Powerful and well-funded bodies such as Veterans Affairs provide a wealth of information and activities for topics like Gallipoli and the Vietnam War, but Ancient Australia – an equally important part of our history – has been sorely neglected.

I intend to change that.

As an archaeologist, I have the knowledge and expertise to analyse the science. As a teacher, I understand what is required to translate this academic language into plain English. And as a writer, I have the skills to do just that.

PROBLEM: Large slabs of information about Ancient Australia are locked away in archaeology reports and academic journal papers. And which teachers have a month to sift through a pile of scientific articles and then turn that information into fun classroom activities? None that I know!

SOLUTION: I’ll do the research then translate the academic language into plain English. I’ll add a stack of exciting classroom activities along with heaps of great pictures, illustrations and games. That way, teachers can spend more time on the fun and less time on the work.

I’m working hard to have this book ready for the beginning of Term 1 in 2014. But without funding, I won’t meet that deadline, and if I miss the deadline, then kids and teachers will miss out too, because I’ll have to find another way to pay for design and print, and that could take a long time.

Visit pozible.com/ancientaustralia for more information. Donate, and I’ll send you some great Ancient Australia Unearthed merchandise!

Like this hat!
Like this hat!
Or this magnet!
Or this magnet!

But I can’t do this without your support!

So please spread the word, and help unearth the fascinating history of Ancient Australia!


Ancient Australia at HTAV

I will be presenting a seminar on Ancient Australia at the HTAV Middle Years Conference on Friday 25 October at 1:30pm.

This session discusses Ancient Australia in archaeological terms. Explore the ‘history’ of Ancient Australia through its changing climate and environment and how this impacted upon lifestyles and land use. Get tips on how to practically apply the depth study unit Ancient Australia, with a different approach to history and a fascinating new archaeological case study. While the session has a Year 7 focus, any teachers interested in Indigenous archaeology are invited to attend.

For more information, visit the HTAV website.

Coming soon: an Ancient Australia textbook for schools!

Due to popular demand, I have begun writing a textbook devoted to Ancient Australia. It’ll have lots of helpful teacher info, as well as a stack of great classroom resources, including case studies, inquiry questions, high quality images, and fascinating facts.

Since this book will quite literally be the first of its kind, I’d like to trial the material in a few Year 7 classes next year. If you’re a teacher and you’re interested in getting involved in the trial, please email your contact details to: info [at] plainspeak [dot] com [dot] au

Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project!

NEW: Book your class in for an archaeology talk

Want an expert to talk to your students about archaeology or history?

Look no further! You can book me to visit your school and talk to your class about anything archaeological, whether it be Australia’s recent history, the Indigenous past, Aztec, Greece, Rome, Egypt, human evolution – whatever the topic, I can give your students a new perspective.

Here are examples of things you (and your students!) might find interesting:

  • Stone tools and technology
  • Artefact illustration
  • Bottle identification
  • A day in the life of an archaeologist
  • Curriculum topics like Aztecs, Greece, Rome, Egypt or Ancient Australia

To inquire about archaeology school talks, please fill in the form below. Or you can email me at info [at] plainspeak [dot] com [dot] au.

Please note: I am based in Melbourne, Australia. If you are outside this area, I will be happy to arrange a class talk via Skype.

eResources for Ancient Australia

Here’s a list of current (and fantastic) online resources for teachers. If you know of any good links that I’ve missed, please submit them here.

ABC ‘First Footprints’ official website – a great interactive site that ties in with the TV series

ABC Gold Coast – shell middens – some good images and a useful soundbite

ABC Quantum – Jinmium – an interesting case study (more Jinmium information here)

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Mini-Poster Series – quality images and explanations for general archaeological terms and artefacts

Aboriginal Heritage Office – information about heritage

Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania – shell middens – Tassie heritage

The Australian Museum – good overview of Ancient Australian past

CaveWorks – megafauna – some great images and info about megafauna

Dust Echoes study guides – Indigenous heritage study guides on a variety of topics

History Teachers Association of Australia – Narrabeen Man classroom activity – excellent teaching resource, with project downloads, activity instructions, and assessment outline

History Teachers’ Association of Victoria – handouts available for latest conference

Melbourne Museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre – if you can’t get your class to this exceptional permanent exhibition (an absolute MUST for local students) then check out the quality online resources

Mungo Explorer – an interesting case study, with interactive resources and teacher classroom packs

Mungo National Park – information to support Mungo activities

National Trust of Australia (WA) teacher’s resource – advice for teachers when teaching Aboriginal history

National Trust of Australia (WA) depth study outline – some good case studies

NSW Government: Heritage and Environment – shell middens – information about shell middens

SBS ‘First Australians’ complete series online – gotta love the SBS for making this fantastic series available in full for free