Caroline Chisholm High School

The school

Caroline Chisholm is a Canberra government high school which caters for students in Years 7 to 10. The school offers the full range of core subjects. English, Mathematics, Science, Studies of Society and Environment, and Physical Education are compulsory for all years. There is a range of elective subjects which includes French, Indonesian, Music, Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Technology and Life Sciences. Streaming occurs in most learning areas in Years 9 and 10.

Caroline Chisholm High School has developed gender equity policies and inclusive practices to balance the development of both male and female students. The school prepares students for their future lives by addressing the Key Employment Competencies and Information and Communication Technology Competencies.

The application of the principles of enterprise education is becoming increasingly important in developing modern pedagogical approaches to meet the constantly changing needs of our complex society. We believe that our 'sub-school' model facilitates students' movement through, and development during, the middle years of schooling, especially in our Year 7 and Year 8 programs.

The school is divided into four sub-schools, each covering the year levels. Each sub-school has its own building for general classes, assemblies and meetings, and is administered by two Level 2 Executive Teachers. These teachers have special responsibility for student management and welfare, and also have particular curriculum or other program responsibilities. The Executive Teachers head a sub-school team of teachers drawn from most curriculum areas. Where possible, teachers try to teach within one sub-school and remain with the one group of students for their four years at the school, from Year 7 through to Year 10. This fosters close ties and a greater sense of belonging among teachers, students and parents.

The sub-school system, where teachers from all learning areas share a staff room, allows teachers to communicate across the learning areas to provide learning that is more integrated for the students. The sub-school structure is aimed at developing a more holistic view of the student as a person, and a better understanding of students' learning needs. Students and staff come to know each other well over a four-year period.

Student enrolment: 694 (358 boys; 336 girls)
Percentage of Indigenous students in school: 1.2%

Contact details
Hambidge Crescent
Chisholm ACT 2905
Tel: (02) 6205 7277
Fax: (02) 6205 7290

Program overview

In the ten-week unit 'The Myall Creek Massacre: Reconciliation Past and Present' students investigated the murders, focusing on the following themes and questions to guide their research. Through a process of research, reflection and debate they developed their own perspective on whether justice was served at Myall Creek and what reconciliation means to all Australians in a multicultural inclusive society.

ThemesFocus questions
Purpose of the law
  • Why do we have laws?
  • How do laws come into existence?
Respect for the law
  • When are laws perceived to work?
For whom
  • Individuals, groups and the law
Effectiveness of the law
  • What is the evidence to demonstrate whether laws are effective?
Human rights
  • Whose rights? Who decides?
  • What does reconciliation mean for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians?
  • What are the links between past actions and present-day responsibilities? Or is the past beyond the reach of Australians today?

The teacher plan in html format, with linked Word documents, is available here.

The students

The unit was developed for students in an unstreamed Year 8 class. Students had a range of learning abilities, and were supported through the use of cooperative learning strategies and literacy scaffolds. The aim was to provide students with success in their learning by empowering them to decide the learning direction that they wish to take.

Learning needs

This unit of work links into the ACT Government Schools Plan 2002–2004, Within Reach of Us All, which emphasises:

  • supporting and caring for students where 'diversity is valued and racism is overcome';
  • providing relevant and challenging learning where 'all students are engaged in learning through contemporary, challenging and relevant programs';
  • developing citizens of the future where 'students mature as active and informed community, national and international citizens' and where 'students develop the values and social capacity to exercise judgement and take responsibility'.

The unit also builds on the work of HIP (Help Increase Peace), a pastoral care/personal development program to support the development of a caring community that is sensitive to individual differences and supportive of inclusive practices.

Students are also made aware of the concept of reconciliation and its linkage to the 'restorative justice' model of the Caroline Chisholm High School student welfare process. This focuses on solving problems and repairing harm: '…  the restorative approach confronts and disapproves of wrongdoing while supporting and valuing the intrinsic worth of the wrongdoer'. (Conferencing Handbook: The New Real Justice Training Manual, Terry O'Connell et al, Piper's Press, 1999, p 78)

Learning outcomes

The unit addresses the following national outcomes from Studies of Society and Environment: A Curriculum Profile for Australian Schools (Curriculum Corporation, 1994).


4.7Describes patterns of social organisation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups.
4.8Describes beliefs and social organisation of groups in communities other than their own.
4.9Describes the roles, rights and responsibilities of members of cultural groups.
5.7Identifies and describes issues that are culturally important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups.
5.8Describes how cultural groups, their belief systems and social organisation contribute to the identity of a society.

Time, Continuity and Space

4.1aDescribes significant events and ways of life in some periods of Australia's past.
4.3Portrays an event or occasion from a particular perspective.
5.1bDescribes the ideas, people or events that have influenced the identity of a country.
5.3Interprets people's motives and actions from various perspectives.

Investigation, Communication and Participation

4.16Identifies the types of data and sources required by a task and decides how they will be used to gain information.
4.17Translates information from one form to another.
4.18Designs suitable strategies for tasks and to assist decision making for particular purposes.

Student outcomes

At the conclusion of the unit students will be able to demonstrate the following learning outcomes and skills:

  • Define and describe the concepts of law and justice.
  • Identify and describe human rights.
  • Identify and describe aspects of Australia's Indigenous heritage and its relationship to reconciliation.
  • Identify issues and develop possible solutions.
  • Examine newspapers to gather information on the law and reconciliation.
  • Negotiate and agree on roles and responsibilities to achieve goals.

The following skills will be developed during the course of the unit:

  • Defining, locating, selecting, organising and evaluating information.
  • Using information and communication technology to access information.
  • Communicating information and ideas to a group.
  • Working in small groups of twos and fours.
  • Exploratory and presentational talk.
  • Note-taking from visual and written texts.
  • Editing skills from report and reflective writing.
  • Questioning skills to develop visual and critical literacy.
  • Self-assessment of work attitudes and organisational skills.

Program outline

'Most white men on the frontier did not think the killing of Aborigines was a crime.' (Discovering Democracy: A Guide to Law and Government in Australia, John Hirst, Curriculum Corporation, 1998, p 75)

In these teaching and learning activities students consider the ideas of law and justice in historical and contemporary contexts. The Myall Creek massacre of 1838 provides the main historical context and a springboard for considering issues relating to law, justice and reconciliation, past and present. The main research task requires students, as investigative journalists, to travel through time to describe the Aboriginal people and their lifestyle, culture and encounter with non-Aboriginal Australia at the time of the Myall Creek massacre.

Students consider each of the themes and associated focus questions (see Program overview) with the support of primary and secondary sources. For example:

  • Students use online resources from the National Archives, National Library and National Museum to consider the effectiveness of the law in supporting the declaration of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that '… the life of a black is as precious and valuable in the eye of the law as that of the highest noble of the land'. (Sydney, 15 November 1838 cited in Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Collection, Curriculum Corporation, 1999, p 19)
  • Students view the ABC video, Australian Story: Bridge over Myall Creek to listen to the descendants of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians and their approach to reconciliation. (Available from:
  • Students listen to visiting speakers organised with the assistance of the Indigenous Education Unit (ACT) to gain a present-day perspective on reconciliation.


ABC video Australian Story: Bridge Over Myall Creek, 26/7/01 (available from – link no longer available)

Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Collection, Curriculum Corporation, 1999

Conferencing Handbook: The New Real Justice Training Manual, Terry O'Connell et al, Piper's Press, 1999

Discovering Democracy: A Guide to Government and Law in Australia, John Hirst, Curriculum Corporation, 1998

Language for Understanding across the Curriculum: Strategies Handbook, ACT Department of Education and Training, 1998 (available as a PDF download from

Reconciliation, It Starts with Me: An Activity Book, Jon Carnegie and Terry Hastings, Passionfruit Education, 2000

Studies of Society and Environment: A Curriculum Profile for Australian Schools, Curriculum Corporation, 1994

The Art of Delivering Justice: Resources on Law and Justice in Australia, Curriculum Corporation, 2001

Within Reach of Us All: ACT Government Schools Plan 2002–2004, Australian Capital Territory Department of Education and Community Services

Assessment tasks

  1. Journal writing:
    • With examples, explain the difference between the concepts, 'justice' and 'law'. Do laws always provide justice for individuals?
    • List as many children's rights and human rights that you can think of (see Week 3).
  2. Completion of group tasks (see Weeks 6–7):
    • Concept map
    • Collage
    • Planning and completion of group presentation (see Week 10).
  3. PSI (Plus, Something to improve and Interesting) self and group assessment.

    As a result of the unit of work the students demonstrated:

    • an understanding of the term 'reconciliation';
    • the link between past historical events and their effect on the present-day generation;
    • the cultural and social meaning of people coming together to celebrate and reflect as a community;
    • that laws do not always promote justice;
    • that past injustices can become a central issue for communities to deal with.

The Australian Readers Discovering Democracy extracts from Anne Frank and Huckleberry Finn gave the students an opportunity to compare different social and historical settings where laws were implemented but justice was not achieved. The use of current events obtained through the analysis of newspapers provided students with a concrete foundation to debate and reflect on the concepts of justice and the law.

The development of independent learning skills is a long-term outcome which is supported through the consistent use of paired work and small group activities. Pairing students supported the regular use of scaffolds by students to understand texts and evaluate their work and the work of others. This promoted student confidence in understanding tasks and concepts and completing set tasks.

Pairing activities were observed to be much more successful at promoting cooperative learning skills where students working in groups of four found difficulty in assigning tasks and monitoring progress of each other. This was evident in the last activity where larger groups were organising their Myall Creek presentations. This may only highlight the need for consistent use of pairing in the classroom to promote these cooperative learning skills.


Thank you to John Geasley from Caroline Chisholm High School for providing this unit of work.


Teacher notes

Student worksheets