Examining the lives of historical figures to help us affect change - Introduction

Key Learning Area: Studies of Society and Environment

Year Level: Lower secondary

Lesson Duration: 2 lessons

Lesson Topic: Examining the lives of historical figures to help us effect change

Lesson’s overall aim:

Students will work in teams to explore the lives of significant historical figures from Australia’s past and learn about the contributions individuals have made and how their actions have affected Australia today. Based on sourced material, students will suggest possible motivations for individuals’ actions and identify the values that are represented in the biographies. Students will then reflect upon how examining the lives of historical figures help us effect change.

Also see: Biographical writing

Intended student learning objectives/outcomes


  • Investigate individuals who have campaigned for expanded human rights and democracy
  • Investigate the contributions of people who have helped achieve civil and political rights in Australia


  • Analysing
  • Researching
  • Working in teams


  • Care and compassion
  • Doing your best
  • Fair go
  • Freedom
  • Honesty and trustworthiness
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Understanding, tolerance and inclusion


  1. Scissors
  2. Glue sticks
  3. Paper clips
  4. A3 paper
  5. Computer with a CD-drive and Internet access
  6. Jigsaw activity – Expert groups (A3-size handout)
  7. Question spinners (handout)
  8. Venn diagram (A3-size handout)
  9. Civics and Citizenship website: Biography gallery
  10. Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Units – Political Life
  11. Stories of Democracy CD-ROM, Curriculum Corporation, 1998
  12. Dorothy Griffin: great Australian women (TLF-ID L370)
  13. Making a difference: Charles Perkins (TLF-ID L5209)
  14. Australian Diction of Biography – Edith Cowan
  15. Polymer notes of the world – Edith Cowan
  16. Reserve Bank of Australia – Edith Cowan
  17. National Library of Australia – Edith Cowan
  18. Edith Cowan University – About Edith Cowan
  19. Wikipedia – Edith Cowan
  20. Australian Biography
  21. Dictionary of Australian Biography (1949)
  22. Famous Australians

Note to teachers

Please be aware that the digital resources contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away. This may cause distress to some indigenous students.

Access to The Le@rning Federation’s digital content is through your educational body’s licensing agreement with Curriculum Corporation.

The Stories of Democracy CD-ROM that was distributed to all schools in 1998 as part of the Discovering Democracy Program no longer works on networked computer systems. It does still work on stand-alone computers.

If students are unaware of the Nine Values for Australian Schooling and what the values represent, spend some time unpacking the values before starting these lessons. Unpacking the Nine Values for Australian Schooling has ideas for assisting students in understanding what each value looks like, sounds like, feels like and where they are enacted in daily life.

Introduction | Activity One | Activity Two