By 1 January 2001 every Australian school student was expected to know a set of dates, miscellaneous events, about a few historical figures. Primary school children were to be 'introduced to events such as the Myall Creek massacre', and year 10 students were to understand State and Federal Government relationships from studying the Franklin River dam dispute.
This might all go into their mental ragbag about history, with dinosaurs, Robin Hood and a project to interview Nanna unless they are set into a structure of time and place in the world.

A 'KNOWING HISTORY ' QUIZ published in the Age 19/11/1998, had 20 questions.
You won't know most of the answers. Why should you?
Many of them were just trivial in the way they were asked. Questions set about history should always help the responders to understand history better.

Could these questions be re-phrased to understand our history better?

Yes, they could. Here are some exampls of Alternative restatements of the questions

(No True or False questions because these can leave students with a wrong idea or confused idea about what is correct)


1. Not 'On what date did the' but 'about how long ago did the six Australian colonies formally come together as the Australian nation?

2. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia? (Not multiple choice questions, which have the disadvantage of often muddling respondents up about the alternatives offered, as well as making it easier to guess despite complete ignorance.)

3. Where was the first Australian Parliament held, and why?

4. Why did the Constitutional Conventions of the 1890s disagree about where the federal capital should be, and how did they finally decide?

5. Why did Australia need public servants?

6. What is a 'bicameral legislature', and what form does it take in the Commonwealth Parliament?

7. What is meant by the 'separation of powers' and why is it important?

8. How is the government of the day chosen to govern after an election?

9. Was Australia part of the British Empire when it became a nation at Federation?

10.What was the White Australia Policy and why did it end and about how long ago?

11. About when and where did women first get the vote a) in the world b) in Australia?

12.The 1967 referendum about Aborigines made what changes to the Constitution? (As set it was a 'dates' question.)

13. What are the two animals on the Australian Commonwealth Crest, and why are they there?

14. What proportion of the vote is needed for a constitutional referendum to be passed?

15. What are the main powers of the Commonwealth set out in Section 51 of the Constitution? (as set, asking 'what is Section 51', it is another 'numbers' memory question)

16. What is the system of voting for the House of Representatives, and what is it called - first-past-the-post, preferential or proportional? (ie this question is phrased so that you have to know what the terms mean - which a high proportion of voters do not.)

17. In simple words, what are the roles of the High Court and the Supreme Court?

18. Who were the NSW 'freedom riders' of 1965? (Some students may know of others.)

19. What are the colours of the Aboriginal flag and what do they represent?

20. Who was the first woman elected to an Australian Parliament? Where, and how long ago?

21. The $64,000 Coming-of-age question. Why did the six Australian States come together in one Commonwealth?

22. The 'Australia Fair' question. What does Commonwealth mean?
What was meant when it was first used? Do we really have a Commonwealth today?

Let students ask the important questions
What do they see as the important questions, and why have they come to see them as important?

And, to set their own ambitions - Who really were the 'people who have made Australia great'? Who have been the workers, inventors, enterprise leaders, reformers, builders, inspirers?

Who have been the people in your locality who have done great things for this country and for their own locality?

Who from your school has gone on to help to build this country and to help the world? And to do the ordinary things of life well so that all around them people have been glad that they lived.
Let them visit the school, to talk with the students. And let students travel around your locality to see what has been built, what has been saved, what has been reformed - and find out who did these things.And in the world - find the people whose deeds and struggles inspire you.

Some books to browse :
Unsung Heroes and Heroines of Australia. ed. Suzy Baldwin
Who did What? The Mitchell Beazley Illustrated Biographical Dictionary
The Book of Heroic Failures. I was given this book for Christmas once. Later I was given Further Heroic Failures.

See also Alternative History and People they laughed at.