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NSW Syllabuses


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original occupants of Australia including the Indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands off Northern Queensland. 


A dating system to denote an abbreviation of 'Anno Domini' meaning 'the Year of Our Lord'; the years after the birth of Christ.


The word ANZAC refers to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops who first fought at Gallipoli in Turkey from April to December 1915.


A defence security pact for the Pacific region signed in 1951 by Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The name ANZUS is derived from the initials of the three signatory nations.

Refers both to collections of public records, documents, etc and the place/s where they are stored.

Something made or given shape by humans; for example pottery, a stone tool.

A policy requiring all people living in a community, regardless of their cultural background or country of origin, to adopt the same manner of living as the dominant culture.
Australia Day

Celebrations held on 26 January to commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove and the raising of the British flag by Captain Arthur Phillip.


A dating system to denote an abbreviation of 'Before Christ'; the years before the birth of Christ.


A dating system used by some historians to denote an abbreviation of 'Before Common Era'; the years before the birth of Christ.

An economic system that encourages individuals to make profits through investments and the private ownership of goods, property and the means of production.
cause and effect

'Cause' refers to the range of reasons for an historical event or development and 'effect' to the range of subsequent outcomes or results.


A dating system used by some historians to denote an abbreviation of 'Common Era'; the years after the birth of Christ.


Examination of books, news reports, films, plays and other material for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed to be objectionable on moral, political or other grounds. At the outbreak of World War I, censorship controls were introduced in Australia to 'safeguard national security'. In World War II, the National Security Act (1939) imposed a system of censorship, especially over newspapers.


The ideas of British working-class political movements expressed in the People's Charter of 1838. They called for many reforms, including the vote for all men and the secret ballot.

A chronology places events and dates in order in time.
The term 'citizenship' has both legal and social meanings. In a legal sense, it is that set of rights and responsibilities granted to a people in recognition of their attachment to a particular country. In a social sense, it refers to the participation of people in their community as they fulfil and debate their rights and responsibilities.
An identifiable body of knowledge, understanding and skills relating to the organisation and working of society, including a country's political and social heritage, democratic processes, government, public administration and judicial systems.
A process by which a different system of government is established by one nation over another group of peoples. It involves the colonial power asserting and enforcing its sovereignty according to its own law, rather than by the laws of the colonised.
A theory or system of social and political organisation, promoting shared ownership of property and the means of production by the community or the state.

Compulsory enlistment for military service.

The process of protection and preservation of the natural and heritage features of the environment.
The fundamental rules that establish how a country is governed, typically establishing the role and powers of parliament, the executive and the judiciary.
When particular interpretations about the past differ; for example, as a result of using differing evidence or resulting from different perspectives.
continuity and change
Aspects of the past that have remained the same over a period of time or have changed over time.

In the context of Aboriginal peoples, is used to describe a specific area of a nation or clan including physical, linguistic and spiritual features.


English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) proposed that the evolution of life on earth occurred through the process of 'natural selection'.

A form of government where the decision-making power is vested in the people. In a democracy, the people or their elected representatives determine policy and/or laws. Equality of rights is a principle of democracy.
The removal of people from their lands which had been occupied and cared for by their ancestors over thousands of years.

The idea that all people are equal, sharing the same rights – political, social and civil.

The process of leaving one's country of birth to settle permanently in another country.
empathetic understanding
The capacity to enter into the world of the past from the point of view of a particular individual or group from that time, including an appreciation of the circumstances they faced, and the motivations, values and attitudes behind their actions.
A collection of nations or peoples ruled over by an emperor or other powerful sovereign or government.

An eighteenth-century European and American cultural, scientific and philosophical movement of thinkers. Using reason, they proposed changes to traditional society and the spread of knowledge.

The information contained within a source that tends to support an historical argument or provides information for a specific historical inquiry.

The voluntary union of the six Australian colonies which came into being on 1 January 1901. It involved the colonies transferring certain powers to the Federal or Commonwealth Government (eg defence, foreign affairs, immigration) while retaining control over other responsibilities (eg education, health, transport) under a written Constitution.

The right to vote.

The anglicised name of the peninsula in Turkey where the ANZAC and other Allied troops fought against Turkish forces. It was the first land battle fought by Australian soldiers in World War I and lasted from April to December 1915.

The process of bringing together all the world's economies for the purposes of trade in a worldwide culture.
Great Depression

A period of the deepest worldwide economic decline in history. It began in October 1929 following the collapse of the Wall Street Stock Exchange and ended in about 1934.

Harmony Week

A national week commemorated in Australia that celebrates Australia's cultural diversity and promotes intercultural understanding and peace.

That which belongs to an individual, group, community or nation as a result of birth, inheritance or membership. It can also be applied to significant examples of the built or natural environment.
historical inquiry
The process of developing knowledge and understanding by posing questions about the past, and applying skills associated with locating, analysing, evaluating and using sources as evidence to develop an informed argument or interpretation.
The process whereby people come to a new land with the intention of permanently settling.
The policy of extending control or authority over foreign territory, particularly through the creation of an empire.
Indigenous peoples

This term is used when referring collectively to the first peoples of a land in international communities. The term Indigenous Australians is used when speaking about both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within Australia.

Industrial Revolution

In eighteenth-century Britain, a series of inventions enabled people to build new machines and structures that increased the rate of manufacture. This accelerated the movement of people and goods across the world. These achievements led to a rapid series of sweeping, often traumatic, changes in nineteenth-century society and politics.

A government policy in relation to both Aboriginal peoples and migrant groups which sought to facilitate their amalgamation into mainstream Australian society, without requiring them to abandon their original culture/s.
During both World Wars, people who were considered 'alien' by the government, whether they were naturalised or Australian-born, were held in prisons for varying lengths of time because they were considered a threat to national security.
A way of understanding and explaining what has happened in the past. The discipline of History acknowledges that there is often more than one view of what has happened in the past.
The forced takeover of land.
land rights
The continuing struggle of Indigenous Australians to regain possession of their lands.

(see Native Title) Eddie Koiki Mabo, whose Murray Island land claim led the High Court to recognise, for the first time, that a form of land title existed prior to Australia's occupation by Great Britain in 1788. The judgement, made in 1992, is usually referred to as Mabo.

The period of history from the end of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century to the Renaissance and Reformation period of Europe in the sixteenth century.
A policy based on the promotion of cultural diversity which encourages peoples of different cultural/ethnic origins to retain their own cultures, while participating as active and responsible citizens of the dominant culture.
The loyalty and devotion of a person to their nation and culture.
Native Title

'Native Title' is the name given by the High Court to Indigenous property rights recognised by the court in the Mabo judgement (3 June 1992). The Mabo judgement overthrew the concept of terra nullius – that the land of Australia had belonged to no one when the British arrived in 1788. The judgement found that a native title to land existed in 1788 and may continue to exist, provided it has not been extinguished by subsequent acts of government and provided Indigenous groups continue to observe their traditional laws and customs. The High Court's Wik judgement (December 1996) decided an issue left unresolved by the Mabo judgement when it determined that native title could coexist with other rights on land held under a pastoral lease.

Ottoman Empire

The Empire of the Turks founded about AD 1300 by Osman which controlled large amounts of territory in Asia, Africa and Europe for more than six centuries until its collapse as a result of World War I.

A point of view from which historical events, problems and issues can be analysed eg a gender perspective (either masculine or feminine) of the past.
primary sources
Something that has been created or written during the time period being investigated eg diaries, letters, photographs, pottery, coins.

A government policy towards Aboriginal peoples which sought to protect them from the effects of violence, disease and exploitation as a result of European settlement. It was based on a belief that Aboriginal peoples were doomed to extinction and should be given some protection to live out their last years in peace.

The belief in the superiority of one race of people over others.
Government-imposed restrictions on the allowance of people's food, clothing and fuel in both World Wars for the purpose of maintaining the nation's war effort.
A Commonwealth initiative to promote understanding between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community and to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage.
Under the Australian Constitution, a referendum is used by a government to formally seek the opinion of the people on a particular issue or change to the Constitution. To succeed, a referendum must attract a majority of voters voting 'Yes' and a majority of States also voting 'Yes'.
Sudden and radical change in society; a complete overthrow of an established government or political system.

An alliance organised in 1954 by representatives of Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States. The letters stand for South East Asia Treaty Organisation. Its main aim was to contain the spread of communism in Indochina. It was disbanded in 1977.

secondary sources
Accounts about the past that were created after the time being investigated, eg textbooks, histories written after the events being described.
The effective participation of Aboriginal peoples in all decision-making that affects them.
The importance assigned to a particular aspect of the past such as events or sites.
A system where wealth, land and property are owned and controlled by the community as a whole rather than being privately owned.

Any written or non-written materials that can be used to investigate the past. A source becomes 'evidence' (see evidence) when it is used to support or refute a viewpoint or contributes to an historical inquiry.

Stolen Generations

Aboriginal children taken from their families as part of the assimilation policy of various governments.

The right to vote. All Australian citizens over the age of eighteen have this right.
The ongoing capacity of the Earth to maintain life, including the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
terra nullius

(see Native Title) A concept in international law meaning 'a territory belonging to no-one' or 'over which no-one claims ownership'. The concept has been used to justify the invasion and colonisation of Australia.

The use and threat of violence for political purposes.
A process, usually accompanied by industrialisation, where people move from traditional life in the countryside to towns and cities.