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Unit of study_

HSTY3805: Australian History

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Australian history starts with the ground beneath our feet. With a thematic focus on gender, class, politics, foreign relations, or Indigenous and settler experiences of colonialism and environment, this advanced seminar equips you with skills to access a rich range of archival sources and material culture that will transform your historical understanding of Australian society.

Unit details and rules

Unit code HSTY3805
Academic unit History
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 2000 level in the History major
Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator James Findlay,
Lecturer(s) James Findlay,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Major Research Essay
Final Research Essay.
60% Formal exam period
Due date: 06 Jun 2022 at 23:00

Closing date: 16 Jun 2022
4000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO7 LO8 LO4 LO6
Participation Participation
10% Ongoing ongoing
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO6 LO7 LO4
Assignment Short Paper
Short paper in response to question.
15% Week 05
Due date: 23 Mar 2022 at 23:00

Closing date: 02 Apr 2022
1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO1 LO6 LO3 LO8 LO7 LO5
Assignment Essay Draft
Essay draft for research essay.
15% Week 09
Due date: 27 Apr 2022 at 23:00

Closing date: 07 May 2022
1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

  • 1000 word short paper
  • 1000 word essay draft
  • 4000 word essay
  • Participation

Assessment criteria

Result name

Mark Range




Work that is outstanding for the student’s present level of enrolment and shows potential for distinguished performance at higher levels



Work that shows proficiency in the discipline of History



Work of significant promise, showing potential for further development



 Work of a satisfactory standard.



Work that is not of an acceptable standard.

Please refer to the 2021 History Department Handbook for further details.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

In accordance with University Policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:00 pm on the due date: - Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date. - After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Week 1: "To see the past" This week you are introduced to the fields of Australian history and historical films studies and provided with a survey of the semester ahead. Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 02 Week 2: Cinema and the Convict Stain. Convict histories are some of the first representations of Australia's past to appear on screen, and have featured in film and television ever since. As such, they provide a useful introductory case study as to how particular historical narratives are produced, disseminated and received by audiences. Once reviled, now celebrated, what role has screen culture played in celebrating and complicating the memory of those criminals transported to Australia? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 03 Week 3: ANZAC and a National Cinema. How did the ANZAC story become so tied up in nationalism? What role did cinema play in mythologising the great war and transforming the ANZAC myth over time? What makes a "national cinema" and does this framework help us to understand the war film in an Australian context? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 04 Week 4: Settler Cinema. This week we explore the 'Australian Western'. How do the particularities of Australian settler colonialism intersect with 'the pioneer legend' on screen? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 05 Week 5: Memory and the Revival. This week we discuss the concept of 'Prosthetic Memory'. Do films like Newsfront engage in this process of cultural memory production, or do they contest it by drawing explicit attention to the constructed nature of film production? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 06 Week 6: Gender and the Historical Landscape. This week we assess second wave feminism's impact on the representation of gender in 'Revival' cinema. We also evaluate representations of the Australian historical landscape and explore more broadly the centrality of landscapes to articulate aspects of national identity. Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 07 Week 7: History, Documentary and Controversy. Does the documentary genre reveal past truths in ways that fiction can't? What if that "truth" is contested or even considered dangerous to some groups? This week we explore Australian history in the documentary form. Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 08 Week 8: Immigration and Nostalgia. What are the political implications of nostalgia when imagining migrant narratives on screen? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 09 Week 9: Reading Week - NO CLASS Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 10 Week 10: Kelly, Masculinity and Social Banditry. Ned Kelly is the most mythologised Australian historical figure on screen - why is this the case? This week we explore how the contemporary politics of masculinity merge with more traditional aspects of the Kelly legend in Gregor Jordan's 2003 dramatisation of the bushranger's life. Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 11 Week 11: Reality Television as History. Our case study this week, The Colony (2005) was touted as a social experiment that transported a group of English, Irish and Australians (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) "back in time to the Australia of their ancestors". Are these so called 'living histories' merely spin offs of Big Brother or is there more to their recreations of the past and how do we make sense of them as historical texts? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 12 Week 12: Aboriginality on Screen. This week we explore the politics of representation in relation to Aboriginal Australians. Aboriginal people have had a long and sustained involvement in film and television production. How have their histories been told on screen? Who has the right to make them? And what meanings do they create for audiences about Aboriginal peoples and cultures? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 13 Week: 13 Postcolonial Visions. In our final week we consider new directions in Australian historical cinema. Can films (like this week's title Sweet Country (2018)), decolonise the past on screen? And where should scholars of historical films studies turn to next? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8

Attendance and class requirements

This class will be conducted as a weekly 2 hour seminar. You will be required to do the required reading and annotation for each week as well as watching the weekly film/TV program. Please come to class prepared to engage in discussions with your peers.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Up to date readings (and films) list is available on the Reading List in Canvas.

Week 1.

  • Ann McGrath “Must film be Fiction?” Griffith Review, 24 (2009), pp.114-122.
  • Robert Rosenstone, Chapter 2 – ‘To see the past’ in History on Film/Film on History, (New York: Routledge, 2013), pp.13-34
  • Marnie Hughes-Warrington, ‘Words and images, images and words’, in History Goes to the Movies: Studying History on Film (London: Routledge, 2007), pp.16-35

Week 2.

  • Michael Roe, ‘Vandiemenism debated: The filming of ‘His Natural Life’, 1926–7’, Journal of Australian Studies 13:24 (1989), pp.35-51
  • Ann Curthoys, ‘Expulsion, exodus and exile in white Australian historical mythology’, Journal of Australian Studies 23:61 (Imaginary Homelands - 1999), pp.1-19.
  • Babette Smith, ‘Amnesia’ in Australia’s Birthstain: the starling Legacy of the convict era (Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, 2008) pp.32-56

Week 3.

  • Daniel Reynaud, Chapter 4 - ‘The Empire’s Last Laugh: 1930-1940’ in Celluloid Anzacs: The Great War Through Australian Cinema (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2007), pp.116-159
  • Frank Bongiorno, “Remembering Anzac Australia and World War I” in Anna Maerker, Simon Sleight, Adam Sutcliffe (eds.), History, Memory and Public Life: the past in the present (London: Routledge, 2018) p.183-207
  • Tom O’Regan, Chapter 3 – ‘A National Cinema” in Australian National Cinema, (London: Routledge, 1996), pp.41-70

Week 4.

  • Peter Limbrick, ‘Ealing’s Australian Westerns’ in Making Settler Cinemas: Film and Colonial Encounters in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp.97-128 annotate link here (Links to an external site.)
  • Chelsea Barnett, ‘Assimilation Stories’ in Reel Men: Australian Masculinity in the Movies, 1949-1962 (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2019), 104-138 
  • John Hirst, ‘The Pioneer Legend’ in Sense and Nonsense in Australian History, (Melbourne: Black Ink, 2009), pp.174-196
  • Richard Waterhouse, “The pioneer legend and its legacy: In memory of John Hirst”, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 103:1 (2017) pp.7-25

Week 5.

  • Alison Landsberg, ‘Introduction: Memory, Modernity, Mass culture’ in Prosthetic Memory, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004) pp.1-24
  • Jonathan Raynor “Conflict and Conspiracy: Public and Personal Memory in Australian Film” Post script, 2005, Vol.24 (2-3) pp. 82+. Gale Academic OneFile, 
  • James Berger, “ Which Prosthetic? Mass Media, Narrative, Empathy and Progressive Politics”, Rethinking History 11, no 4 (December 2007): 597-612.
  • Alison Landsberg, “Response”, Rethinking History 11, no 4 (December 2007): 627-629.

Week 6.

  • Sarah Pinto, ‘Unsettling the Revival: Australian historical films as national critique’ in The Fiction of History, Alexander Lyon Macfie (ed) (London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 118-129.
  • Ross Gibson, “The Nature of a Nation: Landscape in Australian Feature Film” in South of the West: Post Colonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992) pp.63-81.
  • James Findlay, “Convict/Aboriginal partnerships and ruptured histories in The Nightingale”, Studies in Australasian Cinema, 14:1, (2020) pp.63-76.
  • Anne Summers, ‘Damned Whores’ in Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia, Melbourne, Penguin, 1975, (2nd revised edition), 2002, pp 313-35

Week 7.

  • Rebe Taylor, ‘Archaeology and Aboriginal Protest: The Influence of Rhys Jones's Tasmanian Work on Australian Historiography’, Australian Historical Studies, 45:3, (2014), pp.331-349
  • Jerome de Groot, ‘Contemporary Historical Documentary’ in Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 2016), pp.169-182
  • Tom O’Regan, ‘Documentary in Controversy: The Last Tasmanian’, (1984) via Center for Research in Culture and Communications, to an external site.

Week 8.

  • Jessica Carniel ‘A cultural affair to remember: nostalgia, whiteness and migration in Love's Brother’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, 3:1, (2009), pp.93-105.
  • Helen Andreoni, “Olive or white? The colour of Italians in Australia”, Journal of Australian Studies, 27:77, (2003) pp.81-92
  • Pam Cook, ‘Rethinking Nostalgia: In the Mood for Love and Far From Heaven’ in Screening the Past: Memory and Nostalgia in Cinema (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 1-20

Week 9.

No readings.


  • Sarah Pinto and Leigh Boucher, ‘Fighting for legitimacy: masculinity, political voice and Ned Kelly’, Journal of interdisciplinary gender studies 10, no.1 (2006), pp.1-29
  • Andrew James Couzens, ‘Introduction: Defining the Bushranger Legend’ in A Cultural History of the Bushranger Legend in Theatres and Cinemas, 1828-2017 (London: Anthem Press, 2019), pp.1-18
  • Stephen Gaunson, ‘Chapter 3 – New Age Ned: Social Banditry and Romance’ in Ned Kelly a Cultural History of Kelly History (Bristol: Intellect, 2013), pp.41-55

Week 11.

  • Michelle Arrow, ‘That History Should Not Have Ever Been How It Was": "The Colony," "Outback House," and Australian History’, Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies, Vol 37.1 (Spring 2007), pp.54-66
  • Stephen Gapps, ‘Adventure in “The Colony”: “Big Brother Meets “Survivor in Period Costume, Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies, Vol 37.1 (Spring 2007), pp.67-72
  • Jerome de Groot, ‘Reality, professional reality, celebrity and object history’ in Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 2016),pp.183-214

Week 12.

  • Therese Davis, “Remembering our ancestors: cross-cultural collaboration and the mediation of Aboriginal culture and history in Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)”, Studies in Australasian Cinema, 1:1, (2007), pp.5-14
  • Marcia Langton, ‘Section Two: The Politics of Aboriginal Representation’, in Well, I heard it on the radio and I saw it on the television... " : an essay for the Australian Film Commission on the politics and aesthetics of filmmaking by and about Aboriginal people and things, (North Sydney: AFI, 1993), pp.23-43). v
  • Chris Healy, “Aborigines on Television” in Forgetting Aborigines (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2008) pp. 29-64.

Week 13.

  • Annemarie McLaren, ‘A Many-Sided Frontier: History and ‘Shades of Grey’ in Sweet Country’, Australian Historical Studies, 50:2, (2019), pp.235-254
  • Annotation link here. (Links to an external site.)
  • Nicholas Godfrey, ‘Bad blood and bitterness: Colonisation and the Western in Warwick Thornton's 'sweet country', Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, No. 195, Mar 2018: 6-11
  • Robert Toplin, ‘Cinematic History: Where do we go from here?’, The Public Historian, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Summer 2003), pp. 79-91


Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Demonstrate expert knowledge of period, place or culture in Australian history.
  • LO2. Demonstrate expert understanding of a variety of approaches to interpreting Australian history, and skilfully employ and manipulate such approaches in their own work.
  • LO3. Skilfully analyse and interpret both primary evidence and secondary literature.
  • LO4. Work both independently and collaboratively to develop and refine historical understanding and awareness.
  • LO5. Apply interdisciplinary approaches to the study of history.
  • LO6. Demonstrate an understanding of the cultural, political and social importance of film and television in Australia as well as its place in recording, shaping and obscuring aspects of Australia's past.
  • LO7. Demonstrate the skills needed to construct an evidence-based argument or narrative in written, oral, visual, or digital form.
  • LO8. Demonstrate sophisticated information and digital literacy in research.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

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This is the first time this unit has been offered in this format.


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