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Great South Land: Introducing Australian History

Gain an introduction to Australian history starting with Aboriginal history pre-colonisation, and moving through to convictism

4,418 enrolled on this course

Baiame rock shelter at Broke Credit: John-Maynard

Great South Land: Introducing Australian History

4,418 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

This course is part of the program The Australian Experience, which is one of the building blocks that leads to a degree in Bachelor of Arts. Find out more.

Travel back in time to discover Australian history.

On this course you will take a journey through Australian history. You will examine a range of periods and topics including Aboriginal deep time history, transportation and convictism and colonialism.

This course will also introduce you to the skills and approaches used in the academic study of history – especially the study of Australian history – and help you to understand issues in contemporary Australia in context

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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds «The mother nation of Australia first began as a penal colony for the British convicts and free settlers battled the harsh, unforgiving environment to transform an undeveloped landscape into one of the world’s greatest providers of natural resources. Britain brought civilisation to this untamed continent to make it one of the newest prosperous destinations to come and start a new life.»

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds This is how the story of Australia was often told, but how accurate is it really?

Skip to 0 minutes and 39 seconds This course will be a journey through the complex history of this nation, investigating the myths and facts of Australia’s past. Drawing on the work of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous historians, we’ll explore the rich history of this continent before the arrival of the British and the reality of convict life in the colonies. We will unpack the debate about the nature of colonisation and reveal its continued impact on Indigenous communities across Australia. Join me, Dr Kate Ariotti, and a cast of experts as we investigate Australian history.

What topics will you cover?

  • Traditional Aboriginal society/Aboriginal history pre-colonisation
  • Background to the British colonisation of Australia
  • Convict life in the early Australian colonies
  • Gender relations in the colonies
  • Relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply a developing understanding of core historical concepts.
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of key themes, events, and people in the history of Australia’s First Nations and the early decades of European occupation of the continent.
  • Interpret the Australian past within a local and global context.
  • Explain the contested nature of Australia’s early European history.
  • Identify foundational scholarly sources (primary and secondary, oral and written) relating to Australia’s early history.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone looking to improve their knowledge of Australian history or their historical skills.

Who will you learn with?

I'm a historian at the University of Newcastle, Australia. I research and write about the histories of Australia, especially surrounding conflict, mental health and masculinity.

Dr Shauna Bostock-Smith completed her PhD at ANU in August 2020, and the title of her thesis is 'From Colonisation to My Generation: An Aboriginal Historian’s Family History Research'.

Dr Kate Ariotti is a Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Kate is an expert in the history of Australians at war, and loves studying and teaching Australian History.

I am an Associate Professor of History at the University of Newcastle where I teach Australian history, including crime and environmental history.

Who developed the course?

The University of Newcastle Australia

The University of Newcastle is a world-class university distinguished by a commitment to equity and excellence. Ranked in Australia’s Top 10 universities, and 197th in the world (QS rankings, 2021).

  • Established

  • Location

    Newcastle, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 200Source: QS World University Rankings 2021

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


For the first two months. Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$54/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 24 Dec 2023

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

T&Cs apply.

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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Since 2017 you have been able to take a degree on FutureLearn. This free course is a bit like a starter course for a degree — it should give you a flavour of the degree subject but can also be your first step towards a degree qualification.

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This course is part of the program The Australian Experience, which is one of the building blocks that leads to a degree in Bachelor of Arts.

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