Australia: A Unit Study

Australia: A Unit Study
Australia: A Unit Study

Discovered in 1770 by Cook and founded in 1788 as a colony for criminals at Botany Bay, Australia is one of the most diverse and unique regions in the whole world.

The Flora and Fauna of Australia

Australia is a rather unusual place. The land ranges from rainforests to deserts. It is home to some of the most unique creatures in the world, including kangaroos, koalas, dingoes, and of course, the famed duck-billed platypus, a strange mammal that has fur, webbed feet, lays eggs, and wears a bill. The flora is rich, with wildflowers in abundance after the rains in the less inhabited, arid “outback” regions, and with many bizarre types of trees, including the Wollemi Pine that grows in the rainforests, the likes of which you won’t see elsewhere.

The History of Australia

While having been inhabited by the Aborigines, the continent as we know it today was founded in the 1700s as a penal island by the British to replace North American colonies of criminals after the Revolution. On January 26, 1788, the first English ship landed with the intention of colonizing Australia with criminals. The First Fleet, led by Captain Phillip who became the governor over the convicts, found a suitable place for the colony at what is now Sydney. The event is commemorated today as “Australia Day,” celebrated with picnics, barbecues, parades and fireworks.

Australia: A Unit Study

It didn’t take very long to find out that life was not exactly easy, and near starvation tended to be standard for this little colony of criminals who, frankly, knew little to nothing about farming and were badly equipped. The British did send supplies by ship but the shipments were very irregular, and on one occasion the supplies were shipwrecked before they ever arrived. Eventually the criminals began to learn the rudiments of farm life, a very new trade for primarily professional robbers, and the colony began to prosper. The colony continued to grow as prisoners were freed and as a few immigrants arrived.

As Australia’s available resources increased, due to the improvement of technology on the island and the availability of people to work, more immigrants moved in, changing it from a mere penal settlement to a country with a booming economy. By 1851 gold was discovered, creating even more prosperity to the land which by then had 400,000 inhabitants. The result was a massive increase in settlers, as agriculture, pastoral activities and the gold discoveries contributed to the rise of modern Australia.

Australia continued to expand until a 1901 constitution was adopted establishing the Commonwealth of Australia.

Further Investigation

Australia for Kids
A simple overview for younger students.

Australia Timeline with links to primary source documents.

Each state began as a separate British colony. This resource helps you chart the growth.

Australia History
Documented with primary documents.

Australia Day History
Chronological history of how the day has been celebrated.

Biography of Arthur Phillip
Credited with the founding of Australia.

Explorers of Australia
Brief bios of those who explored Australia including Arthur Phillip and a map of the route he took. From Enchanted Learning.

Endeavour Journal
Captain Cook is credited with discovering Australia. In this video clip Warren Brown visits the National Archive and reads from the original journal.

Australia National Anthem
Background and words.

San Diego Zoo: Australia
Examine the wide variety of animals in Australia.

Kid’s Answers: Animals
Animal facts from Answers in Genesis

The Platypus
An article on the platypus from Answers in Genesis.

Sydney Opera House — The Architect
Biography of architect Jorn Utzon.


First Fleet
An interactive internet investigation of the fleet of ships carrying over 1000 convicts and military under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip. Use the links at the left to navigate.

Label the Continents
From Enchanted Learning.

“The Founding of Australia”
View a painting by Talmage.

Outline Map Research Activity
Labeling activity from Enchanted Learning.

Sydney Opera House
Download a papercraft template from Canon and build your own.

Great Barrier Reef
Beautiful interactive exploration!

Boomerang Throwing Instructions
Everything you need to know!

The Bushranger's Secret

The Bushranger’s Secret by Mrs. Henry Clarke
Set in the Australian outback, this suspenseful story describes the consequences of discontent, the joy of redemption, and the sure conclusion of the wicked.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Missions Around the Globe: Australia and the Aborigines
From Teaching with God’s Heart for the World.

Country Unit
This unit by Karen Caroe can be used with any country study.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

World Map
Australia is the only country that is a continent. View the seven continents at

Beautiful Australia map from Knowledgequest, part of their free Globalmania download.

Map of Australia
PAT map for notebook.

Blank Map of Australia
Blank map to label for notebook.

On Noah’s Ark Platypuses
Beautiful coloring page from Jan Brett.

Duck-billed Platypus Printout
Nice diagram from Enchanted Learning.

Australia Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.