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Who peopled the Pacific?

Investigating Pacific history

Front cover unit of work

Curriculum areas: Australian history, historical skills, environment, geography, Indigenous culture & history

Years: 9–10

Key curriculum links: Time, Continuity and Change; Culture; Natural and Social Systems; Investigation, Communication and Participation; Thinking Processes and Communication.

In 1541, when Europeans first had the navigational skill and the ocean-going boats to travel to the Pacific islands, they were amazed to find people there! These were settled societies, many hundreds and even thousands of years old. They were people who knew how to cross the ocean, to find their way to other islands and back; people who had obvious links, of language, culture, customs and technology.

Who were these people? And how had they managed to populate the islands of the Pacific?

This is the 'mystery' that we explore in this unit, using the resources of the Voyages of the Pacific Ancestors: Vaka Moana exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.

The unit was constructed around the proposed National History Curriculum. It combines an emphasis on understanding human migration with an awareness of the skills of historical enquiry.