Recently, I was fortunate to be selected as one of the parent volunteers for my daughter’s class excursion. I was chosen along with 3 other mums to assist the three teachers with supervising the two classes. This excursion proved to be less taxing than previous ones I have been chosen for. Usually, it involved looking after a group of 6 children, either travelling to and from the city by train and walking around the city, a museum, or nature park for the day which results in tired children, parents and teachers!
This excursion was a day of cruising on Sydney Harbour while learning about the history – the British settlement and colonisation of Sydney with the arrival of the first fleet captained by Arthur Phillip. However, the indigenous Australians viewed the British arrivals as an invasion! The history lesson was aboard one of the vessels from Rosman cruises (click to be redirected to their website which you can peruse at your leisure), who run these sessions regularly. The boat we were on board was called the Royale which was built for Charles Rosman and launched in 1974. There are a few boats that are used depending on the size and nature of the cruise – they can also be booked for celebrations/ parties, New Year’s Eve, Wedding, etc.
We were lucky to have a beautiful, sunny autumn day for the day of the excursion – the weather turned much cooler the next day! The day started with a bus trip to the ferry pick up point which was quicker than expected, it was a pleasant surprise especially since we were in peak hour traffic! We had about 20 mins for the children to stretch their legs, take some photos and have their fruit break before the boat arrived. Once we had boarded the boat, we headed off on our history lesson. We learnt about the many islands in and around Sydney Harbour (please click on each island to learn more):
We were fortunate to witness the firing of the cannon from Fort Denison which is carried out each day at 1.00pm. Historically, it was so that ships could set their chronometers to local time. It is still fired everyday at 1.00pm. We also sailed into Darling Harbour, past the Australian Maritime museum where we saw the replica of the S.S. Endeavour. We sailed past the new development at Barangaroo and found out that Barangaroo was the wife of Bennelong. Bennelong was an Indigenous Australian employed by Governor Arthur Phillip to build a hut for him there. Bennelong point is now the location where you find the Sydney Opera House.
We learnt what the harbour looked like prior to British settlement and afterwards via a pictorial comparison. Indigenous Australians occupied the land and islands around Sydney harbour, using it for living, fishing and camping. Prior to British settlement, more than 500 Indigenous nations inhabited the Australian continent, approximately 750,000 people in total.During colonisation, it is estimated that the Indigenous population reduced by 90%! There were three main reasons for this:
- The introduction of new diseases,
- Settler acquisition of Indigenous lands,
- Direct and violent conflict with the colonisers.
There are always two sides to every story and history is no different, the British called their colonisation efforts resettlement, whereas the Aboriginal people viewed it as an invasion – of their home, culture and rights. It was interesting to see how the children viewed this, as the host asked the children to look at the two pictures comparing Sydney harbour before and after British settlement and write what they felt was better and why. A few of the answers I saw from the children were that they felt it looked better prior to the British settlement for a variety of reasons – more peaceful, more nature present and more aboriginal people living there. I wasn’t afforded the luxury of seeing both sides of the story when I learnt about Australian history so it’s nice to see that children are asked to provide some thought and provide a viewpoint after being presented information that shows different perspectives. It was nice to see the encouragement of critical thinking.
We stopped for lunch at Clifton Gardens which is a beautiful spot with a lovely park, grounds, small beach and toilet facilities. There were many people fishing from the pier and people enjoying the sunshine. There is also a coffee shop which was about a 10 mins walk away. I had not been there before, either had one of the other mums so it was a lovely discovery for us. It was nice for the children to get off the boat to stretch their legs and have some lunch. I think the children enjoyed playing in the park just as much as the cruise – if not more!
After lunch, it was back on the boat to learn a bit more of Sydney Harbour’s history before heading back to our starting point which meant the end of the lesson afloat. As parents, we learnt many things as well as the children – it was a day full of discovery and learning. It was a day that that we laughed, loved and lived – enjoying the time with other parents, children and their teachers on a fun-filled learning adventure. It was one of the few excursions that us, as parents have been fortunate to share with ours, as well as our friends’ children. It was also a perfect day to showcase our beautiful harbour and to remember how fortunate we are to share this experience.