Middle phase (Grades 7-10)

Download the PDF version of the Middle Phase Notes.

Pre-visit activities | During visit activities | Post visit activities

Pre-visit activities

Suggested teaching and learning experiences

Subject and learning focus

Research tips:

  • a. Use the background notes to brief the students about the exhibition.
  • b. Use State Library's One Search catalogue to locate relevant resources. Click on the 'tags' button and search for 'Transforming Tindale'. Library staff have pre-tagged some useful material.

Investigate the mindset of 1938 – demystifying historical racial attitudes

  • a. Brainstorm words and phrases associated with Aboriginal Australians today. Here are 2012 government guidelines.
  • b. In groups, search Trove for news reports, images and maps about the lives, treatment and views towards Aboriginal people from 1930 to 1950. What words and phrases were commonly used? (Use the advanced search feature to refine results.)
  • c. Present each group's findings for discussion.
    • Where did you find your information? Who wrote it? What can you tell about society's attitudes towards Aboriginal people from these sources? What were the significant events, policies and laws at the time?
    • Outline the language used and identify how it's different from today. Determine how our language and attitudes have evolved over time. Would we use those same terms now? Why/why not? In 50 years from now, how do you think society will interpret our language and attitudes towards Australian Aborigines?
    • Globally, what can we note about anthropological studies of indigenous peoples? Compare the practices and methods used in other nations, e.g. the study of Maori culture in New Zealand.

Discover the work of Norman Tindale

  • a. What is anthropology? Search OneSearch. How and why do anthropologists continue to study people?
  • b. Who was Norman Tindale?
    • a. Search Trove for articles written by or about Norman Tindale and his ethnology works. Use example resources, such as note cards, ID cards and photographs, to assist with discussion.
  • c. Discuss the example Tindale images and compare with modern day portraits (i.e. celebrity headshots or family portraits in a "typical" pose – relaxed and smiling). Note the identifying number assigned to each Tindale object.
    • a. Where do we typically see individuals with an identifying number in today's images? What does this typically indicate?
    • b. What impression does the identifying number give to the viewer?
    • c. What does it say about Tindale's work and the mindset of 1930s Australia?
    • d. How are these images important to anthropological work?
  • d. Show an example of Tindale's note cards featuring anthropological measurements and facts.
    • a. What information was recorded? Why?
    • b. In pairs, take measurements to describe each other in scientific terms.
    • c. Discuss how it feels to be described in this way. What if the information recorded was inaccurate? How would you prove your correct identity in the future, if this is the only written record?
    • d. Many Indigenous Australians have posted these images on Facebook and tagged people as "family members". How does social media allow us to track and record family relations, details of our lives, behaviours and attitudes? What is the importance of this type of technology in the future? When you sign up to Facebook, you need to fill in a form which is a study about you – your name, location, gender, birth date, interests, martial status etc. How is this information used in the 21st century in comparison to the records that Tindale noted in 1938?


Analyse and explain how language has evolved over time and how the construction and interpretation of texts can be influenced by cultural perspectives


Identify and select different kinds of questions about the past to inform historical inquiry

Process and synthesise information from a range of sources for use as evidence in an historical argument

Identify and describe points of view, attitudes, and values in primary and secondary sources.

Artist study: Vernon Ah Kee

  • a. View an example of Vernon Ah Kee's artwork from the exhibition website
  • b. In small groups, investigate Vernon's background and body of work. Each group could research one topic – biography, art, media coverage, previous exhibitions – and report back to the class.
  • c. Discuss what motivated Vernon to create these artworks. What might he think about Tindale's collection? What might he be trying to tell contemporary audiences? (During your visit, watch Vernon's interview and compare his responses with your class discussion.)

Visual arts
Understand how art is influenced by cultural and historical concerns, attitudes, values and beliefs.

Critically understand how art and design operate in the world to make, reflect, and interrogate social and cultural meanings

During visit activities

Suggested teaching and learning experiences

Subject and learning focus

SLQ Gallery, level 2
Please note that photography is not permitted in the gallery. Sketchbooks, notepads, tablets and pencils are welcome.

  • Complete the following activities.
  • Comment on your visit via the visitors’ book, on-screen survey or post-visit email.

Take your time exploring Transforming Tindale. What is your initial impression walking into the gallery? How do you feel in this space? Notice how the images and text are placed. As you walk around the gallery, take notes on some of the objects you see. Which images attract your attention? Why do you think that is?

  • Read the anthropologists’ notes. What has surprised you about this type of practice and how has it changed in the last 80 years?
  • Watch the interviews with Vernon Ah Kee and Michael Aird. What do Vernon and Michael say motivated them to create and curate this exhibition? Is it what you expected?
  • Stop in front of a portrait that attracts your attention. Analyse the artwork. Comment on Vernon’s technique. (Consider the quality of the media used. What can you tell about his approach to drawing?)
  • How might non-Indigenous audiences react to this portrait? How might Aboriginal people react? How might descendents of the subjects react?
  • Sketch an image that grabs your attention.

 kuril dhagun, level 1

  • Walk through the Indigenous Knowledge Centre (kuril dhagun) and out to the Talking Circle. Once settled, begin your discussion with an acknowledgement / Welcome to Country. (South Bank was originally a meeting place for the traditional custodians of the land.)
  • As a class, share stories about your experiences in Transforming Tindale.
  • Discuss the Tindale collection and its significance in the 21st century with regards to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Before you leave, explore the State of Emergency exhibition within kuril dhagun (open from 30 September).

River walk

If you have time during your visit, walk along the river’s edge past the Cultural Centre. Try to imagine this land 300 years ago. What might it have been like for the traditional custodians of the land? Sketch or record your thoughts and share them with the group. (When you get back to school, you might like to search for old photos/images of this area and tag them in Historypin.)

Visual arts
Learn about and engage actively with the arts industry through the work of artists

Critically understand how art operates in the world to make, reflect, and interrogate social and cultural meanings

Critically analyse others’ artworks.


Identify and describe points of view, attitudes, and values in primary and secondary sources

Identify and analyse different historical interpretations

Cross-curricular priorities

Aboriginal peoples have a unique sense of identity, sophisticated family and kinship structures, and maintain a special connection to and responsibility for Country/Place

Post-visit activities

Suggested teaching and learning experiences

Subject and learning focus

How would we choose to be remembered?
In groups or pairs, sketch/photograph each other to show how you would want to be seen and remembered by your descendents. (Note that Tindale’s subjects didn't have a choice about how they were captured or what information was recorded about them.)

Record what information, e.g. personal attributes, interests or hobbies, you would want posted about yourself for posterity. If using digital photography, use an app or website like Skitch to annotate the images. Alternatively, print the image and write/type the information.

Combine the images and notes to create a class collage. Upload the collage to the school intranet or curate a year level / whole school exhibition.

What do you think?

Consider the statement “Tindale’s records are both a source of contention surrounding the treatment of Aboriginal Australians and a valuable resource for relatives.”

Plan, rehearse and deliver an argument for or against Tindale’s collection. Present as yourself, or from the perspective of Tindale, his subjects, their descendents, or Vernon Ah Kee.

Present your argument as a speech, essay, poem, play, song, presentation or artwork. Try to persuade your audience to see things your way. How important is it to have a sense of identity – of knowing where you came from and how others perceive you?

Participate in and contribute to discussions, clarify and interrogate ideas, share and evaluate information, experiences and opinions


Process and synthesise information from a range of sources for use as evidence in an historical argument

Select and use a range of communication forms


Present or publish an informative and persuasive idea to promote a point of view, advance or illustrate an argument, and influence an audience

Cross-curricular priorities

Experiences can be viewed through historical, social and political lenses

State Library gratefully acknowledges the support received from the South Australian Museum to provide access to the Tindale collection.

South Australian Government | Sout Australian Museum

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