Matchstick perspective of Australian History

I did this exercise with a group of people the other day. Great for visual learners! And great for all of us who are not of Aboriginal descent to do.

You will need about 1600 black matchsticks, and a handful of white matchsticks for this exercise.

Get everyone to gather around a designated floor space or large table top. Line up the black matchsticks next to each other, so that they create a continuous “worm” or row.

Once all 1600 black matchsticks are lined up, ask the group how many generations their family has been in Australia. Find the highest number. In the group I had, the maximum number was 5 (an Anglo-Australian woman).

According to the number, get an equal number of white matchsticks (in our case, of course, it was 5). Line them at the end of the “worm”.

Then, explain this to the group:




Some of the more CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATES say that ABORIGINAL PEOPLE have been on the continent of Australia for around 1600 generations.

The First Fleet (the 11 ships that sailed from Great Britain to establish the first European colony in Australia) sailed into Botany Bay in January 1788, or 8 to 10 generations ago.

1600 generations, versus 8 to 10 generations.

Visually, this looked something like this

(using my groups 5 generation maximum):

Something to think about.

My immediate reaction when I first did this exercise was “Wow. That certainly puts the whole ‘we grew here, you flew here’ nonsense well and truly in the shade.”

Just a bit 😉

A little more humility and perspective would help race relations in this country a great deal.

Australia, very young and mostly free… 

A beautiful, wonderful country… with severe blindspots.


One Comment on “Matchstick perspective of Australian History”

  1. Susan A. says:

    That is a really nice way to put things in perspective! We have a similar problem in America, though european settlers date a bit further back. Regardless, people often forget that their family wasn’t always here and that new immigrants are no different than those who came here before. The United States has a history of rejecting new groups into the country, even when rhe newcomers were of European decent. It just seems rather hypocritical to me.

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