Holiday Learning: Dirty Business

SBS Documentary Dirty Business – Learning about Mining in Australia’s past and present

Two episodes of the three-part series Dirty Business: How mining made Australia have screened on SBS, with the last instalment on this Sunday 20th.  This documentary provides an engaging examination of the interconnected history of mining and Australia’s development as a nation.  It places in context the impact of the gold rush(es) and explores the differences between 19th century and 20th/21st century mining.  We highly recommend watching it these holidays.

 Preview of Dirty Business

The contrast between mining then and now helps us appreciate the different ways in which our history has been shaped by the industry.  The connections it explores between mining and our; wealth, growth, politicians, democracy, federation, racial attitudes, infrastructure, and more, are both confronting and fascinating.

The program looks at some of the topics students explore, and programs they can participate in, when they visit Sovereign Hill, including: stories of immigration, the Eureka Rebellion and it’s impacts on our democracy, the Anti-Chinese sentiment on the goldfields and the development of industry and infrastructure as a result of mining.   We would particularly recommend this as a resource for secondary students.  We have previously written some blog posts on these topics including: Racism against the Chinese on the goldfields and the Ballarat Reform League, which may provide some helpful background information.

SBS has a handy website where you can view the episodes, explore a timeline and topic information and engage in a conversation about your views on the topic.  There are also some images from Edward Burtynsky, a photographic artist whose work Australian Minescapes featured at our Gold Museum in 2010.  We developed a resource for teachers (PDF) for that exhibition that includes some activity suggestions that would be useful for exploring this documentary too.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?  How would you use it with students?

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