Pieces of the world

Lesson overview

Learning Area:English 
Age Group:Primary Upper (10-12 years) – Secondary Lower (13-14)


Students explore the kinds of journeys that Australians have made and their effects – the emotions, the realities and the practicalities.


In the course of their lives, many Australians will go on journeys. Some will leave Australia to live in other countries. Some will leave other countries to come here. Others will leave temporarily, visit relatives, or go on holiday overseas.

Journeys have always been an important part of Australia’s history. At various stages, people from many different countries have left their homelands and immigrated to Australia. These journeys often combined hardships with the hope of a new life.

The original inhabitants, Aboriginal Australians, also endured painful journeys. During and after white settlement, many Aboriginal people were displaced from their ancestral lands and forced to settle in unfamiliar territory.


Mervyn James’s Pieces of the World commemorates the journeys of pioneers and immigrants to Australia.
Download individual copies of the poem.

Consult an atlas of the world. Locate Australia in relation to the rest of the world.

  • Note which countries are Australia’s neighbours.
  • Retrace the journey made by the First Fleet.
  • Locate the part of Australia or the world from which your ancestors came.


  1. Although Pieces of the World is not a lengthy poem, it portrays the development of Australia into a multicultural society from 1788 onwards.
    • What references can you find in the poem to Australia’s cultural diversity?
    • What is the significance of the title of the poem?
    • Consider the accuracy of the poem. Were they the “first migrants”? Have there been only two centuries of “Australians”?
  2. The first three stanzas of the poem express the difficulties experienced by the early British settlers in Australia. The mood of the last three stanzas is more optimistic. These stanzas show how Australia has developed.
    • List the images or words in the first three stanzas that portray the difficulties experienced by the early British settlers.
    • List the words in the last three stanzas that portray a sense of achievement and optimism.

Other activities in Chapter 1, Footsteps, Journeys and immigration, in Australian mosaic, an anthology of multicultural writing edited by Sonia Mycak & Chris Baker.