macassans - Public Schools NSW

Report[email protected]/7491257776/
Note to teacher: This resource is supported by the
document “The Macassans: What legacy did they
leave for Australians?”, also available on the Our
Asian Stories website (in teacher-developed
What is it?
Where does it live?
What would you do with it?
What is it called?
Sea cucumbers
• Also called trepang in Indonesian.
• They live on the sea floor, but are exposed at
low tide.
• They are used in cooking and for their
medicinal properties.
• They keep oceans healthy by filtering sea
water and eating decomposing organic matter.
• Macassar (or
Makassar), is the
provincial capital of
South Sulawesi in
• It was once the
dominant trading
centre of eastern
Image: Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 3.0
Macassans – what does it mean?
• In the 18th and 19th centuries, fleets of boats
came to the waters of Northern Australia from
Macassar, to fish for sea cucumbers.
• Historically, the term ‘Macassan’ refers to the
Indonesian people who sailed in the annual
fleet to Northern Australia.
Macassans – fishermen
There were between 30-60 boats in each fleet.
The journey took between 10-21 days.
Approximately 2000 men came each season.
The journey was 1600kms.
They used the monsoonal winds to travel by sail.
They arrived each December, fished over the
summer months and returned home in March.
• They caught the sea cucumbers by hand or with
Macassans – traders
• The Macassans boiled and dried the sea
• They would sail to southern China to supply
the markets.
Images: Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 2.0
Contact with
• Trepang fishing
brought the
Macassans into
contact with many
Aboriginal people,
in particular the
Yolngu people of
Arnhem Land in
Northern Australia.
Image: Glen Dillion, Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 3.0
Click here to view an
Aboriginal bark
• What do you see
in the bark
• What colours and
patterns has the
artist used?
• What do you think
is the significance
of these colours
and patterns?
Bark painting sources: Search Google images, “Tjapu bark painting” or “Kalanga Numarndangiya Bara Anindilyakwa”
Image: Wikimedia Commons, public domain image (copyright expired)
Image: Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
Praus (or perahu, prows) is the name for the sailing vessels used by the Macassan trepangers.
Student activities:
1. Research the features and materials used to
construct these vessels, then sketch and label
the parts of a prau.
2. Write an explanation about the significance
of the Aboriginal bark painting. Describe what it
shows about the relationship between the
Aboriginal people and the Macassan traders.
3. Either make a model and see if floats or
recreate the bark painting using textured
cardboard and crayons, or with chalk in the
Image: Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 3.0
Mapping the voyage
• On a map of Indonesia and
Northern Australia, map the route
of the Macassans (visit
u/macass.shtml for guidance).
• On your map, mark Macassar,
Arnhem Land and the seas.
• How did the monsoons assist the
• How did the monsoons impact
when the Macassans travelled?
• What dangers and problems do
you think they faced during the
• Write a story about a trepanger’s
Image: Wikimedia Commons, public domain image
Matthew Flinders’ encounter with the
• Matthew Flinders was the first
person to circumnavigate
• On the 17th of February 1803,
he met the Macassans.
• Read Matthew Flinders’
journal, p. 137 (“Every motion
in the whale boat…” to “…the
fleet returns to Macassar.”),
then complete the activities on
the next page.
Image: Wikimedia Commons,
public domain image (copyright expired)
Student activities
• In pairs, discuss the meeting between Flinders
and Pobasso, from each man’s view point. What
did Flinders and Pobasso learn about each other
through this meeting?
• Script the meeting and perform it as a role play.
• Explore the saying ‘in the right place at the right
time’ in relation to this scenario. Focus on the
date and the winds as factors affecting the
encounter between Flinders and Pobasso.
• Why is reading Flinders’ journal important to our
understanding of the Macassans?
Click on each flag to watch the
Red Flag Dancers (2 videos)
• Which parts of the
costume do you think are
traditional to the
Nundhirribala people?
• Which parts do you think
were introduced by the
• Describe how the dance
tells a story.
How did the Macassans influence
Aboriginal life?
• Brainstorm and discuss possible ways Aboriginal life may have been
influenced by the ongoing contact with the Macassans over the centuries.
• In research groups, investigate the following areas of impact:
Tools and
Food and diet
Methods of
Working for
Methods of
• Analyse and record the impact of each area investigated on a PMI
(positive, minus, interesting) chart.
• Write a discussion text about the Macassan influence on Aboriginal life in
Northern Australia.

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