Learning from the past while preparing for the future

31 October marks two important events that young people can learn about in the Australian Curriculum – and no, neither of them is Halloween, writes Curriculum Specialist, HASS, Mark McAndrew.

Learning from the past while preparing for the future

31 October marks two important events that young people can learn about in the Australian Curriculum – and no, neither of them is Halloween, writes ACARA’s HASS Curriculum Specialist, Mark McAndrew.

31 October marks the anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba in southern Palestine. Part of this successful action included a mounted cavalry charge by the 4th Australian Light Horse. It has been described as the last successful cavalry charge in history.

The 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment moving into action at the battle of Beersheba, which took place on 31 October 1917. Credit: Australian War Memorial, ID: A02789
Australian Light Horse advancing on Beersheba. Credit: Australian War Memorial, ID: J06574

But 31 October also marks the due date for Australians to submit their taxation returns for the previous financial year.

Both events are important. One helps Australians to understand our past and the contributions of others to our collective identity. The other is a key action in our collective contribution to Australia’s present and future. Both events also form part of the Australian Curriculum: the Battle of Beersheba can be examined in Year 9 as an example of a place where Australians fought, and the nature of warfare in World War I; taxation appears as part of consumer and financial literacy and its associated responsibilities, as one of the organising ideas of Economics and Business from Year 5 though to Year 10.

Consumer and financial literacy incorporates a series of key life skills. A basic internet search regarding its importance brings over three million results, ranging from advice from government agencies, to tips from corporations and lifestyle lists of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.

The Australian Curriculum supports young people in the development of their consumer and financial literacy through the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics and the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business. In Mathematics, students learn about money and financial mathematics. In Economics and Business, students learn how to make responsible and informed decisions about consumer issues, and money and asset management.

These skills are also developed through the other learning areas, the general capabilities, and the cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum. The skills, knowledge and attitudes associated with not only numeracy, but also ethical understanding, personal and social capability, as well as sustainability, combine to guide and shape financial decisions taken by individuals or groups, whether they are doing weekly shopping, budgeting to purchase a car or a house, or planning for their post-work retirement. As a result, students need to explore and understand real-world situations and attempt to formulate authentic and meaningful solutions to financial questions and choices.

To support students and teachers, ACARA provides Australian schools and education authorities with a wide range of links to information and resources via the ‘Consumer and Financial Literacy’ Curriculum Connection on its Resources portal. From this site, it is also possible to access the ‘MoneySmart’ site, developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), and the ‘Tax, Super and You’ site, developed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). ACARA continues to work closely with ASIC and the ATO to maintain the currency of these materials and support their use by teachers as they implement the Australian Curriculum.

The world is increasingly complex, globalised and rapidly changing;  that’s why it is critical for all students to understand our past and be able to cope with the world’s present and future challenges.

The three dimensions of the Australian Curriculum work together to provide schools and teachers with a framework to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding so that all young Australians can successfully and confidently live and operate in the 21st century world.


Mark McAndrew is ACARA’s Curriculum Specialist, Humanities and Social Sciences. With over 35 years of experience in secondary education, Mark specialises in history and is a co-author of numerous texts that support student learning in this aspect of the curriculum, with a strong emphasis on the skills of analysis, communication and critical historical inquiry. Mark has also worked extensively in teacher professional learning and accreditation in NSW.