National Library of Australia

Teachers notes: W.A. Crowder’s diary: the Overland Telegraph Line

Time, Continuity and Change

A student:

  • describes the significant ideas, people or events that have contributed to Australian identity.
  • analyses how periods of time in history are used to identify ideas and place events, e.g. places developments in medical science according to the centuries in which they happened.
  • examines and explains how people may think differently about the same event or issue, e.g. compares the reasons people voted for the same candidate in an election.

Place and Space

A student:

  • identifies factors, such as climate, vegetation and soil, that shape the features of places, and uses this information to consider similarities and differences between places.
  • explains how people’s use of natural and built features of places changes over time, e.g. uses photographs and maps of a place to identify changes in land use and suggests reasons for this.
  • explains why various individuals and groups have different views about issues to do with the care of places, e.g. describes the significance of the land to Aboriginal people.

Natural and Social Systems

A student:

  • explains the range of common and different features of various natural systems, e.g. compares a tropical rainforest and an arid area to show how plants have adapted.
  • describes key features of Australian political and legal systems at the local, state and national level, e.g. describes the roles of legal aid, lawyers, judges, reform commissions and attorneys-general.

Humans have a passion for communication and over the last 100 years or more we have invented a vast array of different communication media. Today messages are pushed down pipes, bounced off satellite dishes and travel invisibly through the air. We have burned messages into tin, wax, shellac, vinyl, plastic, photographically printed them and magnetically and mathematically encoded them.


  • How have communication technologies altered our perceptions of time and space?
  • The telegraph is one of the earliest media for communicating messages. It used a language called Morse code. What is Morse code and how did it work?
  • What was the first message on the overland telegraph line?
  • The telegraph was eventually superseded by the invention of the telephone. Why? What were the advantages of the telephone over the telegraph? Who invented the telephone and when did it come into common usage?
  • Sometimes old forms of technology are reinvented in new ways. Morse code is very similar to the binary language used by modern computers. Discuss the similarities and differences of this language of machines.
  • The telegraph line followed John McDougall Stuart’s pioneering route through the centre of the continent, which in turn was guided by Indigenous tracks that linked permanent water sites. Crossing often impenetrable and unexplored land that just a decade before had claimed the lives of the explorers Burke and Wills, many of these paths have since become some of Australia’s major highways. Look on a map of Australia for the Stuart highway. What type of country does the highway traverse? Describe the climate, vegetation and significant landforms.
  • Getting telecommunications to the bush is still today a major political issue in Australia. Why? How much has life in the bush changed since W.A Crowder wrote in his diary?