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Blast to the Past these School Holidays

Catherine Russell

There is a look in the eye of one who is displaced from their home.

It is part loss with shards of fear settling into a plea that is speckled with hope that they will know a kind of peace again.

We, as Australians, know that look and what sits behind those eyes – as ours is a collective national story of displacement and migration.

Yet we are not a history-minded people – we cherry-pick, rather than cherish, all our stories and on the whole our unchallenged peace may have blinded us to our truths.

History has lessons for us in how we treat people, particularly other people that we don’t know and it seems more important than ever that we truly understand our national story and the breadth of experiences which bind us to this land and this moment in time.


I get this now. I didn’t when I was a young mind in the back of a rowdy car on a holiday trip punctuated by landmarks, museums, shipwrecks and National Parks. Now I know that I was very lucky to have been given a covert education off the books, away from the cackle of a school excursion.

It was a gift to stare quietly at Tiger Moth aircraft and imagine a pilot in the war with his hands on the gears; to search for a name on the wall at the Australian War Memorial; to sit in a sacred women’s space at the foot of a mountain or on the bow of the rusted out hull of the James Craig a tall ship prior to its restoration; or to climb the steps of the Harbour Bridge and brush my hand deliberately along the sandstone column.

I’ve attempted to give such a gift to my daughter who would rather be on the iPad than in the real world. This time last year my daughter played on the field where the Eureka Stockade occurred and less enthusiastically she tagged along as we searched for convict relatives in Victorian graveyards.

Making history relevant and engaging seems to be the key for young minds more set on the future than the past.

That is why this school holidays I am delighted that the opportunity for my six year old to connect with history is literally on our doorstep, and I guarantee it is engaging.


KSpace at the National Museum of Australia has been reinvented after three years of development and testing and the results are so fun and interactive you will forget you are there to learn about history and think it is just an elaborate digital game.

It is history like you have never seen it because you get to experience it in a way that puts you right in the centre of the action.

Pitched at five to 12 year olds, you enter a vibrant space promising time travel. Firstly you work with a large interactive screen to develop a robot that is personalised with a picture of your face and then you enter the time travel experience.


Standing in front of a joystick, the little faces wait for their robot to appear and for the challenge to begin. Each robot needs to work with others and complete certain tasks and notice certain things as the game progresses to score points as a healthy competition emerges between teams of robots in the room.

All this happens in the context of very familiar storylines to the adults that are observing as the children build the Opera House, walk with dinosaurs, pan for gold on the Victorian Goldfields, explore Lake Mungo, find quail in the Kimberley, report on the Franklin River Protest, sail with Cook on the Endeavour or visit the Royal Adelaide Show.

It allows children to design, play and be part of a story – a very important story that belongs to all of us.

My daughter loved her little taste of KSpace and it sparked in her an enthusiasm for history without her even knowing it.

These holidays we will go again and in time when we stand on the steps of the Opera House or on the shores of the Franklin River maybe she will be the one telling me the story of what happened here and why it matters to us all.

the essentials

Where: National Museum of Australia, Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula, Canberra
When: Weekends, public holidays and ACT school holidays, with sessions starting between 9.15am and 4.00pm. Kspace sessions start every 10 minutes and take 30 minutes to complete.
Cost: Free
Bookings: No Bookings Required
Popularity: High – so plan your visit
Web: nma.gov.au/kspace/visit

Catherine Russell

Catherine Russell is enthralled by public affairs in Canberra and the world at large; the issues that impact people from all walks of life; start memorable dinner party debates; fuel politics; create our advocates; and drive social media commentary. Consultant, mother and partner Catherine presents the HerCanberra perspective on the headlines. More about the Author