Online Games for Budding Historians

Museum launches new educational game to engage students in learning about convict history

It is 1830. You are a convict ship’s Surgeon Superintendent sailing from London to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Your job is to look after the convicts on the long journey, making sure they stay healthy… how would you do it?

These are the challenges posed by a new online educational game developed by the Australian National Maritime Museum. The Voyage, aimed at students in years 5 and 6, has been developed in conjunction with Roar Films (Tasmania), Screen Australia and Screen Tasmania, and uses mobile and online technologies to engage students in learning about what life would have been like for the first migrants and convicts as they traveled to Australia.

We all know how impossible it is to make children engage with Australian history, with most children reaching adulthood still not knowing the date of the arrival of The First Fleet, let alone the year. I challenge you now to remember, if not that, then ask yourself: what is the Eureka Stockade? If you can’t answer perhaps you can begin to understand the problem.

In The Voyage, students immerse themselves in the hardships and trials of the convict voyage by playing the part of the ship’s Surgeon Superintendent. They select a ship and captain, buy supplies, select convicts and even hunt rats while sailing the ship to Australia. The imaginary journey they take is based on extensive historical research by the University of Tasmania utilising documented ship paths, convict and medical records and diaries.

“The Voyage is a major outreach piece for our Learning team – both nationally and internationally,” says Museum director, Kevin Sumption. “Students will be able to interact with the game as part of their excursions to the museum as well as engage with it in their classrooms via our website on their devices.”

Two students can play the game at once, fostering collaboration in learning and feeding into classroom curriculum. As with many online games, students can also play with children all over the world via the internet.

“Young people today are growing up in a different and exciting world,” notes Lynda Kelly, Head of Learning at the National Maritime Museum. “The use of games, such as The Voyage, via online and mobile internet-based technologies provides much potential for innovative, effective and accessible contemporary teaching and learning.”

The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney is the national centre for maritime collections, exhibitions, research and archaeology. As a Commonwealth cultural institution the museum is committed to fulfilling its national mandate by developing programs and opportunities to share its expertise, collection and the national maritime story with regional communities throughout Australia.

The Voyage is a free resource and is available at

Words: Alana Lopez

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