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Augustus Earle and his Dog, Jemmy

Video clip synopsis – Misadventure turned to good fortune when young English artist Augustus Earle was rescued after being marooned on a remote island and accidentally became the colony’s first trained artist.
Year of production - 2008
Duration - 5min 30sec
Tags - art, Australian History, colonisation, exploration, Indigenous Australia, portraiture, see all tags

play Warning - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when watching this program as it may contain images of deceased persons.

Augustus Earle and his Dog, Jemmy

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About the Video Clip


From the series Hidden Treasures – Inside the National Library of Australia.

The National Library of Australia is the country’s largest reference library with over nine million items in its collection, including a surprising number of art works. In a new series of Hidden Treasures, Betty Churcher presents an insider’s guide to some of the little known and rarely displayed art treasures held by the National Library. From her unique vantage point, Churcher makes intriguing historical connections between paintings and engravings, photography, manuscripts and artefacts, illustrated journals and diaries. These are fascinating tales about the creative process and the works themselves that offer a tantalising insight into Australia’s culture and heritage.

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. Produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. With special thanks to the National Library of Australia.

Curriculum Focus


The viewing of this video clip and the completion of the Classroom Activities can be used to achieve the following Outcomes:

5.1 explains social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluates their impact on Australian life
5.5 identifies, comprehends and evaluates historical sources
5.8 locates, selects and organizes relevant historical information from a number of sources, including ICT, to undertake historical inquiry

Students have the opportunity through accessing this Hidden Treasure online video clip to develop the ICT skill of comprehending and using historical sources.

In respect to what students learn about: viewing this clip and completing the associated classroom activities, gives students the opportunity to learn about how people lived in Australia in the early part of the nineteenth century.

In respect to what students learn to: viewing this video clip and completing the associated classroom activities allows students to use primary sources to describe features of lifestyle of a variety of social groups.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


Misadventure turned to good fortune when young English artist Augustus Earle was rescued after being marooned on a remote island and accidentally became the colony’s first trained artist. Earle was stranded for nine months with his dog, Jemmy, on an island in the South Atlantic Ocean when his ship sailed without him in March 1824. He filled his time recording life on the island until his art supplies ran out. The artist and his dog appear in many of his island paintings. Earle was eventually picked up by a ship bound for Sydney and during the few years he lived in the colony he became its foremost painter. Included in the National Library’s collection is an 1826 oil portrait of Bungaree, the first Aborigine to circumnavigate Australia.

Classroom Activities

  1. The key images in this episode are the portrait and lithograph of the Aboriginal man, Bungaree.
    1. Describe the way Bungaree is portrayed in the portrait, including his clothing, ornamentation or decorations, pose or stance, and the background.
    2. What do you think is the main message that the painter, Augustus Earle, is trying to convey in this portrait?
    3. How is this image or impression of Bungaree changed in the lithographs that were created from the portrait?
  2. What would you say were Bungaree’s achievements? Why would these be considered achievements? For example, you might discuss the difficulty that a person might have in trying to live in two different worlds, the Indigenous world and the new one brought in by the settlement of Sydney Cove. Analyse the significance of the journey Bungaree took with Matthew Flinders in 1803.
  3. Research. The portrait is of a significant figure in Australian colonial history. Research another significant Indigenous figure (such as Jandamara, Yagan, Bennelong) and tell their story. Include in your presentation the nature of their achievements, their role in the period and place where they existed, and the way they have been represented in images.
  4. What do you think this portrait of Bungaree tells us about the relationship between the white settlers and the indigenous people of Australia. Summarise in just one or two sentences why this portrait is a ‘treasure’ in our knowledge and understanding of aspects of Australian history.

Further Resources


Go to Screen Australia Digital Learning’s Arts Portal

For more on the life of Bungaree go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography

For more on Augustus Earle go toThe Wandering Artist