If walls could speak: 5 stories from the Destitute Asylum eBook

South Australia was established as a ‘just and prosperous society’ but within 10 years of white settlement, poverty and homelessness was found. The fledgling government established the Destitute Board in 1849 to manage the problem and the Destitute Asylum in 1851 to provide support and relief.

If walls could speak is a multimodal resource which features primary sources and is designed as an inquiry into the lives of 5 people who relied upon government welfare and were affected by government legislation from 1830s to 1918.

If walls could speak can be used as part of a wider unit of learning of History, depending on a teacher’s knowledge of their class and the needs of different students. It could be used chapter by chapter with a teacher dividing their class into 5 groups and each group choosing and following a story and then comparing the 5 stories as one large group OR students could read all 5 stories and develop an understanding of different experiences of poverty in the early days of the colony depending on gender, class and Aboriginal identity.

Included in the eBook:

  • Introduction to the Destitute Asylum
  • 5 personal ‘stories’: George ‘Fireball’ Bates, Kudnarto, Topsy Lacey, Alfred Stokes and Edmund Williams
  • Short videos, audio recordings, letters, photographs, architectural drawings are featured throughout and information is conveyed through interpretive text and inquiry questions are presented throughout and at the end of each story.
  • A video which explains how to make the most of the interactive features, such as highlighting and taking notes, and looking up words.
  • Glossary, teacher resource and Legislation timeline
  • Links to more eBooks published by the Department for Education and Child Development

The eBook is best read on an iPad, and downloaded through itunes via this link: If walls could speak

Download the teacher resource here

Visit the Migration Museum to see the exhibition In this place: a history of the Migration Museum site, which inspired the development of the eBook.

Migration Museum

Online Resources
Term 1-4

Level: 6, 9, 11, Professional Learning
Area: English, HASS - History

Type: Digital/eLearning
Cost: FREE

School bookings

ALL school visits must be booked in advance.

To book a visit please contact the Migration Museum.

Please note that all bookings must be made by phone.


60 min program:
$5.00 per student/$2.50 equity

90 min program:
$7.00 per student/$3.00 equity

120 min program:
$9.00 per student/$4.00 equity

Organising your visit

For more information and to discuss your student learning needs please contact the Education Manager at the Migration Museum.


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