National History Challenge – Special Category

2015 National Archives Special Category prize winner Phoebe Blaxill and Anne McLean, Director, Reference and Information Services.

Category Title: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives of Australia

We award prizes to entrants in the National History Challenge. Our Special Category prize is for excellence in the use of primary sources (archival records) from our collection.

Theme for 2017

This year the theme is 'Making a better world'.

2017 is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum. How important and effective was this referendum in creating a better world for Australia's Indigenous people?

Entries for this year’s challenge close Friday 25 August 2017.


A winner will be selected from each state and territory. Each will receive a cash prize of $200.

A national winner will be selected from state and territory winners. The national winner will receive:

  • a further cash prize of $300
  • an expenses-paid trip to Canberra to attend the National History Challenge awards ceremony at Parliament House
  • a guided tour of national cultural institutions, including the National Archives (NAA).

How to enter

In the National Archives Special Category, students from Year 7 to 12 have two options to explore this year's theme.

Option 1

Develop and produce a film (5 minutes maximum) of a chronologically correct primary source trail that explores the 1967 Referendum and the greater twentieth-century struggle for Indigenous rights. Did the referendum make for a better world? How did this referendum further the recognition of Indigenous peoples? Are the Indigenous rights recognised today?

You must present each piece of evidence and make clear how it relates to the theme. You need to include at least 10 pieces of evidence, including at least five from the National Archives of Australia’s records.

Option 2

Write an essay exploring 'Making a Better World?' through the use of primary sources (archival records) from the National Archives' collection. Explore your chosen individual or group's contribution to the betterment of Australian society through the National Archives’ digital collection, as well as using other collections of primary and secondary sources. Be sure your essay is evaluative.

Getting started

The following online resources will help you get started and give you tips on how to conduct your research in the National Archives.

  • Learn about using archival records with our handy online guide to finding records in the National Archives.
  • View a student’s presentation of a primary source trail in this five-minute film. This is the kind of format to guide you in creating your entry for the 2017 National History Challenge.
  • Read the award winning essays for the National Archives’ Special Category from previous years. The standard is high, but we are sure you will rise to the challenge!
  • You can also visit the National History Challenge website to see interviews with previous award winners, as well as other information regarding conditions of entry.

Now that you are armed with the skills to conduct your research through the National Archives' online resources, get started on your NAA Special Category entry here:

  • VRROOM online classroom – this online resource has been designed especially for teachers and students. It provides easy access to over 900 digitised primary sources from the National Archives collection. Start your National History Challenge research here!

Further information


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