Image 'Hut door', 1850s

TLF ID R4382

This is a circular pencil drawing on coloured scraper board, measuring 22.7 cm in diameter. It was drawn in the 1850s by Samuel Thomas Gill (1818-80). It depicts a European family of mother, father and small daughter interacting with an elderly Indigenous Australian man and two Indigenous children in front of the door of a primitive wooden house. The young girl, encouraged by her mother, is offering a plate of food to one of the children. The landscape in the background is bare and bleak. In the foreground a sheepdog sits, watching the people.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts interaction between Indigenous Australians and European settlers - peaceful early interactions between new arrivals and traditional owners are recorded in many places, but different attitudes towards the land soon made contact more volatile; by the second half of the 19th century many Indigenous Australians were reduced to an impoverished, sedentary life, deprived of ranging widely over traditional lands by settlers who had established farms; many Indigenous people became dependent on Europeans for food and jobs.
  • It gives a sense of the uneasy interactions between Indigenous Australians and Europeans through the composition of the drawing - the Europeans are in the dominant position in the drawing and the Indigenous Australians in the position of supplicants; the Indigenous people sit while the Europeans remain standing, the man with his arms firmly folded and the woman, while encouraging her daughter to give food to the Indigenous child, keeps a protective hand on her.
  • It shows an early house made from pitsawn timber slabs - pitsawing was done by two men with a long saw with cross-handles at each end; a log, hewn square, was placed over a pit and one man (the sawyer) stood on top of it to pull the saw up, while the other man (the pit man) stood in the pit beneath the log to pull the saw down.
  • It depicts a chimney against an outside wall of the house - a necessity for both cooking and warmth, fire was also a great risk in a wooden house; consequently, a stone fireplace was built onto one end of a house to minimise fire risk, with an extended chimney to prevent smoke and sparks from blowing back inside; until corrugated iron became available, chimneys were usually built from wood.
  • It shows signs of domesticity and attempts to farm - for example, the wooden fence, the axe lying on the ground, cleared land, hens and the sheepdog; the wool industry and the gold rushes of the 1850s provided an impetus for free settlers to come to Australia; the vast distances in Australia often meant that farming families were widely scattered and had to be largely self-sufficient.
  • It emphasises the contrast between the clothing worn by settlers and that worn by Indigenous Australians - settlers wore European-style clothes that were not always appropriate for Australian conditions, with their heavy cloth and dark colours; what little clothing Indigenous people wore was made largely from animal skins; the sight of naked Indigenous people was problematic for Europeans and official policies, dating from the time of Governor Lachlan Macquarie (1761-1824) providing government-issue clothing and blankets to Indigenous people in 1815.
  • It shows an example of the work of Samuel Thomas Gill - famous for his sketches and lithographs of the Victorian gold fields and other Australian subjects, Gill sketched from life, and his works are now prized for their attention to detail and the clear impressions they give of everyday life in 19th-century Australia.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10

Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements