Set in the late 1700s, The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant, a television series suitable for senior secondary students, is a true-life epic of an extraordinary young woman and her fight for the freedom and dignity of her family in the penal colony of Botany Bay. The series won many AFI awards.
In Cornwall, in 1786, seventeen-year-old Mary Broad, attempting to feed her family, is caught robbing a well-to-do woman on the Kings highway. Mary's sentence reflects the latest English experiment in trying to control the growing criminal class – she's transported to the new penal colony in New South Wales with many other prisoners. The 'First Fleet' of eleven ships bound for Botany Bay includes 'the Charlotte' on which Mary finds herself, Lieutenant Ralph Clarke, who falls in love with her and Will Bryant who she later marries. The story of Mary and Will's brave escape from the colony, along with some other convicts is embedded in Australia's early history. The character of Mary – her wildness – her zest – will encourage students to explore the essential qualities of a survivor. Mary has a love of life which is challenged and sometimes overwhelmed by the epic events but no matter how harsh the conditions, unjust her treatment, or what ill fate she meets, it's Mary who makes the decisions. She's never a victim. She'll do whatever it takes to survive and protect her children.
The series is suitable for mature students from middle to senior secondary school, and at the tertiary education level. Students could watch the programs when they are screened from home, complete activities for homework and then discuss the issues in their classrooms. Many of the activities in the study guide are based on interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum approaches. Studying the series will allow students to gain insights into Australian colonial history, as well as more universal themes of relationships, family life, human resilience and risk-taking behavior for the sake of family and survival.
Mary Bryant will have relevance to students of:
• Australian History
• Cultural Studies
• Indigenous Studies
• Australian Studies
• SOSE / HSIE
• Media Studies
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