Treasure Box Tin

story by Annmarie Scott , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning intention:

I am learning to understand the experiences of others so that I can further develop my sense of empathy for other peoples’ perspectives.


Success criteria:

  • I can discuss my thoughts of the words and actions of Grandpa Jim based on the information in the story as well as my own prior knowledge and understanding
  • I can discuss the different experiences of the people who are affected by war service and how I may feel in their position
  • I can demonstrate my understanding of the effects of serving in a war by writing a letter from the perspective of someone whose story I have listened to.


Essential knowledge:

Information about the way people view things through different perspectives can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Perspective.



After reading the story, discuss the pain that the war caused Grandpa Jim and how that pain followed him home, giving him nightmares and having the brooch he made with love become a painful reminder of his experience and the lives lost in the war, including his best friend. At this point, students may also have stories of family members who have experienced war that they wish to share.

Discuss what Grandpa Jim wrote in his letters home, including what he wore, what the weather was like, what his job entailed, and his thoughts of home. Ask why exchanging letters with friends and family members in the war was important. Answers may include:

  • Receiving a letter from someone in the war reassured their loved ones that they were still alive
  • Receiving a letter from home provided comfort for those serving in the war
  • Receiving messages of love helped boost their spirits in a very difficult situation
  • Exchanging letters allowed everyone to stay connected while they were separated under challenging circumstances
  • Letters were often the only means of communication.

Explain that people of their own grandparents’ generation were more likely to have served in the Vietnam War and that like World War II, this included conscription. Explain that conscription meant that all young men had the potential to be sent to war by the government when they were a certain age whether they wanted to go or not. Inform them that this practice is no longer legal in Australia.

If time allows, watch the following videos from the Australian War Memorial. Otherwise, allow students to choose one of the videos to watch themselves on a device:

Colleen Mealy – Australian Army Nurse


Roy ‘Zeke’ Mundine – Australian Army Indigenous Serviceman


Janice and Stuart Smith, Loss


Robert O’Neill – Australian Army Counter Insurgency


Divide students into groups to discuss the experiences of one of the people whose story they watched. Ask them to imagine what their daily life would have been like and what kinds of things they would have written in their letters to loved ones.

Students should then write a letter from the point of view of a person in one of the videos they have watched. In writing their letter, they should consider:

  • Who they are writing to (parent, spouse, sibling, child)
  • What kind of information they wish to share (Will they be honest about their challenges? Will they soften the information to prevent the receiver from worrying too much?)
  • How will they describe their day-to-day experience in their jobs (Are they in a hospital treating patients? Are they out in the jungle under fire? Are they working with local families?)

Once students have finished writing their letters, those willing to share with the class should be given the opportunity to do so. Discuss the impact that these experiences would likely have had on the person and how that may have affected their lives when they returned home.

To conclude the lesson, watch the video I Was Only 19 by Redgum and The Herd and discuss how the experience of the veteran depicted in the video links to the experience of Grandpa Jim and the other people studied in the AWM videos. Answers may include:

  • He has suffered loss and trauma
  • His friend died in the war
  • He is experiencing nightmares
  • There are things around him that are painful reminders of the war
  • He wrote letters home while he was in combat.