Notable Possibilities

The first Night of Notables was held at our school in 2003. This means that every student in the school can recall the fun they had in Year 7, dressing up as a famous person and showing their parents and the rest of school how creative and thoughtful they could be. And here’s an amazing thing: older students love to come and see what the new kids on the block are doing for the Night of Notables. Those new kids on the block are YOU! Which notable person will you choose? How will you make the night special and memorable?

Here’s a tip: choose someone that no one else has ever chosen. Choose someone YOU don’t know very much about. That way there will be a mystery for you to solve and many people will be curious to know about the person you have chosen.

So here are some notable people who, despite their great achievements and determination to improve human life, have (at least to my knowledge) never been chosen by students before. I’ve taught Year 7 every year since the Night of Notables was introduced, so I do have a pretty good idea. For each person below, I’ve tried to give a little description or at least include a link to a reputable site that will tell you about the person. I am hankering for someone to choose one of these people, instead of the obvious people who are chosen every year. Be original! Go for it!

PS: You won’t be able to watch any of the You-Tube videos at school, I’m afraid. Our computers crack up when you ask too much of them. But don’t despair: these videos should work at home.

Notable People who have never been N O T A B L E at our School:

IMG_0040_DevilsMarblesKath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) She was an Aboriginal writer and activist who gave back her MBE in protest against the treatment of her people. Influential in winning the vote for Aborigines, she was a writer of great purpose and conviction. For instance, she wrote: “We need help, not exploitation.” One of her saddest poems was about an old man who was the last of his tribe. There was noone left who could speak to him in the language of his people. The poem shows her sense of loss and the desperate isolation of the old man. Oodgeroo Noonuccal wrote many moving poems. She was also partially responsible for gaining the vote for Aboriginal people. Click on this link to read a brief introduction to her life:

  • Harriet Tubman was nicknamed the “Moses of her People” for her role in saving slaves through the so-called Underground Railroad in America.
  • Jane Austen was one of the great authors of the English language. In her novels she described the narrow social world of the English country towns where she lived; she explored the limited social experiences of her characters. That doesn’t sound all that impressive, does it? And yet, and yet…Somehow these stories, set in the early 1800s, have had an abiding impact on her readers. They have inspired many films, discussions and debates. For Austen’s insights into human nature are astounding. This brilliant woman, who never married and who died in her forties, had an acute understanding of human love and cruelty, a sharp wit, a measured cynicism and a power with the English language that few, if any, have been able to match. (***Whoops! Claire tells me her older sister Lizzie chose Jane Austen just last year. So she has been chosen before…Still, she deserves another run and she certainly hasn’t been chosen very often. Sorry, Lizzie!)

  • Emily Bronte was a great author and poet. Her poem “Remembrance” is deeply moving and her novel, “Wuthering Heights”, is one of the great works of English literature. Yet she was writing at a time when women usually had to take the name of a man to have any chance of being published.
  • Vera Brittain was an author and peace activist between the World Wars in Britain. Although she was accused of being disloyal for trying to seek peace, her name was ultimately found on a list of people the Nazis would like to assassinate, which improved her reputation with the English people! Her famous book, “Testament of Youth”, told the tragic story of the young men she loved who died in WWI, including her brother and fiancee.
  • Judy Horacek is an Australian cartoonist who takes a strong feminist stand and is politically astute and cynical, yet with that whimsical edge to her work that many great Australian cartoonists seem to have. A champion of the rights of minority groups and a social commentator, she would be a fine choice for the Night of Notables. Her cartoons can be viewed at the National Library of Australia website. Here is the link:

  • W.E.B. DuBois was an African American activist and writer in the 1920s who spread the story of the murders and lynchings in the south. He tried to promote the right of African Americans in the south to live without persecution, prejudice and arbitrary attacks. In his publications he exposed the cruelty of those who wanted to ensure that, even though the slaves had been freed, they should still be forced to live like slaves. He gave a voice to people who had no voice.
  • Sir Mark Oliphant was a brilliant Australian scientist whose work in nuclear physics was partially responsible for the creation of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was forever regretful at the calamity they had caused, however, and later spoke out against the use of science for immoral ends.

  • William Wilberforce was a campaigner against slavery in Britain in the 19th century. He died just a few days after the bill abolishing slavery succeeded.
  • William Barak was an artist, an activist and a leader of his people, the Wurundjeri clan, who lived in Melbourne before the coming of the Europeans, and whose descendants still live here today. The government continually took land and rights from the Aboriginal people and Barak, despite his growing sense of futility and despair, continued to plead, protest and fight for decency, fairness and equality.

    Sofonisba Anguissola was a great woman painter of the Renaissance. Until the internet came into being I didn’t even know she existed. Woman artists rarely make it into art books. Yet some of her paintings are just lovely. They warm my heart because they show people enjoying life and doing quite ordinary things – even smiling! One of her most famous paintings shows a few young girls playing chess and smiling. This was quite rare in those days. There’s also a self-portrait of the artist at her easel.

    • Golda Meir – Israeli Prime Minister

    Ancient Egyptian Writing

    Rosetta Stone in BM, our photo

    A photo of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum (taken in 1995)

    Here’s a quotation from an article about the 20-year history of the internet, by Guy Rundle in The Age on Sunday 15 March:

    Five thousand years ago, the invention of writing in Mesopotamia [Sumer] separated information from presence – a few strokes of cuneiform on a clay tablet established that meaning, intent, communication could be separated and transmitted without a person there to present it.

    From this event flows every modern institution of the state…”

    Sphinx and Great Pyramid JB

    Photo of the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx kindly provided by John Bayley

    Ancient Egyptian writing:

    Use this site to write some notes on the nature of hieroglyphic writing for your Emit assignment.

    A Biography of Jean-Francois Champollion

    The Story of the Decipherment of Hieroglyphics

    These links tell you the story of a man who started learning dead languages (and writing his diary in them) when he was as young as you are. He knew that understanding an ancient language would unlock secrets. Read the story of his determination and final achievement.

    Legacies of Ancient Egypt

    A legacy in this context means a special contribution that a civilisation leaves behind. It might include:


    Clipart kindly provided by A famous piece of ancient architecture. Can you think of other arenas based on this concept?

    • a memorable idea such as a special way of organising a society or dealing with a problem;

    • some kind of scientific knowledge;

    • an invention;

    • a monument;

    • a skill;

    • an impressive achievement in art, government, literature, etc;

    • something that later societies have admired and sought to emulate.

    For instance, ancient Sumerians are believed to have been the first to create a writing system. They pressed wedge-shaped marks into clay tablets. Many historians believe that this is what gave the Egyptians the idea of developing hieroglyphs.


     Here’s a quotation from an article about the 20-year history of the internet, by Guy Rundle in The Age on Sunday 15 March:

         “Five thousand years ago, the invention of writing in Mesopotamia [Sumer] separated information from presence – a few strokes of cuneiform on a clay tablet established that meaning, intent, communication could be separated and transmitted without a person there to present it.

           “From this event flows every modern institution of the state…”

    That’s some legacy!

    Cuneiform – clipart kindly provided by I always think that it would be wonderful if the first writing was created to write love poems or great literature. But no – someone wanted a receipt. Sigh. This is a material world.



    The ancient Egyptians had many achievements over the course of their long history. Their beautiful tomb paintings, for example, show us all about their lives on the Nile River. They drew figures in a way that changed little over the years. Can you think of other great and inspiring achievements that others might have built upon?


    Egyptian peasants during harvest – note the side-on presentation of the bodies in classic Egyptian style
    Image in public domain from wikimedia.commons

    See what you can find out about the legacies of the ancient Egyptians at these sites.


    General: (Scroll down to find ideas about legacies.)


    This is a pdf on the pyramids and monuments.


    Ancient Egyptian ideas about pi:

    Ancient Egyptian art: 

    Ancient Egyptian water engineering and inventions: 

    (You’ll need to scroll down to read the vital information.)

    Managing time – calendars and clocks:

    Ancient Egyptian writing:

    Your task: Create an attractive A4 page divided into four parts. Your heading is “Legacies of Ancient Egypt”. In each quarter of the page paste a picture and write (using your own words) about the legacy you have chosen and why you think it is impressive, significant or influential in history.


    Then write a comment in answer to this cruel but fascinating question: What legacy would you as an individual like to leave behind?

    Another way to put this could be: How do you intend to leave the world a better place than you found it?

                     My legacy…