This paper is both about the difficulty of seriously studying curriculum in Australia and about some tentative analyses of state curriculum policies over the period 1975-2005. Both perspectives are findings of an ARC-funded project entitled School Knowledge, working knowledge and the knowing subject: a review of state curriculum policies 1975-2005. The aim of the project was to map curriculum emphases and orientations in each state at each mid-decade point between 1975 and 2005, to show something of the differences and consistencies over time and between states. It was intended also to provide some background and ways of thinking about current curriculum questions and moves to national curriculum that do not begin from these current debates. The project has proved almost impossible to carry out in the time and with the resources allocated to it, because 'curriculum' and even 'curriculum policy' is a highly ambiguous term, and because documents and reports that might be seen as relevant take many forms, and are not well maintained or catalogued or easily accessed. This paper describes the strategies we took to attempt to fulfil the intent of this study and our interpretation of some major shifts over this period in relation to the approach to curriculum and some significant comparative differences between states.