With the implementation of the Australian Curriculum, the learning area of Society and Environment has been greatly impacted. What has been considered a multidisciplinary learning area is now known as Humanities and Social Sciences with prescribed content, teaching and learning approaches and achievement standards. This paper describes an investigation into the development of pre-service teachers’ pedagogical interests in society and environment as they transition into more disciplinary ways of knowing. An issues-based approach has been used to explore and develop pre-service teachers’ pedagogical interests and practice. The study found that a focus on contemporary issues helped to develop pre-service teachers’ emancipatory interests that were further extended through a school-based inquiry. Such contemporary issues could be found in the identified themes documented in Shape of the Australian Curriculum: History (National Curriculum Board (NCB), 2009). This finding suggests that a study of contemporary issues aligning with identified themes in the Australian Curriculum History paper can achieve the emancipatory interests that were previously embedded in the society and environment curriculum learning area.