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KLA/Subject: Aboriginal Studies | English | History | PDHPE

Stage: Stage 4 | Stage 5

Raising the Issue of Racism


  • 4.4 uses and describes language forms and features, and structures of texts appropriate to different purposes, audiences and contexts
  • 4.5 makes informed language choices to shape meaning with accuracy, clarity and coherence (5.4, 5.5 similar to stage 4, but more sophisticated)
  • 4.5 identifies the meaning, purpose and context of historical sources
  • 4.7 identifies different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past (5.5 & 5.7 similar but with the need to comprehend and explain)
  • 4.1 describes and analyses the influences on a sense of self
  • 4.3 describes the qualities of positive relationships and strategies to address the abuse of power (5.1, 5.3 similar but more analytical
Aboriginal Studies
  • 4.1 identifies the factors that contribute to an Aboriginal person’s identity
  • 4.8 describes the interaction of the wider Australian community with Aboriginal peoples and cultures (5.1, 5.8 similar but more analytical)


This lesson raises the issue of racism. It begins with a definition, considers the ways it affects Australian society and examines ways of dealing with racism. It draws on legislation like the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and considers reports like the National Inquiry into Racist Violence (1991). Students have the opportunity to explore how they as a group consider this phenomenon and challenges them to consider ways of countering racism. The idea of the lesson is also to draw attention to the resources at the Racism. No Way! website and to place the issue in an historical context. This lesson idea can be used for a single lesson or a number of lessons.

Material to Download

Reports: Report on the National Inquiry into Racist Violence

Reports: National Inquiry into Racist Violence: Summary

Definitions: Relevant "Hotwords", such as racism, race, anti-racism

Document: Summary of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act (1975), found on Racism. No Way!

Document: Recognising Racism at School, found on Racism. No Way!

Document: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission: Complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act

Suggested Activities

  1. Write the word ‘racism’ in the centre of the board with a circle around it and brainstorm definitions. Ask the class questions like:
    • What is racism?
    • How would you describe it?
    • How does it manifest?

    Write, or ask a student to write, all the words the students think of around the centre word 'racism' and to draw lines to join them. This kind of free association brainstorm allows the class to clarify their thinking.
    Discuss with the class the words on the board and how it helps students to better understand racism.
  2. As a class, create a definition of ‘racism’ based on the brainstorm. Compare the class’ definition with the one provided in the Hotwords section of this site.
  3. Repeat steps 1 to 4, this time using the word ‘anti-racism’.
  4. As a class, examine and discuss the word ‘race’ as defined in the Hotwords.
  5. Download a copy of the summary of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act (1975) found on the Racism. No way! website (see 'Materials to Download'). Divide the class into groups and ask each group to read and discuss the the summary. Ask groups to report their findings to the class.

Preparation Checklist

You will need:

  • to download and copy the summary of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act (1975) found on Racism. No Way!
  • to download required definitions from the Hotwords section and display using a whiteboard or overhead projector
  • whiteboard/butchers paper
  • to download and copy of 'Complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act' for the extension activity (see 'Materials to Download')
  • computer access for students for the extension activity.


Ask students to:

  1. Design a survey on racism to conduct with classmates, friends and relatives including questions like:
    • What is racism?
    • Is there racism in Australia?
    • What causes racism?
    • Have they ever experienced racism? If so, what happened?
    • What needs to be done about racism?
  2. Write an essay or a short story or a short play on the comment made by an Indigenous woman to the National Consultation: Racism and Civil Society:
  3. We just live with racism every day. It’s like getting up, washing your face and having a cup of tea.”
  4. Read and discuss the information sheet on Complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act.
  5. Visit the Racism No Way! site and find out what schools are doing to counter racism.
  6. Design an anti-racism activity for your school or community.

Related Resources

Lesson Notes

“Racism is destructive. It disempowers people by devaluing their identity. It destroys community cohesion and creates divisions in society. It is the opposite of the democratic principle of equality and the right of all people to be treated fairly.” (Racism. No way! See Understanding Racism)

The importance of language in defining our sense of who we are cannot be overestimated. Our names, the names of our families and the cultural groups with whom we identify give us a sense of who we are. Any negative associations with these are likely to disempower us.

The extent of racism in Australia is indicated by the comment by the Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr William Jonas, in his introduction to the report summary:

“The responses and comments we received during the consultation process clearly demonstrate an overwhelming sense that racism and related forms of intolerance are serious problems that affect many people in Australian society. The consultations indicated that racially discriminatory practices are widespread, institutional in nature and practiced at all levels of society.”

Date Added:

09 December 2004