Lesson Ideas for Teachers

Making multicultural Australia

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KLA/Subject: English | Geography | History

Stage: Stage 5

Who is a Refugee?


  • 5.6 analyses the impact of different perspectives on geographical issues at local, national and global scales
  • 5.7 explains Australia’s links with other countries and its role in the global community
  • 5.1 explains social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluates their impact on Australia life
  • 5.2 assesses the impact of international events and relationships on Australia’s history
  • 5.9 demonstrates understanding of the ways texts reflect personal and public worlds
  • 5.10 questions, challenges and evaluates cultural assumptions in texts and their effects on meaning


The intention of this lesson idea is to examine issues associated with refugees and asylum seekers as they have impacted on contemporary Australia. It begins with definitions and then continues with material from Making Multicultural Australia, especially stories and children’s drawings. There are also references to materials which students can explore from the Roads to Refuge kit and from a number of websites devoted to refugees. At least three lessons could be based on this theme. There are also numerous ideas for extension activities.

Material to Download

Artworks: Drawings by children in detention

Miscellaneous Documents: The Story of Fatima

Video Transcripts: Survivors of the SIEVX

Fact sheet: Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants, from Racism. No way!

Definitions: Hotwords definitions for 'refugee' and 'asylum seeker'

For extension activities:

Artworks: HSC Artworks

Artworks: Refugee Art

Artworks: Tapestry and Weaving

Artworks: Textile Journeys

Lesson Ideas: Face the Facts: teaching resources on refugees and asylum seekers, from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Suggested Activities

  1. As a class brainstorm the meaning of the word ‘refugee’. Write the word in the centre of the whiteboard and ask the class to tell you what it means and discuss. (Alternatively, definitions from reference materials may be written up on butchers paper and placed around the room.)
  2. Repeat this process, this time with the phrase 'asylum seeker'.
  3. Ask students to look up the meaning of 'refugee' and 'asylum seeker' in a dictionary. As a class, compare the dictionary definitions with the definitions provided in the Hotwords section of this website or with definitions provided in other education resources such as Roads to Refuge kit, Secondary Student Book.
  4. Download and distribute Fact Sheet 'Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants', from Racism. No way! (see 'Materials to Download'). As a class, read and discuss.
  5. Choose a story about an asylum seeker. Read it to the class. For asylum seeker stories, see:
    • the Roads to Refuge kit
    • 'Survivors of the SIEVX'(see 'Materials to Download')
    • 'The story of Fatima' (see 'Materials to Download')

    Ask students for their personal responses to these stories. Prompt questions may include:
    • How does the story make you feel?
    • How does this person’s life experiences compare with your own?
    • What are the forces that have led to this person becoming a refugee?
    • How does the person feel about being in Australia?
    • How would you feel and respond in a similar situation?
  6. Download and display the artworks 'Drawings by children in detention'. Brainstorm with the class the story that the children artists are trying to tell through their drawings. Nominate a scribe to write the story that emerges from the brainstorm and read it back to the class.
  7. Ask students to write a discussion essay in response to the statement: “The way we treat refugees when they arrive in Australia is the most important influence on how well they settle here.” (from Roads to Refuge, Secondary Student Book, page 29).

Preparation Checklist

You will need:

  • access to a Roads to Refuge kit. These kits were distributed to all government schools in 2003
  • to download the artworks 'Drawings by children in detention' and create an overhead transparency. Where possible, these artworks could be projected directly from a computer.
  • to download and copy the Fact sheet, 'Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants', from Racism. No way! for each student
  • Video and projection equipment


Ask students to:

  1. Write a short play where the Minister for Immigration is being interviewed by an asylum seeker who spent a year in a detention centre and later became a journalist for a community newspaper. The journalist manages to organise the interview without the Minister finding out that the journalist had been an asylum seeker. The journalist tries to find out why the Australian government has adopted the policies of mandatory detention for asylum seekers.
  2. Explore the feelings of refugees as they express them in art. Use the following resources which can be accessed via links in the 'Materials to Download' section above:
    • HSC Artworks (scroll through the Artsworks and select those by Thi Ngugen (Refugee boats) and Michael Aziz (The Cause of Freedom))
    • Refugee Art (8 paintings and explanations from the exhibition: “a patch of blue…”)
    • Tapestry and Weaving (6 works and explanation reflecting the different backgrounds of the creators who were refugees)
    • Textile Journeys (6 stories told in fabric by Refugee Women from North East Africa).
  3. Watch the video from the Roads to Refuge kit. Discuss with the class descriptions of refugees and stories form the video.
  4. Research the internet for ideas about what we can do to assist refugees and asylum seekers who seek protection in Australia. Visit sites like:
  5. Use this lesson on refugees and asylum seekers from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission: Face the Facts
  6. Find examples of prominent Australians who came to Australia as refugees and discuss their contributions to the Australian and international communities. For example, see Australia is Refugees: Schools project for years 10 to 12.

  7. Examples of other people to research include:
    • Tuong Quang Luu (Head of SBS Radio)
    • Sir Gustav Nossel (scientist)
    • Judy Cassab (artist)
    • Caroline Tran (JJJ presenter)
    • Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (scientist, author, broadcaster, educator)
    • Judit Korner (businesswomen)
    • Jardin Truong (businessman)
    • Frank Lowy (businessman)

Related Resources

Lesson Notes

Teachers need to be aware of the possible psychological impact of this material on students, especially if they have spent time in refugee camps and/or detention centres as some students coming to Australia have. In such cases, the school counsellor may be invited to assist.

Date Added:

09 December 2004