Defining Identities
Level 4 Civics and Citizenship Focus

Introduction to Defining Identities

In this module students explore notions of identity; considering how is it formed and what it means.  They also consider diversity in Australia, with a focus on allegiance, loyalty and belonging.

All activities in this module are aligned to the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship, Years 9 and 10 (Click here to see the Curriculum Links

The module focuses on developing intercultural understanding through the following learning objectives.  Students will:

This guide provides information about the four activities in this module:

These activities are complementary but can also be used independently.  Each activity is supported with suggested teacher-led introductory and concluding activities.  For the online components students can work individually, in pairs or as small groups.  These activities can also be adapted for use with a smartboard.


Activity 1: Your Cultural Identity

In this activity students explore the hidden and visible aspects of their own cultural identity, and explore how this may influence their relationships with others.

Introductory Activity — Offline

Ask students to explore their identity by drawing outlines of their bodies on butcher's paper (though the activity can also work with scaled down outline drawings).  Ask students to complete the following tasks: Display and share the student outlines.  Discuss the ways in which internal and external factors help shape identity.

Online Activity

Before commencing this activity, familiarise your students with how to navigate through the website.

Part A: Exploring your cultural iceberg
In this activity students read text exploring the factors that influence their cultural identities.  The visible and hidden aspects of culture are exemplified through an iceberg image.  Students then complete a questionnaire enabling them to identify aspects of their own personal culture. 

Concluding Activity — Offline

Discuss and reiterate some examples of hidden and visible cultural characteristics with your students.  Explain to students that they are going to get to know one another at a deeper level bydiscussing some of their hidden cultural characteristics in small groups.  Ask students to discuss the following questions in groups: You may like to mix the groups after each question is discussed.


Activity 2: Australian Identities

In this activity students explore what it means to be Australian and the many factors that shape Australian identities.

You may find the Talking about contentious issues guide a useful reference throughout this activity.

Introductory Activity — Offline

Discuss with students how much the way they see themselves is shaped by internal and external factors.  Ask students to identify and consider four people in their lives whom they have different sorts of relationships with (e.g. teacher, friend, priest, the local café owner).  Students should reflect on how they think each of these people would describe them.  Ask each student to present a short role-play for the class expressing how they think one of these selected people would describe them.

Discuss the influence that other people’s opinions have in shaping identity.

Online Activity

Part A: Shaping identity
Students explore the many different factors that can shape Australian identities today using a short video of a man describing his identity as stimulus.  Students then complete a written task, where they describe their identity to someone from another country, including their cultural heritage and interests.

Part B: Who is Australian?
In Part B students complete a short questionnaire where, based on a short hypothetical description, students express their opinion on whether people should be considered Australian or not.

Part C: Being Australian
After watching two short videos, students explore the idea of being Australian and 'something else'.  Students are given some reflection/discussion questions, which ask them to reflect on loyalty and allegiance to Australia before providing a written response about what they think it means to be Australian.

Concluding Activity — Offline

Australian Citizenship formally identifies someone as Australian.  Children born to one or more Australian parents can automatically gain Citizenship.  Others can apply to become Citizens if they meet the current criteria set by the Australian government.  To become Citizens, applicants must make the following pledge at a Citizenship Ceremony.

From this time forward, under God,*
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect,
and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
* the words 'under God' are optional

Ask students to analyse this pledge and create an alternative version that reflects what they believe is important about being Australian, and how they would like this expressed.


Activity 3: Living With Diversity

In this activity students explore their own physical and emotional reactions to dealing with the diversity in Australia today.

You may find the Talking about contentious issues guide a useful reference throughout this activity.

Introductory Activity — Offline

Ask your students to brainstorm all the reasons why an ability to engage with different cultures and individuals is a useful and important skill in their lives.

Online Activity

Part A: Being different
In Part A students reflect on the cultural diversity in Australia today.  They also use the Harvard Visible Thinking routine, 'See Think Wonder' to react to an image about difference.

Part B: Dealing with difference
In Part B students focus on some of the emotional and physical responses that interacting with people who are different can, at times, cause.  Students are also asked to rate their level of comfort in response to hypothetical situations they might find themselves in.  The scenarios include images or sound recordings.

Concluding Activity — Offline

Explore the concept of dominant culture with your students.  Challenge students to consider if Anglo Australians are advantaged or privileged in Australia today.  Ask students to reflect on the following questions (which have been adapted from Peggy McIntosh 'White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack', Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women, 1990).
  1. Can you if you wish arrange to be in the company of people of your race most of the time?
  2. Can you turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of your race widely represented?
  3. When you are told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” are you shown that people of your race made it what it is?
  4. Can you go into a music shop and count on finding the music of your race represented or into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with your cultural traditions?
  5. Are you never asked to speak for all the people of your racial group?
  6. Can you go into a chemist and buy a bandaid that somewhat reflects the colour of your skin?
Most Anglo Australian students will answer yes to all these questions.  Use this activity to reflect on some of the things that members of the dominant culture in Australia may take for granted.


Activity 4: Australia Day

In this activity students explore the meaning of Australia Day to different Australians and to themselves.

Introductory Activity — Offline

As a class, ask students to reflect on Australia Day and suggest answers to the following questions about Australia Day:

Online Activity

Part A: A day with many meanings
In this activity students watch a video showing how four individuals view Australia Day and what it means to them.  Students are then asked to complete another Visible Thinking routine, Connect Extend Challenge, where they reflect on the content of the video and relate it to their lives.

Concluding Activity — Offline

(There is no Concluding Activity for Activity 4.)


Module Reflection

You may like to use a reflection or self-assessment strategy to monitor student engagement with this module.


Further Activity Ideas