Who Can Be Australian?
Level 4 History Focus

Introduction to Who Can Be Australian?

In this module students explore Australian government policies relating to immigration and citizenship since Australian Federation, with particular focus on the White Australia policy, the treatment of citizens at different times throughout the last century and how these practices shape policies and society today.

All activities in this module are aligned to the Australian Curriculum: History, 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 three 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 of Activity 1 and 2, students can work individually or in pairs.  It is suggested students work on Activity 3 in small groups.  These activities can also be adapted for use with a smartboard.


Activity 1: White Australia

In this activity students analyse historical source material to explore the reasons for and implementation of the White Australia policy in 1901.  They consider the legacy that this policy has had on Australia.

Some of the views and language expressed in the historic sources explored in this activity are discriminatory and may cause offence or distress for some students.  Care should be taken to contextualise the historic perspectives for your students.  You may find the Talking about contentious issues guide a useful reference throughout this module.

Introductory Activity — Offline

Ask students to use the Think Pair Share strategy to discuss the following question: Do you think 'white' people are advantaged in Australia today?

Students should be given time to think about the question before pairing with another student to share their thoughts.

Online Activity

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

Part A: White Australia
In Part A students explore attitudes in Australia at the time the White Australia policy was introduced.  Students analyse the context and content of four historical sources with the help of reflection questions.  They then reflect on the four sources to provide written answers to two questions, which focus on the attitudes at the time. 

Part B: The Immigration Restriction Act
Students listen to a selection of audio files that are excerpts from parliamentary debates about the introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901.  Students are asked to list arguments for and against the White Australia policy based on what they have heard in the audio sources.

Part C: Dictation test
Students are challenged to attempt an actual version of the dictation test, which was used as a means of enforcing the White Australia policy.  They are likely to fail in their attempt!

An audio recording of the dictation can be played, and students are asked to type or write their attempt.  Students should not pause the audio file, but attempt to complete the test in one go.

Concluding Activity — Offline

Discuss the following questions with your students:


Activity 2: The Citizenship Files

In this activity students explore the rights and responsibilities of Australian Citizenship and 'open' some cases from the past that relate to citizenship.  Students decide if they think the individuals involved were treated fairly by the governments of the day.

Introductory Activity — Offline

As a class, ask students to create a list of the rights and responsibilities of Australian Citizenship.  Ensure that the list covers the following rights and responsibilities.

Australian Citizens have the right to:

Australian Citizens have a responsibility to: Once again some of the views and language expressed in the historic sources explored in this activity are discriminatory and may cause offence or distress for some students.  Care should be taken to contextualise the historic perspectives for your students.

Online Activity

Part A: Open the Citizenship Files
Students explore five historical cases relating to Australian Citizenship by exploring historical sources.  Students answer two questions about each case; firstly summarising their understanding of the case and then reflecting on their own thoughts and feelings.

Part B: Take the poll
Students rate how fairly they think government handled each of the cases.

Concluding Activity — Offline

Compare and discuss the student ratings of each Citizenship Files case.  Question students to draw out their reasons for rating each case as they did.


Activity 3: A Heated Debate

In this activity students look at the strongly held and often differing views that Australians hold about immigration, citizenship and population polices today.  They consider the historic context of these issues.

Introductory Activity — Offline

Discuss the following questions with your students:

Online Activity

Part A: A heated debate

Students watch a short video where five members of the Federal Parliament reflect on Australia's evolving policies in regard to immigration and citizenship and Australian society today.

Students then explore the different views Australians hold about immigration and citizenship by joining a fictional lobby group.  You will need to divide your students into six groups (or adapt to form more or less groups).  Students create a pamphlet about their organisation.  Stress to students that they are taking on a role for this activity.

Student groups should meet to discuss some provided stimulus questions.  Each group must download and save a editable PDF pamphlet and complete each section according to their group's decided context, aims and policies.  Alternatively, the forms can be printed and completed offline.

Their completed pamphlets can be printed and/or shared electronically.

Concluding Activity — Offline

Using the insights that students have gained from creating their pamphlets involve students in developing their own opinions regarding Australia's immigration policy today.  Do this by asking students to complete a Compass Points activity around the proposition that: Australia should increase its migrant intake.

Compass Points involves students in assessing a proposition:

 E = What excites you about the proposition?
W = What is worrisome about the proposition?
N = What more do you need to know about the proposition?
S = What is your stance or suggestion for moving forward?

Compass Points is a Visible Thinking skills routine (Harvard Project Zero).  You may also download and print the Compass Points worksheet.


Module Reflection

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


Further Activity Ideas