Activity 3: Migrant experience and national identity

Materials required

Extracts from Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Collection:


'Freedom Isn't Just a Word', pages 60 - 61
Geoffrey Blainey extract, page 41
'The Big Ideas', questions 8 and 9, page 62
'The Myer Story', pages 39 - 4
'Unity and Diversity', introduction, page 50


Pens and paper
Tape recorder 

Key questions

  • How have the stories of immigrant Australians contributed to a developing Australian identity?
  • Are there continuing ideas about national characteristics and values that most Australians share?

3.1 Introduction

Establish a context by reading the introduction to 'Unity and Diversity', page 50, with the class. Together, students identify and list the national origins of class members. Students discuss factors that may have brought their forebears to Australia.

Students read and respond to the Geoffrey Blainey extract, by listing other noted and admired people of non-Australian origins in the local or wider community.

3.2 Exploring the migrant experience

Read aloud the extract 'Freedom Isn't Just a Word'. Discuss question 8 in 'The Big Ideas', page 62. Read aloud and discuss 'The Myer Story'.

Focus questions:

  • What are the qualities that took Myer to success?
  • In what way did Myer make an immediate difference and contribution to his Bendigo community?
  • Why do many migrants succeed 'against the odds'? Do their stories have anything in common with early Australian pioneers?
  • Does Australia provide 'a fair go' for new settlers? Are we able to recognise qualities we admire in people from different backgrounds?

3.3 Researching local migrant stories

Students prepare and tape interviews and collect a small range of stories about the migrant experience. The interviews should aim to find out what new settlers saw as special about Australia, why they wanted to come here and whether Australia has met their expectations. The stories should be collected from people of different ages and should include men's, women's and children's voices.

Collect the stories in a class anthology for all class members to read.

3.4 Developing an identikit

With the class, develop a list of Australian characteristics that emerge from the collected stories.

Using this list, students work in groups to develop an identikit of 7 - 10 items that show the characteristics of modern Australia and the qualities of Australian society that are most important to Australians. The identikit may contain written work, drawings and objects. A list of contents should be provided with a short explanation of why the particular item was included.

3.5 Extension activities

A film festival

A short season of Australian films aiming to capture 'Australian values' could be staged. In each case, students could identify the qualities and values being presented, look at what has changed and debate the relevance and accuracy of the depictions. Some suitable inclusions could be The Sentimental Bloke, Gallipoli, The Harp in the South, Jedda, Crocodile Dundee, The Castle, Looking for Allibrandi.

A class forum

A class forum could be held around the summative topic provided as question 9 in 'The Big Ideas', page 62: 'Are we an un-united nation now that we can no longer say about ourselves that we are "one race, one language, one religion"? What holds us together? What are the things we have in common?'

Introduction | Activity 1 | Activity 2