Episode clip: The dole inspector Activity 1: Hard times Discover

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Episode clip: The dole inspector

Activity 1: Hard times


  • What did the Great Depression really mean in Australia? Refer to the 'Decade timeline' for descriptions of the 1930s. Read about the effects of the Great Depression on families and individuals.

  • The dole inspector is portrayed as a much feared character, and the community work together to defy the inspector so they can sell market produce grown in their backyard to make money to survive.


  • Students view the clip, 'The dole inspector' and create a class poster, or mind map, of characteristics and facts that visually represent a community experiencing unemployment and economic hardship. Use examples of clothing, food, housing and communities.

  • Students research the beginnings of the economic crisis that became the Great Depression in 1930s Australia. Information gathered should include the following key research items:

  1. jobs

  2. unemployment

  3. housing

  4. the dole

  5. recollections of experiences.

  • As an added experience, research groups can view excerpts from the documentary series, The Bridge (55 mins), which is the first episode of the three-part series entitled 'Constructing Australia'. The film is available at Screen Australia, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/learning/constructingaustralia

  • Other helpful websites include:

  1. Seniors.com.au, http://www.seniors.gov.au

  2. Australian History.org, 'Australian History: The Great Depression', http://www.australianhistory.org/great-depression.php

  3. Screen Australia Digital Learning, http://dl.screenaustralia.gov.au

  • Students, working in small groups, can present the information they find as a front page story for a newspaper on the topic 'Tips for surviving the Great Depression'. The information can be set out with major headlines, diagrams, old footage pictures gathered from various websites and articles relating to the Great Depression in Australia.


  • Student Activity Sheet H8.1: The Great Depression

Episode clip: The dole inspector

Activity 2: Individual strength

Many inspirational stories came out of Australia during the Great Depression. In times of hardship, communities came together to help each other. This support and charity is depicted in Episode 8 of My Place, with Colum, his family and friends.


  • Research and examine some inspirational stories of the Great Depression. Discuss why optimism is so important in times of hardship, and encourage students to make the connections to their own community.


  • Students watch the following clips from the Screen Australia Digital Learning website and take notes about what they see and hear, so they are ready for discussion on the inspirational stories.

  1. The Prime Minister's National Treasures, 'James Scullin and the GCMG', http://dl.screenaustralia.gov.au/module/1095

  2. The Bridge, 'The Bridge Workers', http://dl.screenaustralia.gov.au/module/873

  3. 'Australia Today – Men of Tomorrow', http://australianscreen.com.au/titles/australia-today-men-tomorrow/clip1

  • Students share their thoughts on the clips and draw comparisons on their own community experiences. Tough economic times also affect the lives of students today. Use Student Activity Sheet H8.2 to encourage students to brainstorm their thoughts on how people cope with tough times, both past and present.


  • Student Activity Sheet H8.2: Coping with hard times

Episode clip: The dole inspector

Activity 3: Susso


  • Many people were homeless and relied on relief schemes and food tickets to keep themselves alive. Farmers struggled, unable to pay back loans. Soup kitchens and 'tent cities' sprung up in many cities and towns

  • A form of unemployment benefits was introduced known as the 'susso', which was an abbreviation for sustenance, but its recipients felt a sense of undeserved shame. Long dole queues were found across the land. Many families who lost their homes moved to tent city towns, such as Happy Valley in the council of Waverley in New South Wales. The Unemployment Relief Works Program built valuable roads, pools and buildings giving hundreds of people employment and a sense of self-worth

  • Ask students to discuss the question: Should government unemployment benefits still exist?


  • Students conduct a debate: 'For or against the dole.'

  • The students are divided into groups of five and given a 'for' or 'against' tag. Ask them to work in their teams to research information on the current unemployment benefits scheme and investigate points for or against it. There may be two teams for it and two teams against it. Each team should be given the opportunity to debate in a formal or informal debate setting.


Student Activity Sheet H8.1

Episode 8: 1938: Colum

Activity 1: Hard times

Clip: The dole inspector
The Great Depression

  1. The Great Depression was a worldwide economic crisis that affected Australians in many ways. Research the factors that shaped this economic crisis in Australia in the 1930s (who, what, where, when, how). The information you gather on the Great Depression should include the following key areas:

  1. unemployment and low wages

  2. 'susso' and charity

  3. housing crisis and the homeless

  4. key figures and personal recounts of experiences

    Some helpful websites include:

  • seniors.com.au, http://www.seniors.gov.au

  • Australian History.org, http://www.australianhistory.org/great-depression.php

  • Screen Australia Digital Learning, http://dl.screenaustralia.gov.au

  1. Present your research as a newspaper article written by a journalist either: interviewing a homeless person and reporting their personal story, or as a documentary on the Great Depression. The information can be set out with major headlines, diagrams, original images gathered from various websites and articles relating to the Great Depression in Australia.

  1. You can create an online or paper version of your newspaper story. Use your local or state newspaper websites as a guide to formatting your own newspaper page.

  2. Develop some layout ideas below.

Student Activity Sheet E8.2

Episode 8: 1938: Colum

Activity 2: Individual strength

Clip: The dole inspector

Coping with hard times

  1. View the clips and excerpts from the three Screen Australia Digital Learning websites: The Prime Minister's national treasures, The Bridge, and Men of Tomorrow.

  2. Take notes about how the people depicted in the clips cope with hard times.

  3. Complete the Venn diagram below by listing the ways people survived tough times in the 1930s, and then list some ways people in need cope today.

    Tough economic times

    of the 1930s


    Tough economic times
    of today

Student Activity Sheet H8.3

Episode 8: 1938: Colum

Activity 3: Susso

Clip: The dole inspector
Unemployment relief

  1. Research the history of Australia's unemployment relief scheme. Note when it started, why it started, who started it and how it operates (past and present). List any additional information on the topic.

  1. Develop five points for your argument, for or against the unemployment relief scheme.

© Australian Children's Television Foundation and Education Services Australia Ltd 2010 (except where otherwise indicated). You may use, download and reproduce this material free of charge for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.

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