Vietnam War

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Vietnam War  |  Stage 6  |  History

Context Summary


Relevance of the Unit:  

This era was one of enormous social change and may be seen as a watershed in Australia’s post war history. This unit of study is highly relevant to the students of this class as it will examine the overarching impact of the war had on every facet of Australian life. It will look at the long term impacts and how Australia’s involvement shaped our nation today as well as the rest of the modern world. The Vietnam War had a huge impact on South-East Asian countries as well as immigration in the Pacific. This changed the international structure of the world and increased social mobility and had a significant role in globalisation. As the students come from a range of cultural backgrounds, they could find it interesting to investigate the role of their own cultures in the conflict and how their own lives have been shaped by it.

Possible Engagement Factor:

There is an initial inconsistent level of engagement in the class. However, this unit utilizes differentiated activities that will attempt to engage all student’s interest levels. It will to use visual, kinetic, empathetic, literary and creative modes of learning to ensure that all students are involved in the learning process and also remain interested in their own study.  There is a possibility that students who are apathetic might distance from the topic, in this case the relevance of the unit must be stressed continually and a wide range of sources should be used to keep these student engaged.  

Level of Difficulty:

The topic uses historical skills and concepts that have been brought up in earlier units. Thus it should not be any more difficult than previous topics. It however encounters confronting images and videos and will require a high level of individual inquiry which could be challenging for some students.  

Sample term

5 weeks

Detail: 15 hours 3 lessons per week

Unit overview

Prior Knowledge

This unit will examine the pre war context, wartime experiences and aftermath the Vietnam War focusing on both Australia and Vietnam. More specifically it will investigate: the rise of communism and its impact on Australian society, the origins and causes of the Vietnam War, the reasons for Australia’s military engagement, impact of the war on Australian and Vietnamese society, daily life of Australian and Vietnamese individuals, responses and perspectives of societal structures and the social, political and cultural changes involved in the aftermath.  
Week 1 - 2: Pre-war context  (6 lessons)

  • Rise and Threat of Communism (2 lessons)

  • Origins of the Vietnam War (2 lessons)

  • Australia’s Involvement (2 lessons)

Week 3 - 4: Wartime experiences  (6 lessons)

  • Impact on Everyday Australians and Vietnamese (3 lessons)

  • Societal responses and conflicting perspectives (3 lessons)

Week 5: Aftermath (3 lessons)

  • End of war (1 lesson)

  • Social, political and cultural changes (2 lessons)

Students have already examined ‘The Making of the Modern World’ which includes a depth study of Australians at War: World War I and World War II. This provides a foundational background to the Vietnam War and Australia’s involvement as it ensures an understanding of:

  • the impact the World Wars on society itself.

  • the rise of communism

  • the structures of the world system prior to the 1960s.

  • the economic, political and social position of Australia within the world at this time

In addition they recognise historical concepts and have some historical skills including:

  • analysis and evaluation of sources

  • interpretation of events

  • understanding of continuity and change


- Mason, Experience of Nationhood: Modern Australia since 1901

- Anderson & Ashton, Australia in the 20th Century

-Darlington, Greer & Hospodaryk, History Zone 2: Australia Since 1901

- Retro Active 2

- DVD “Australians at War” Episode 7 Australia and the Vietnam War

- film “Goodmorning Vietnam”

- Websites and ICT

- DVD “Australian History Series 1”

- Cook Peter, Australia and Vietnam 1965-1972, La Trobe University Melbourne. 1991.

- Australian’s at War - Episode 7 “Vietnam War


Historical and Critical Literacy, Numeracy and ICT skills

History K-10

›   HT51 explains and assesses the historical forces and factors that shaped the modern world and Australia

›   HT53 explains and analyses the motives and actions of past individuals and groups in the historical contexts that shaped the modern world and Australia

›   HT54 explains and analyses the causes and effects of events and developments in the modern world and Australia

›   HT55 identifies and evaluates the usefulness of sources in the historical inquiry process

›   HT57 explains different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the modern world and Australia

›   HT58 selects and analyses a range of historical sources to locate information relevant to an historical inquiry

›   HT59 applies a range of relevant historical terms and concepts when communicating an understanding of the past

›   HT510 selects and uses appropriate oral, written, visual and digital forms to communicate effectively about the past for different audiences

Development of Historical and Critical Literacy

- comprehensive analysis of primary and secondary written sources

- selection and organisation of written sources

- ability to draw conclusions from sources

- evaluate and analyse different historical perspectives
Development of Numeracy Skills

- students interpret chronological timelines and sequence key events

- assess and evaluate statistical tables

- interpret graphs

Development of ICT Skills

- select suitable software to present a research task

- locate, select and organise information from a variety of ICT sources


Teaching, learning and assessment


1.     Threat of communism worldwide and its influence on Australia:

-  How did the Australian government respond to the threat of communism after WWII.

-  Treaties ANZUS and SEATO

Students Learn To:

-  Sequence key events in Australia’s  military response to the threats of communism in Asia after WWII.

-  Explain the purpose of the treaties Australia contracted during this period.

-  Outline the key development in Australia’s response to communism within Australia.

-  Overview on Australia and the world post WWII.

-  Overview on the cold war - students outline the characteristics of political systems during and after the cold war and its influence on Australia.


-  Students create a timeline of important events on the lead up to the Vietnam war. i.e WWII, cold war etc.


-  Students identify and research the 2 major pacts that were important to Australia’s security in the region in a response to the threat of communism and the lead up to war.


- Assess students learning→ using information from the text, sources and your own library research, write an essay that answers the question: How did Australia respond to the cold war?

Evidence of Learning:

- formative mark with written feedback

- interactive class discussion with teacher feedback   

- Textbook “Experience of Nationhood” The Communist issue.

- Picture Source “The Red Menace”

- Retro Active 2

- Internet, ICT

- Picture source: The Red Menace, Ted Scorfield, The Bulletin, 12 March 1958; Bulletin Cartoon, “Cornered” By Scorfield 1950 - Anti Red Bill

2. The rise of the Vietnam War and how Australia became involved:

-    Rise of communism in South East Asia - influence on Australia’s actions

-    Influence of the USA

-    Responses to communism

-    Entry into the war.

-    Referendum to ban the Community Party.

-    The Petrov Affair

-  Students explore and identify the reasons became involved in the war.

-  Understand the nature of Australia’s military commitment to the war.

-  Understand democracy’s role in entering a war - who makes the decision in  a democracy to war or not? Develops ideas on democracy in the modern world.

a) Students refer to the speech by Robert Menzies and evaluate his influence on Australia’s involvement in the war and the influence of others

b) Students read this source and analyse the reasons WHY Australians needed to continue to fights against communism ‘far from our soil’?.

c) Students read this source and EXPLAIN Menzies’ justification for sending Aussie troops to Vietnam.


a) Students use this source as a starting point and summarise the arguments FOR and AGAINST sending Australian troops to Vietnam→ Columns of ‘for’ and ‘against’-

b) Using the argumentative points and other ones they’ve come across. Students can pretend to be an electorate or political party trying to convince Australia to go to war or not go to war.

-  Students should be encouraged to think on a national level not just a personal one.

-  At the end of class have a silent vote or a ballot vote to see what the students generally feel towards the war, to understand the thoughts of the students throughout the classroom.
Evidence of Learning

- teacher circulates around class to support student answers

-  Retro Active 2 Source 6.4 Page 222

-  Retro Active 2 Source 6.6 Page 222.

-  Retro Active 2 Source 616

Page 229-230

-  Australia in the 20th Century

-  Experience of Nationhood

-  Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 29 April 1965, pages 1102-7.

- The Safe House by Lee Whitmore:

3. How did the war impact everyday Australians (women, soldiers, aboriginals)

good morning Vietnam

students learn to:

- Draw conclusions about the usefulness of sources

- Identify perspectives of different groups

- Interpret history within the context of the actions, values, attitudes and motives of people from the past

- Recognise that historians may interpret events differently

-  Students take notes throughout this AND identify AND evaluate different attitudes of the different groups eg women, soldiers etc).

-  Students to view video of the Vietnam War and Source 1 public opinion poll results and Source 2 Election Results. Then the class would discuss the impact of images on different groups within Australian (ie, women etc)


-  Teacher sets up mock Cu Chi Tunnel with chairs and cloth and a battery operated candle as the only source of light. Each student experiences the feeling of a Cu Chi Tunnel. With this experience and research from websites students create a diary entry in the footsteps of a Vietnamese soldier.

Evidence of Learning:

- Swapping notes with a designated peer

- Interactive class discussion with teacher feedback

-  Film: good morning Vietnam.

-  Video: Australian History Series 1

- DVD Australians at War episode 7 “The Vietnam War”

- Australia and Vietnam p39


- Experience of Nationhood

(4) How did various groups respond to Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.

- Anti-War Protests.

- Moratorium Movement

- Conscientious objectors

- Supporters of the war

-  - Identify perspectives of different groups.

- -  Explain the reason why different groups within Australia supported or opposed Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

 -  Select appropriate sources that reflect different perspectives about Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

- - Interpret history within the contexts of actions, values, attitudes and motives for people from the past.

- - Use knowledge, understanding and relevant evidence to create an appropriate historical text, using ICT.

-  Students imagine that they are a newspaper reporter. Write a brief description of the first moratorium march, using sources…. as the basis of your report.


-  Students design a anti-war movement poster. Students interpret a source and answer an essay question as per Weebly ICT activity.


-  Using sources explain the overall aim of   the Moratorium movement.


-  Explain the change in Australian attitude towards the countries of Indochina.

Evidence of Learning:

- formative mark with written feedback

- class discussion with oral feedback from teacher

- class discussion of written work with oral feedback from teacher


- for poster design

- Weebly ICT task

- Australian War Memorial website

- Textbooks “Experience of Nationhood


5. End of the war and the aftermath in Australia And Vietnam

- Atrocities committed/failure of forces.

- Impact in Vietnam that influences the state today.

- Landmines

- Loss of life

- War babies/marriages

- Displaced people- Indochina refugees.

- Changing political and cultural structures

- Return of the troops - assimilation back into society

- Draw conclusions about the usefulness of sources for a specific historical inquiry.

- Identify perspectives of different group.

- Recognise that historians may interpret events differently.

-Students evaluate the impact of the war in today’s society.


a) Students view sources (ie. photos from the war) that show the impact of the Vietnam war and evaluate their usefulness.

b) Students annotate this source (frightening scene emphasises through the dark background and fear on their faces, child in foreground brings the viewer into drama, central image of child is naked and terrified etc).
c) They would then discuss the impact that this source (and maybe others) would have had on the public opinion.


Evidence of Learning:

- Teacher provides written feedback on activity

- Interactive class discussion with teacher feedback

- Australia in the 20th Century (text book)

- Experience of Nationhood

- Australian Casualties: Appendix F, "Statistics", Ian McNeil and Ashley Ekins, On the offensive: the Australian Army in the Vietnam War 1967–1968 (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2003)


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