Australia as a nation — race, rights and immigration Warning

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Australia as a nation — race, rights and immigration

Warning: This resource contains references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have passed away.


This unit focuses on Australia’s development as a nation from 1900 onwards, by exploring changing experiences of democracy and citizenship through the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

In this unit, students will have the opportunity to develop their understanding of the impacts of racism and discrimination, investigate racist and anti-racist actions of citizens and governments, and learn about the lives of ethnic and cultural minorities in Australia.

Students will develop knowledge and understanding about human rights and Australia’s responsibilities to its citizens, particularly groups vulnerable to discrimination.

Students involved in the demonstration against discrimination of Aboriginal people in Walgett, NSW. Photograph reproduced with permission of Wendy Watson-Ekstein.

Table of Contents


Introduction 1

Focus 8

Teaching and learning activities 8

Achievement and learning outcomes 10

Sequence 1—Exploring human rights and freedoms 12

Sequence 2— Ending racial discrimination 20

Sequence 3—Exploring migrant experiences 45

Sequence 4— Refugees and asylum seekers 63

Unit review 72

Resources for Australia as a nation — race, rights and immigration 73

Worksheets 78

About this resource:

The Australian Human Rights Commission encourages the dissemination and exchange of information provided in this publication.

All material presented in this publication is provided under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia, with the exception of:

  • the Australian Human Rights Commission Logo

  • photographs and images

  • any content or material provided by third parties.

The details of the relevant licence conditions are available on the Creative Commons website, as is the full legal code for the CC BY 3.0 AU licence



Material obtained from this publication is to be attributed to the Australian Human Rights Commission with the following copyright notice:

© Australian Human Rights Commission 2014.

Electronic format

This publication can be found in electronic format on the website of the Australian Human Rights Commission:

Contact details

For further information about the Australian Human Rights Commission, please visit or email

You can also write to:

Human Rights Education Team

Australian Human Rights Commission

GPO Box 5218

Sydney NSW 2001

Links to the Australian Curriculum

Year 10 History: Australia as a nation


The content in this unit relates to the Australian Curriculum: History for Year 6 which looks at Australia as a nation.

General Capabilities

The general capabilities emphasised in this unit of work are Intercultural understanding, Ethical understanding, Literacy, Personal and social capability, Critical and creative thinking, and Information and communication technology (ICT) capability.

Cross-curriculum priority

The cross-curriculum priorities emphasised in this unit are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures and Asia and Australia´s engagement with Asia.

Content descriptions


ACHHK114 — Experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, women, and children.

  • the lack of citizenship rights for Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia

  • describing the significance of the 1967 referendum

  • investigating the stories of individuals or groups who advocated or fought for rights in twentieth-century Australia

ACHHK115 — Stories of groups of people who migrated to Australia (including from ONE Asian country) and the reasons they migrated, such as World War II and Australian migration programs since the war.

  • comparing push and pull factors that have contributed to people migrating to Australia

 (ACHHK116) The contribution of individuals and groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and migrants, to the development of Australian society, for example in areas such as the economy, education, science, the arts, sport.

  • investigating the role of specific cultural groups in Australia’s economic and social development (for example the Snowy Mountains Scheme)

  • considering notable individuals in Australian public life across a range of fields, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Key Historical Concepts

The Australian Curriculum for History outlines a number of key historical concepts that should be taught in conjunction with historical knowledge and skills.

These key concepts provide a focus for historical investigation, a framework for organising historical information and a guide for developing historical understanding and analysing sources.

This unit includes a focus on the following key historical concepts.

Cause and effect - used by historians to identify chains of events and developments over time, short term and long term

Continuity and change - aspects of the past that remained the same over certain periods of time are referred to as continuities. Continuity and change are evident in any given period of time and concepts such as progress and decline may be used to evaluate continuity and change.

Empathy - empathy is an understanding of the past from the point of view of a particular individual or group, including an appreciation of the circumstances they faced, and the motivations, values and attitudes behind their actions

Perspective - a person’s perspective is their point of view, the position from which they see and understand events going on around them. People in the past may have had different points of view about a particular event, depending on their age, gender, social position and their beliefs and values. For example a convict girl and an Aboriginal Elder would have had quite different perspectives on the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia. Historians also have perspectives and this can influence their interpretation of the past.

Sources and evidence - any written or non-written materials that can be used to investigate the past, for example coins, photographs, letters, gravestones, buildings. A source becomes ‘evidence’ if it is of value to a particular inquiry (for example the relative size of historical figures in an ancient painting may provide clues for an inquiry into the social structure of the society). Evidence can be used to help construct a historical narrative, to support a hypothesis or to prove or disprove a conclusion.

For a more detailed explanation of the key historical concepts outlined in the Australian Curriculum, refer to the History Teachers’ Association of Australia's key concepts guide.


Key concepts, History Teachers’ Association of Australia

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