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Calling Australia Home

Calling Australia Home

Unit Summary

History comes alive for students as they develop immigrant personas and become immigrants who make the journey to Australia. Once on Australian soil, they experience the immigration process. Throughout this process, students create files that illustrate their personal experiences. Students then assume the roles of their immigrants and share their experiences with the class. This exercise in creating historical fiction enables students to understand the motivations of immigrants and the challenges they faced.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    Who are Australians?
  • Unit Questions
    Why take the risk?
    What was it like for immigrants as they travelled to, arrived at, and lived in Australia?
    How did the immigration experience differ for different immigrant groups?
  • Content Questions
    What is immigration and emigration?
    How did Australia regulate immigration?
    Why did immigrants leave their homes to come to Australia in various decades? What was the effect on the families of these people? How did the new arrivals to Australia affect the existing population?

Assessment Processes

View how assessment is used in this unit plan. These assessments help students and teachers set understandable goals, monitor student progress, provide feedback, assess thinking, performance and products and reflect on learning throughout the activities.

Prerequisite Skills

Students Prior Knowledge

  • Students have their family experiences to enrich the personal aspect of this historical study.

Teachers’ Professional Learning

  • Using existing information from student enrolments develop a statistical representation of the school population re country of origin.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

  1. This unit would be studied during the school’s Harmony Day celebrations, when the diversity of the Australian nation is celebrated, along with social values like community, commitment and understanding.
  2. The school would encourage the students’ families to be involved in the students’ work: visiting the school speaking to the class, recording of interviews/videos of their stories, cultural celebrations to be recognised & appreciated.

Teaching and Learning Activities

1. The teacher introduces the unit of work by having students view the film Looking for Alibrandi, which explores the world of an Australian teenager, a ‘second generation’ daughter of Italian migrants. The film narrates Josie’s struggle to mature, intelligently and independently in modern Australia, surrounded by her rich, Italian heritage. Students note the social and multicultural issues being explored, different characters’ perspectives about the Italian community in Australia, and their views about the importance of family, friends, one’s ‘heritage’ and background. If available, an interactive whiteboard can be used to record students’ observations and ideas as the film progresses. Teacher introduces the Essential Question: Who Are Australians? Groups of students use class discussions and notes taken to develop a mind map about the topic of migration, and the make-up of the Australian population.

2. Students begin to record their progress and reflect on their learning by keeping a Learning Journal. Students may choose the medium for this (web 2.0 application, handwritten journal, digital diary, sound bytes. Students will return to this journal regularly during the unit, and parents/carers/teacher should review and give feedback at particular stages.

3. The teacher may also choose to link this unit to the study of the novel Looking for Alibrandi, and introduce activities concerning critical literacy and understanding of the text and characters.

4. Groups of students (3 or 4) begin a KWL about their personal knowledge/experiences about immigration, noting questions that they would like to investigate further. Students add to their Learning Journals.

5. Students will participate in a ‘Lucky dip’ to form groups that will investigate different time zones of Australia’s population growth/immigration history. Time zones could include pre 1800s, 1800s-1900, 1900s-2000, current. Students will research migrant groups, immigration selection &/or processes, laws.

6. Each group will work together to provide summarised information for the class Australian Immigration Timeline. This will illustrate major issues/events which affected population growth and patterns of migration. World maps may be utilised. Groupwork will include cultural descriptions for each major group of migrants. Students research will be guided by the Unit and Content Questions for the unit. Each group will construct their section of the timeline on Excel; each section will then be constructed into one continuous timeline and saved as a webpage.

7. Excursion – eg Immigration Museum, Melbourne or similar local facility. During this excursion students will explore a variety of immigration stories. The teacher may choose to supplement the excursion by having students explore the CD ‘Convict Fleet to Dragon Boat’: A Virtual History of Australian Immigration(Ripple Media Pty Ltd. 1998). This resource offers many migration stories and design ideas for the multimedia activity later in the unit. Students investigate the motives behind individuals’ decisions to emigrate from their homeland; they explore the experiences of migrants themselves, their treatment by authorities and the local population. They begin to consider their effect on local populations in a specific area as well as the overall impact on the Australian population over time. Students add to their Learning Journals, reflecting on their learnings during the excursion and/or their exploration of the stories on the CD.

8. Students then choose and adopt an individual persona, based on true personal experiences or it can be fictitious. They develop interviews & investigate how their individual migration story might unfold, developing the narrative. They identify family members or local contacts for interview; they may choose to use sound recording for collecting stories from family members or local contacts.

9. Students create their story for posting on a Wiki: Calling Australia Home.* If using true, personal experiences, whether their own or others, students will need to change personal details for privacy reasons. The use of Web 2.0 technologies allows students to include sound tracks, video, text, animation to enhance their tales. Again students add to their Learning Journal, noting their reasons for choosing a specific migration story and character; they record how they researched their character and built up the narrative

10. During the research phase of this unit, students investigated a variety of cultures. Using a multimedia application, students will explain/describe the Australian culture and the contribution that multiculturalism has made to Australian society. They create individual multimedia presentations to begin to address the Essentials Question: ‘Who are Australians?’ (ppt)

11. As a culminating activity, students invite their parents/families/friends to attend a late afternoon gathering. They launch their wiki featuring their fictitious personas’ stories & display their multimedia explanations of Who are Australians?.

12. Students add final entries to their Learning Journals to record their perspectives on this unit and their learning.

Accommodations for Diverse Needs

Students with Special Needs

  • Students will use Auslan with video &/or sound tracks for their web 2.0
  • Use of interpreters to assist students.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Students

  • Use of African aides to assist students with the literacy components.

Gifted Students

  • Students would be encouraged to develop an opinion on current issues as outlined in newspapers ie: detention centres, the Pacific solution, open borders, etc.
  • Contact the Commonwealth MP and invite them to speak to the students.

Indigenous Groups

  • Immigration of people to the continent of Australia has had significant impact on indigenous people.
  • These students should be encouraged to look at the tasks from their point of view.


This unit has been adapted for Australia by Heather Harley from the US unit portfolio Destination America: Our Hope, Our Future.


© State of Victoria 2008

Heather Harley was involved in the Intel Teach Program and adapted this unit for Australia from the US unit portfolio “Destination America: Our Hope, Our Future”. Copyright is owned by the Crown in right of the State of Victoria. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source and no commercial usage or sale. Reproduction for the purposes other than those indicated above requires the written permission of the Department of Education. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and copyright should be addressed to the Liability Management Manager, Department of Education, 2 Treasury Place, Melbourne, VIC, 3002. The State of Victoria accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any part of this material and bears no responsibility for any modifications made.

* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Calling Australia Home

At a Glance

Year Levels: 6, 7 & 8 (Level 4 - 5, Victorian Essential Learning Standards)

Subjects: History, English, Interpersonal Learning

Time Needed: 1 Term: up to 5 hours per week incorporating English & History