Lesson Ideas for Teachers

Making multicultural Australia

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KLA/Subject: English | Geography

Stage: Stage 4 | Stage 5

Arab-Australian: What's in a name?


  • 4.1 responds to and composes texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis
  • 4.3 responds to and composes texts in different technologies
  • (5.1, 5.3 similar but more sophisticated)
  • 4.6 identifies and discusses geographical issues from a range of perspectives
  • 4.9 explains how geographical knowledge, understanding and skills contribute to active and informed citizenship
  • 5.7 explains Australia’s links with other countries
  • 5.8 accounts for differences within Australian communities


This lesson uses Hot Words from Making Multicultural Australia to generate student discussion. Student activities include finding the definitions, discussing them and then developing texts that could lead to more extended discussion. It is intended to explore the meanings of the words ‘Arab’, ‘Arabic’ and ‘Australian’, as well as the issues that may arise from different interpretations and understandings. In English the focus would be critical literacy, while in Geography issues of cultural identity would be more the focus. It could be a single lesson or extended into a series of lessons using the extension activities.

Material to Download

Archival Images: Inside of the Auburn Mosque

Archival Images: Young Muslim girls at Auburn Mosque

Information Pamphlets: Fact Sheet: Over Fifty Years of Post War Immigration

Suggested Activities

  1. Go to Hot Words section in this site and look up the words 'Arab', 'Arabic' and 'Australian'. Write the definitions out and display in classroom.
  2. Divide students into groups to discuss the following questions in relation to these definitions:
    • How would you define an Arab?
    • What do you think of as Arabic?
    • How would you define an Australian?
    • What is an Arab-Australian?
    • Can you name an Arab-Australian?
    • What are the media images of Arab-Australians that come to mind?
    • What does it mean to you to be an Australian citizen?
  3. Ask each group to summarise their discussion and give feedback to the class on their understandings of the term Arab-Australian. The whole class then writes a composite summary and addresses the questions:
    • How has this discussion affected your understanding of Arab-Australians?
    • What are the implications for multiculturalism in Australia today?
    • How does being an Australian citizen offer a way to include a diversity of cultures?

Preparation Checklist

You will need:

  • access to Making Multicultural Australia website to present Hot Words, or alternatively hard copies of definitions which can be downloaded from the website
  • whiteboard/butcher’s paper

Note that the extension activity requires access to computer terminals to be used individually or in small groups; alternatively hard copy newspaper articles may be selected in advance and distributed to students.


Ask students:

  1. To write a dialogue between a young Australian person from an ‘Arabic’ background and one from another Australian background.
  2. To do a search on newspaper stories on Arab-Australians, and consider the questions:
    • What headlines are listed under the word Arab?
    • What kinds of stories do they refer to?
    • What stereotypes may be inferred by these words?
  3. To write a discussion text on Arab-Australians and how they are represented in the media.
  4. Write a discussion text on how Australian citizenship can be used to create a multicultural Australia?

Related Resources

  1. Resources within the Making Multicultural Australia website:
    Hot Words
  2. Other websites:
    Racism. No way!
    Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
  3. Sydney newspapers
    Sydney Morning Herald
    Daily Telegraph
    Australian Broadcasting Commission
  4. Hage, Ghassan (ed,) 2002. Arab-Australians Today, Citizenship and Belonging. MUP, Melbourne

Lesson Notes

Sensitivity is needed when conducting this activity to ensure that discussion about "Arab-Australian" stereotypes is not inappropriate, offensive or taken out of context.

Language and culture are closely linked as linguists like Michael Halliday have demonstrated (also see Racism. No way!). The term ‘Lebanese Gangs’ has been referred to in the media, often with negative connotations, when often the young people involved were born in Australia of parents of Middle Eastern decent. The use of ‘gang’ is already provocative as is identifying people born in Australia exclusively with other cultures. The term Arab-Australian is a more appropriate way to refer to the same young people; however this too is open to a number of interpretations depending on the knowledge and background of the students.

Date Added:

08 December 2004