Lesson Ideas for Teachers

Making multicultural Australia

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KLA/Subject: English | Geography | History

Stage: Stage 5

Post War Immigration


  • 5.1 responds to and composes increasingly sophisticated and sustained texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis and pleasure
  • 5.7 thinks critically and interpretively using information, ideas and increasingly complex arguments to respond to and compose texts in range of contexts
  • 5.1 explains social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluates their impact on Australian life
  • 5.2 assesses the impact of international events and relationships on Australia’s history
  • 5.3 selects and uses appropriate written, oral and graphic forms to communicate geographical information
  • 5.7 explains Australia’s links with other countries and its role in the global community


In this lesson idea students are invited to examine immigration as a complex process using images, a video excerpt, various texts and policy documents from Making Multicultural Australia. This lesson idea intends to present the challenge of how the post-war immigration programme began in the context of the White Australia policy and developed into a more inclusive policy in the 1970s as attitudes in the community began to shift and in response to pressures to ‘populate or perish’ (Calwell). This idea is best conducted over several lessons to allow adequate exploration of concepts.

Material to Download

Artworks: A meeting of new immigrants in the 1970s - Centre Detail

Political Photographs: Mr A A Calwell at a meeting of State Premiers and Immigration Ministers.

Audio Interviews: Mass migration

Archival Footage: Post-war migration

Parliamentary Debates: Commonwealth Parliamentary Debate - Arthur Calwell, November 1946

Book Excerpts: How Many Australians Tomorrow?

Policies: Australian Labor Party – Immigration Policy, 1966

Publicity: Press Release, 4 May 1972

Reports: Australia’s Immigration Programme for the Period 1968-1973

Timeline Commentary: Commentary of Professor Andrew Jakubovicz on Mass migration.

Photograph: An Eastern European family immigrating to Australia in the 1950s.

Suggested Activities

  1. Divide students into small groups. Show students the artwork 'A meeting of new immigrants in the 1970s' by Andrew Hill (see 'Materials to download).
  2. In groups, ask students to onsider and discuss the following questions:
    • What does the picture show?
    • Where is the meeting taking place?
    • What is in the background?
    • What are they saying to each other?
    • What language are they speaking?
    • What backgrounds are they from?
    • What is the prevailing feeling in the painting?
  3. Give each group one or more of the following tasks, using the resources on page 2 of A Timeline of Multicultural Australia - White Australia:
    • view the archival footage video of migrants arriving in Australia from the late 1940s and the 1950s
    • listen to, and/or read, the commentary of Professor Andrew Jakubovicz on mass migration
    • examine the photo of an Eastern European family in the 1950s
    • listen to, and/or read, Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki’s interview on mass migration
    • examine the political photograph of Mr A. A. Calwell at a meeting of State Premiers and Immigration Ministers
    Ask groups to then review, critically analyse and discuss the following documents from the 'Materials to Download' secrion and consider the changes in attitude over 3 decades:
    • Commonwealth parliamentary debate - Arthur Calwell, November 1946
    • Australian Labor Party – Immigration Policy, 1966
    • Page 1 of the document summarising Australia’s Immigration Programme for the period 1968-1973
    • Press release by Walter Lippmann and ten other prominent Australians, 4 May 1972
  4. Ask each group to choose a representative to provide feedback on their findings to the rest of the class. Poster presentations or dramatic representations of different positions in the debate could be used to make the feedback sessions more creative.

Preparation Checklist

You will need:

  • student access to computers. If this is not available hardcopies of materials may be downloaded from the 'Materials to Download' section and copied.
  • art materials to create posters for the extension activity.


Ask students to:

  1. Write a discussion essay on the topic of immigration and population considering the question: “How relevant is Arthur Calwell’s thinking to Australia today?” Ask students to read excerpts from his book "How Many Australians Tomorrow" for additional information.
  2. Write a dialogue between Arthur Calwell and Walter Lippman using the press release by Walter Lippmann and ten other prominent Australians.
  3. Have a parliamentary debate in the class where the different positions on immigration are argued from a Liberal, Labor, Democrat, Greens and/or Independent perspectives.

Related Resources

  • Jordens, Ann-Mari. Alien to citizen: Settling migrants in Australia, 1945-75. St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin, 1997
  • Jupp, James. From white Australia to Woomera: The story of Australian immigration. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2002
  • Castles, S. et. Al. Immigration and Australia: Myths and realities. St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin, 1998

Lesson Notes

The complexity of the issue of immigration can benefit from a multidimensional approach as suggested in this lesson idea. As always, teachers need to exercise sensitivity when using the material, but the time distance of the post-war period from students of today makes this lesson idea reasonably safe. Issues relating to the White Australia policy need also to be considered, in particular how students may react to this historical phenomenon.

Date Added:

08 December 2004