Refugees and migration: Upper Primary English, Year 6 Global people


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Refugees and migration: Upper Primary English, Year 6

Global people

The unit of work, Global people, explores the human dimensions of forced and voluntary migration.
Texts used include the picture storybook Ziba Came on a Boat, written by Liz Lofthouse and illustrated by Robert Ingpen, and the real-life story of Najeeba, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan. The focus might be complimented by having junior novels for students to read independently during the unit, such as Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson, Parvana by Deborah Ellis, and Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman.
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Australian Curriculum: English

The general capabilities emphasised in the unit of work, Global people, are literacy, information and communication technology (ICT) capability, critical and creative thinking, ethical behaviour and intercultural understanding.

The Australian Curriculum: English is built around the three interrelated strands of Language, Literature and Literacy. This unit of work integrates all three strands to explore language for interaction and expressing and developing ideas, literature through context and empathy, and literacy through the persuasive and participatory constructions of texts, including media texts.


Students will be provided opportunities through the activities to engage with aspects of the following content descriptions.


Language for interaction

Understand the uses of objective and subjective language and bias (ACELA1517)

Expressing and developing ideas

Identify and explain how analytical images like figures, tables, diagrams, maps and graphs contribute to our understanding of verbal information in factual and persuasive texts (ACELA1524)


Literature and context

Make connections between students’ own experiences and those of characters and events represented in texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1613)


Texts in context

Compare texts including media texts that represent ideas and events in different ways, explaining the effects of the different approaches (ACELY1708)

Interacting with others

Participate in and contribute to discussions, clarifying and interrogating ideas, developing and supporting arguments, sharing and evaluating information, experiences and opinions (ACELY1709)

Use interaction skills, varying conventions of spoken interactions such as voice volume, tone, pitch and pace, according to group size, formality of interaction and needs and expertise of the audience (ACELY1816)

Interpreting, analysing, evaluating

Use comprehension strategies to interpret and analyse information and ideas, comparing content from a variety of textual sources including media and digital texts (ACELY1713) Analyse strategies authors use to influence readers (ACELY1801)

Creating texts

Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, choosing and experimenting with text structures, language features, images and digital resources appropriate to purpose and audience (ACELY1714)

NSW K–6 English Syllabus

Syllabus outcomes

Syllabus indicators

TS3.1 Communicates effectively for a range of purposes with a variety of audiences to express well-developed, well-organised ideas with more challenging topics

  • Listens for information and to answer literal questions

  • Listens and notes ideas and information from a survey

  • Gives considered reasons for opinions and listens to those of others

RS3.5 Reads independently an extensive range of texts with increasing content demands and responds to themes and issues

  • Reads extended novels for personal enjoyment, interest and research

  • Identifies and interprets ideas, themes and issues in literary texts

  • Gathers and interprets information from a range of print and digital texts

  • Compares ideas and themes in texts on similar topics

RS3.6 Uses a comprehensive range of skills and strategies appropriate to the type of text being read

  • Uses a range of type of texts, including graphs and timelines

  • Develops extended vocabulary associated with a research topic

  • Relates information in texts to personal experience

WS3.9 Produces a wide range of well-structured and well-presented literary and factual texts for a wide variety of purposes and audiences using increasingly challenging topics, ideas, issues and written language features

  • Plans writing based on a model text

  • Writes a short recount based on researched information

  • Uses tables and maps to organise, record and compare researched information

  • Creates a multimodal presentation based on researched information

  • Creates a persuasive text for a specific audience

Teaching & learning activities

1. Introduce the unit with Australia’s migration story

Teacher background

The unit of work, Global people, explores migration — ‘forced’ migration and ‘voluntary’ migration. Migration occurs within countries and between countries, for many reasons. Migration could be for the short term, such as seeking a better climate during a particular season, or for much more serious reasons, such as fleeing persecution, hunger, racial discrimination, or to provide better work, living or educational opportunities.

People have been on the move throughout human history. Whenever our basic security and opportunities are seriously threatened, many of us would rather take the risk of moving than stay where we are.1
As communication and transport technology have improved, costs have fallen and migration has increased. International migration should be understood as part of an overall growth in mobility. International mobility increases the connections between different parts of the world. In 2010, 25 per cent of the Australian population was born overseas and 52 per cent had at least one parent born overseas.
Many Australians are in Australia as a result of voluntary migration. Forced migration has a long history in Australia from convict times, and it continues as a result of upheaval of various kinds displacing and uprooting people from their countries of origin. We refer to people forced to leave their countries as refugees and asylum seekers.

Activities around migration

Use the following activities from Get Connected: Issue 8Migration, people on the move, to inform teacher talk about the key terms of migrant and refugee in this unit.
Migration — forced and voluntary

Write the following words in the best spaces below:











We live in a world where people have always been on the move — migrating to _______ in different places and even different countries. People have migrated to Australia for numerous reasons and come from many places. Australia is a multicultural country with people from over 200 ____________. In 2010, one quarter or 25 per cent of the Australian _______________ was born overseas.


Sometimes people choose to move because they want to _______________ their economic and/or social wellbeing. They may move to work in a better paying job, to join their ___________ or to find warmer weather. This is often an exciting move that has been planned, belongings carefully packed and farewells made to family and friends. Later, if the move does not work out as they had hoped or they get _____________, they can always return to their _____________ country. This is called voluntary migration.


However, other people are _____________ to move because their home country is too dangerous. These are people who have fled their homes in order to ______________ conflict or persecution. This is often a scary and _________________ move, and the people may have to flee suddenly and take only the clothes on their backs. Most refugees are not able to return to their home country. This is called forced migration.

Australia’s immigration story

World events have resulted in significant numbers of people migrating to Australia for more than 200 years. In 2010, nearly one half of all Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.

Share the following timeline of migration with the class. To which part of the story can students see a connection with their own family story?






Indigenous population estimated at 300,000–750,000.

From 1788–1868, 160,000 convicts were shipped to the Australian colonies from the United Kingdom. From the early 1790s, free immigrants also began coming to Australia.

During the Gold Rush era of 1851 to 1860, around 500,000 people migrated to Australia. The main migrant communities were from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, China and the USA.

From 1860–1900, labourers from Melanesia (Pacific Islands) were recruited to work on Queensland sugar plantations.

From 1850–1900, Afghani, Pakistani and Turkish camel handlers played an important part in opening up central Australia, helping in the building of telegraph and railway lines.






In the late 1800s, Japanese fishers were important in the pearling industry.

1901 – With Federation, the Immigration Restriction Act was passed which made it very difficult for non-English speaking immigrants to come to Australia. This was the beginning of the White Australia Policy that existed until 1973.

After World War II, during the 1950s and 1960s, large numbers of migrants came to Australia from the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Malta, Germany and Turkey. This was part of the ‘Populate or Perish’ migration policy.

In 1956, Hungarian refugees fled fighting in their country.

In 1968, Czech refugees fled fighting.





In 1973, refugees came to Australia from Chile, following the overthrow of the elected government.

From 1975–1985, over 90,000 refugees came to Australia from Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) after the end of the Vietnam War.

From 1976–1981, approximately 16,000 Lebanese refugees fled civil war.

From 2000, Australia has taken in people from a broad range of countries, including Iraq, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sudan, India and Sri Lanka. However, the majority of settlers are from New Zealand and the UK.

Read the first sentence in 1788 together and ask the students:

  • Who is taking part?

  • What happened to them?

  • When did it happen?

Repeat this pattern of questioning for the timeline and complete the table below, discussing the function of each language feature.

Prepositional phrases
(of time)
When did it happen?

Who is taking part?

Verb group
What happened?

From 1788–1868,

160,000 convicts

were shipped

During the Gold Rush era,



From 1860–1900,


were recruited

From 1850–1900,

Afghani camel handlers


In the late 1800s,

Japanese fishers


With Federation,

the Immigration Restriction Act

was passed

After World War II,



In 1956,

Hungarian refugees


From 2000,


has taken

Types of migration

There are three main types of migration to Australia: skilled, family and humanitarian.

Introduce types of migration to the class with the following three recounts. After reading the Skilled and Humanitarian streams, ask students to comment on the function of the words highlighted in yellow (past tense verbs) and blue (present tense verbs).
1. Skilled stream

These are highly skilled migrants who have been accepted by the Australian Government because they have good English language ability, and work experience. In 2008–09, 114,777 people migrated to Australia in the skilled stream (67 per cent of all new settlers).

Lay Htoo

I grew up in a remote area of Myanmar. Since I was a teenager I hoped to study overseas but for different reasons I was not able. However, I did get a job with an aid and development organisation and it was a life changing experience for me. I met many people in need and I was able to help relieve some of their pain.

My wife is a nurse and together we migrated to Australia in 2007 on skilled migrant visas. We were attracted to Australia for a few reasons. Firstly, we hoped to get a better education for our children in Australia. Secondly, I wanted a different experience of aid and development work than I was used to in my country. Thirdly, my wife believes she has a better work and life balance as a nurse in Australia. Finally, we believe we have better chances to support our families back in Myanmar.

During these years in Australia, we are struggling to adapt to the new culture while we are building our own family at the same time. We now enjoy our work and our two-year-old daughter is enjoying her day care. Now, we are expecting another baby!

Source: World Vision Australia (2010) Get Connected: Issue 8 — Migration, People on the move

2. Family stream

These are migrants who have been accepted because they have a close family member living as an Australian resident or citizen. There is no skills test or English language ability required. This group made up 56,366 people or 32 per cent of all new settlers in 2008–09.

Tonina Farugia

I came from Malta in 1956 because I had my boyfriend here. He was from Malta too and came to Australia with his family and I wanted to come with him — but I couldn’t come because I was not married. My father would not allow me. So a couple of years later, my boyfriend asked if we can get married and my father agreed. We got married in 1956 and from day one I enjoyed Australia. It made me very welcome.

It was hard to leave my family in Malta, because I was only 17 years old and I was coming to a country I didn’t know anything about. But, when I came here my husband’s family were very good to me.

I’ve been back to Malta in 1968 and I went back again three years ago. I find it very strange because here in Australia everything is so big and you go there … Malta, is so small. But it was nice to go back for a holiday, because I still have some of my brothers and sisters there — but not to live. I really enjoy staying here in Australia. It’s my home now anyway, after all this time.

Source: World Vision Australia (2010) Get Connected: Issue 8 — Migration, People on the move

3. Humanitarian program

As a member of the international community, Australia shares responsibility for protecting refugees — people who have been forced to leave their home country and cannot return because of war, famine or persecution. This program has two functions — it offers protection to people already in Australia who are found to be refugees (onshore protection) and it offers resettlement to refugees overseas (offshore resettlement). In 2008–09, Australia accepted 13,507 people in this program — 11,010 were processed outside of Australia (offshore) and 2,497 were processed here in Australia (onshore). This is less than one per cent of all new settlers in 2008–09.

Violeta Veliz

I came to Australia in 1976 after three years of military rule in Chile. Under General Pinochet, the elected government was overthrown and many people who disagreed with him were killed or taken to prison. We lost the right to freedom and the right to vote. We lost the right to speak freely and the right to meet with other people. We could not go out at night time.

I married my husband in 1974 and we agreed to leave Chile because it was too dangerous. I cried rivers of tears. I wanted to fight the government but it was impossible to fight against the army with their tanks and guns. We had to leave all our family in Chile and everything had to be done in secret because the secret police were looking at what people were doing. It was very hard to leave my family.

When we arrived in Australia, it was great because we were safe. We have freedom to meet with other people and we can do and believe what we want. We received a lot of help and we were able to learn English and find work. We were able to meet with others who had come from Chile and help the newer refugees. We were also able to speak up for human rights and help people be more aware of what was happening in Chile.

We have raised two girls here and while we never forget Chile, we are happy here.

Source: World Vision Australia (2010) Get Connected: Issue 8 — Migration, People on the move

In pairs, have students reflect on the timeline and recounts and research a member of their family to write a brief imagined first person recount (perhaps just 150 words) of that person’s migration experience.

For their own recounts, using the recounts above as a model, and choosing between types of migration, they might change the name of this ancestor if they so wish, but should convey some of the facts of the person’s life, as a first Australian experiencing the effects of migration, or as a person in migration if in a later period.
Have pairs share their recounts with other pairs in the class.

2. Words for migration

Within this unit there are many words that will need to be discussed and defined. Set up a word bank, glossary or jargon buster site to do this. Words include asylum, migration, deport, persecution, refugee.

  • Asylum: a place of safety and protection from another country. People are waiting for their claim to be a refugee to be evaluated.

  • Boat people: asylum seekers who arrive by boat. (It is not illegal under Australian or international law to seek asylum, even if arriving by boat without a visa.)

  • Deport: to banish or remove a person from a country.

  • Forced migration: the coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region.

  • Migration: the medium- to long-term movement of people — either within a country or from one country to another.

  • Persecute: to pursue someone and consistently treat them badly because of their race, nationality, religion or political beliefs.
  • Refugee: a person who has fled his or her country of origin in fear of being persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.

  • Voluntary migration: the voluntary or free movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region.

Display the word ‘migration’ and ask the students to spontaneously respond with their reaction to the word. Capture the students’ responses.

A migrant country

The ‘push–pull’ theory of migration suggests there are two main factors causing migration, negative push and positive pull. Push factors are things that are bad about the country that people live in and pull factors are those things that are good about another country that would attract people to that country. As a class, list possible push and pull factors.

Possible push factors

Possible pull factors

Poor housing and living conditions

Not enough employment

Lack of religious or political freedom

Racial discrimination

Persecution or death threats

Over population

Good housing and living conditions

Employment opportunities

Political or religious freedom

Education opportunities

Attractive climate

Family ties2

Have students conduct a survey to explore the origins of their classmates and their family and any reasons for migration. Examine reasons in relation to the push or pull factors.

Push and pull factors survey


Date of migration


1. Where were you born?

2. Where were your parents or guardians born?

3. Where were your grandparents born?


Date of migration


1. Where were you born?

2. Where were your parents or guardians born?

3. Where were your grandparents born?


Date of migration


1. Where were you born?

2. Where were your parents or guardians born?

3. Where were your grandparents born?


Date of migration


1. Where were you born?

2. Where were your parents or guardians born?

3. Where were your grandparents born?

Mark in the countries of origin of the students’ families on a world map. You might use a map3 (.pdf 952 kB) from World Vision.

Create a table showing the countries of origin of students’ families. Compare the findings with recent country of origin for settlers in Australia, settler arrivals by country of birth, June 2008–June 2009, below. Comment and give reasons for similarities or differences.
Major source countries — July 2008 to June 2009 settler arrivals, by country of birth

Country of birth


% Variation

New Zealand



United Kingdom






China (excludes SARs (Hong Kong and Macau) and Taiwan)









Sri Lanka






Burma (Myanmar)



Source: The Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Fact Sheet 2 – Key Facts in Immigration4

3. Forced migration in Ziba Came on a Boat and Najeeba’s story

Australia is founded on a version of ‘forced’ migration. Briefly review the convict era as an era of migration.
There are many current media reports on the issue of asylum seekers. The term ‘boat people’ is commonly used. Collect media reports on recent arrivals by boat and ask the students to examine them for inaccuracies, bias or stereotypes.
You may point out that nearly all asylum seekers who arrive by boat are found to be refugees fleeing persecution, war and violence. See page 17 of the World Refugee Week Teacher’s Pack (.pdf 3.3 MB) for more information.5
Read the picture storybook Ziba Came on a Boat, by Liz Lofthouse, illustrated by Robert Ingpen, the story of an Afghan girl’s journey to Australia. Ziba came as an asylum seeker aiming to be classified as a refugee.
Revisit the definitions of migration, asylum seeker and refugee.
Read Najeeba’s story on page 14 of the World Refugee Week Teacher’s Pack and list the factors in her story of migration according to the push and pull theory.
Examples from quotes of push and pull factors in Najeeba’s story:



‘… whenever we walked in the streets [in Afghanistan] we faced constant abuse and threats.’

‘It seemed like every day we witnessed our neighbours, or friends disappearing.’

‘I can go to university … I always wanted to be a uni student, to learn English.’

‘When I am outside [in Australia], I don’t have to worry about being attacked … because I’m a girl.’

Revise Ziba Came on a Boat to list the factors in her story of migration according to the push and pull theory.

Compare the two stories of asylum seekers from Afghanistan. Classify the text types according to the purpose they were designed to achieve.

4. Student research on the life of a well-known migrant

Ask students (in groups) to research the life of a well-known migrant to Australia. Brainstorm and list headings to guide and categorise their research. The text type will become a combination of a recount of a life and an information report. Discuss features of different types of graphics which could support the written and spoken part of the presentation, such as maps, photographs and media reports.
Using the information they find, students construct a multimodal presentation (for example, PowerPoint with music, video, Claymation) to tell the life story of their subject.
After viewing the presentations, highlight the contribution of migrants to Australian life.
In general, in the Australian Curriculum: English, texts can be classified as belonging to one of three types: imaginative, informative or persuasive, although it is acknowledged that these distinctions are neither static nor watertight and particular texts can belong to more than one category. More on text types6 can be found on the Australian Curriculum website.

Global citizenship in action

Najeeba’s story concludes with the words, ‘I have the freedom to tell my story, to raise my voice.’
In Australia we are free to tell our stories, to raise our voices.
One way that we can ‘raise our voices’ is to write informative and persuasive letters to our Federal Members of Parliament asking them to ensure that the Australian Government takes good care of asylum seekers and refugees to Australia.

Use the information you have learned about asylum seekers and refugees to write a jointly constructed letter.

Invite your Federal MP to school and present an informative and persuasive PowerPoint or digital presentation about refugees and asylum seekers and their rights under the 1954 Refugee Convention; see especially material from Get Connected: Issue 8 (below).


Complete the reflections sheet for this unit of work, and as a class share the responses.

I was surprised to find out that ...

The most interesting thing was ...

I’d like to know more about...

I wonder if …

I don’t understand …

As a global citizen, one thing I would like to do is …

For the teacher

Find more activities7 (.pdf 167 kB, page 2) for Ziba Came on a Boat, including Reading Enriches Learning8 activities. Consider Across the Dark Sea9 by Wendy Orr and Donna Rawlins, the story of Trung’s journey from Vietnam and his life in Melbourne on arrival, with discussion questions and an interactive from the National Museum of Australia. Find Reading Enriches Learning activities on Refugees10 by David Miller, which tells the story of two wild ducks seeking a safe place to live.

World Vision has additional resources for Migration: People on the move11. The World Refugee Week Teacher Pack12 (.pdf 3.3 MB) used in activities above has valuable factual information to help students understand refugees in Australia. Find online resources to explore complex issues around asylum seekers with the SBS series Go Back to Where You Came From13.

1 Find concise background information on the subject of ‘people flow’ from the UK think tank DEMOS: (.pdf 541 kB).

2 See Get Connected, A Global Education Resource from World Vision, Issue 8, August 2010, page 5, as above.

3 World Vision map:

4 The Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Fact Sheet 2 – Key Facts in Immigration:

5 World Refugee Week Teacher’s Pack URL:

6 Text types on the AC website:

7 Activities from The Children’s Book Council:

8 Reading Enriches Learning Activities on the Curriculum Corporation website:

9 National Museum of Australia:

10 Reading Enriches Learning Activities on the Curriculum Corporation website:

11 World Vision Australia, additional resources on migration:

12 World Refugee Week Teacher Pack:

13 Schools section of the SBS website for the series Go Back to Where You Came From:

Supported by AusAID
The Australian Government Agency for International Development


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