1 — Introduce the unit with the refugee’s journey and Anh Do
Libby Gleeson based her novel Mahtab’s Story on interviews with a teenage girl from Sydney who had fled Afghanistan. In the early pages of his memoir, Anh Do uses stories told by his family to reconstruct a journey from Vietnam that he was too young to remember. In this unit students will use an existing interview with a former refugee as a narrative ‘skeleton’ to write four fictional scenes from each stage of a refugee’s typical journey — leaving home, on the road, seeking refuge and resettlement. Background research using information reports, factual recounts and factual descriptions will aid students in literary description in each scene. Students will be carefully scaffolded through class discussion, shared reading, viewing and listening, pair and small group work and individual writing exercises, to then write their fictional scenes independently. They will create a digital story containing the source interview, their scenes, a text box explaining how a particular NGO helps refugees and asylum seekers, visuals including a map of the journey route and Creative Commons-sourced images representing the journey.
Students will explore and develop narrative writing skills, looking closely at ‘the journey’ as a narrative structure and the scene as a key element in dramatic storytelling. They will explore the interview as an example of a literary or factual recount, and experiment with representing the ‘real world’ in fiction based on a true story. By exploring a graphic novel and online interactive guides and creating a multimedia text, students can develop visual literacy skills
The refugee’s journey
Discuss. Check the students' understandings of the difference in meaning between asylum seeker and refugee:
- A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country of origin in fear of being persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, public opinion or membership of a particular social group.
- An asylum seeker is a person who has fled their home and is seeking protection from another country. They are waiting for their claim to be a refugee to be evaluated.
As a member of the international community, Australia signed the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1954 and so 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 was less than one per cent of all new settlers in 2008–09.
Even with such small numbers, there have been many significant refugees in Australia’s history. Share a list of just some of the Australians who have contributed to cultural and political life, having come to Australia as refugees. Do students recognise any of the names, apart from Anh Do?