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Learning area: Geography
Year level: Year 6
Country: Australia, Malaysia
General capability: Intercultural understanding

In this learning sequence, students learn about the diversity of peoples and cultures around the world, the indigenous peoples of other countries, the diversity of countries across the world and within the Asia region. They reflect on cultural differences and similarities, and on the meaning and significance of intercultural understanding.

The focus of study becomes global, as students examine Australia's connections with other countries and events in places throughout the world, and think about their own and other people's knowledge of other countries and places.

Key inquiry questions

  • What are Australia's connections to Malaysia and its people?
  • Why should Australia have connections with Malaysia and its people?
  • What connections to Malaysia should Australia build upon in this 'Asian Century'?

Map of the Asia regionGlobal map showing Asian region


Image: Map of Southeast Asia.png by Cacahuate

Related resources

Activity 1: Making connections

In this activity, you will use the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) profile of Malaysia to explore and identify Australia's connections to Malaysia and its people. You will use this information to rank the importance of these connections.

Key inquiry question: What are Australia's connections to Malaysia and its people?

  1. Read DFAT's Malaysia brief and write a list of words to describe the country, its people and cultures. 
  2. Use Wordle to create a word cloud using your list of words. Pair and share your word cloud and list, explaining your word selection.
  3. Read through the DFAT's information about Malaysia country brief and identify Australia's current connections with Malaysia. Depending on your technology resources and skills, you might try one of the following approaches to gather your information.
    • If you use an iPad, you can use the link above and highlight the 'supports' for your claims.
    • If you use Diigo for social bookmarking, you can use the 'Highlighter' tool to do the same thing on the Malaysia country brief.
    • If your classroom has an interactive whiteboard, you could take turns using different coloured pens to highlight important facts about Australia's connections with Malaysia.
    • Of course you can print a hard copy and highlight the pages with real markers.
  4. Use the 'Claim • Support • Question' Visible Thinking Routine to document each connection and supporting information.
    • Make a claim about the topic.
    • Identify support for your claim.
    • Ask a question related to your claim.
  5. The DFAT brief presents many ways that Australia has been connected to Malaysia and its people over a number of years. Look at the notes you have collated. You are now going to create a diamond ranking (PDF 90.8 KB) indicating which of the connections you feel is most important to Australia through to the least important. Some may have equal ranking. These will be placed in the middle of your template. Next to each of the rankings write your reasons for making these choices.
  6. The 21st century has been called by many the Asian century. Read Asian Century to discover the reasons why this term has been coined.
  7. Look at your rankings again and highlight the connections that you think are the most important as a young Australian who will live as an adult in the Asian century. You will use this information in the last activity.
  8. Complete the activity by discussing as a class your rankings and the importance of connections between Australia and Malaysia.  

Activity 2: Defining connections

In this activity, you will explore four of the connections – Geographical location, World War II, Trade, and Education between Malaysia and Australia in more depth and write a thesis statement.

Key inquiry question: Why should Australia have connections with Malaysia and its people?


  1. Break into teams of three and read through each of the topics. Use the questions to write notes on each of the topics. So that everyone can benefit from each other's work, you might want to use online collaborative software such as PrimaryPad or Google Docs. Use the online space to jot down notes and details that you want to remember.
  2. Explore the first topic, Geographical location, as a team and write a collaborative response to the focus question. This will provide a context for the next part of the activity.
  3. Each team member should then select one of the remaining three topics and write notes responding to the questions.

Geographical location

  1. Look at a map of Australia and Southeast Asia (on the right). Enable the Distance Measurement Tool so you can compare the distances between such places as:
    • Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    • Canberra, ACT, Australia and Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
    • Sandakan to ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey
    • Australia and other countries or locations that are important to it.
  2. If geographical proximity (how close places are) determines why Australia connects with certain countries and places, what did you learn about the closeness and distance between Australia and Malaysia?
  3. How does this influence our connections with Malaysia both in the past, now and into the future?

World War II

  1. Explore the information provided in the following websites and identify key points.
  2. Why were Australians in Malaysia (Malaya) at that time?
  3. What role did locals play in the survivors' escape?
  4. What makes Sandakan worth remembering in terms of our connection with Malaysia?


  1. View the video about trade with Malaysia (on the right) and the website describing the benefits of the Malaysia and Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA). Take notes on the key points raised.
  2. What are the most important aspects of the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement?
  3. How does MAFTA benefit both countries?


  1. View the two videos about education (on the right) and the Education Malaysia website. Record key points and respond to questions below. 
  2. What are the suggested advantages of studying in Malaysia?
  3. Why should Australia be interested in international students studying in Malaysia?
  4. Why would Australia be keen to have Malaysian students studying in Australia?

Thesis statement

Share the information you have gathered in either PrimaryPad or Google Docs. Use this information and anything else you may have researched on your own, to write a paragraph explaining your opinion about why Australia should have connections with Malaysia. Share your views with the rest of your group. You will be using this in the next activity

Activity 3: Malaysia and the Asian Century

In the first two activities you explored Australia's connections to Malaysia and why these are important. In this activity you will investigate in more detail one of the following: Malaysia's trade, migration, tourism, education, defence or culture.

In this activity, your task is to design a presentation explaining to the government the top three areas Australia should engage in with Malaysia to make sure that Australia is well positioned in the Asian century.

Key inquiry question: What connections to Malaysia should Australia build upon in the Asian century?

Gathering evidence

  1. Watch the video, Asia Rising: Series Overview (on the right). Discuss as a class the impact the growth of Asia could have on Australia.
  2. Skim through the Country Brief on Malaysia from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to refresh your knowledge about Malaysia.
  3. Form a team of five. Divide the topics below between the members of your team. Look for support, comments, evidence and useful data to recommend the areas that Australia should engage in with Malaysia. Use a word processing software such as PrimaryPad or Google Docs  to record your notes.


Research these weblinks:

Watch the video, Emirates connects Malaysia and Australia.

Education and the Colombo Plan

Research these weblinks:

Watch the video, Monash University Malaysia – Study Abroad.

Culture and tourism

Research these weblinks:

Watch the video, Flavours of Australia, Kuala Lumpur – finest culinary creations from Master Chef Adam Liaw.

Defence and security issues

Research the following weblinks:

Current politics and relations

Research the following weblinks:

Ranking and presenting

You should now have very detailed notes on each of the topics.

  1. Form a circle and share your group's information. Each person should present the evidence gathered on one of the topics above. Those listening can ask immediately for clarification, references or why the speaker thought that fact was significant. The point is not to probe for right answers, but to 'flesh out' everyone's understanding of all five topics, especially how they might relate to the future decades of the Asian Century.
  2. Consider individually the information that you have gathered and which areas you would recommend Australia continues to engage in with Malaysia. To complete this task, rank the connections using a Ranking Scaffold Worksheet (DOCX 68 KB) (Your teacher will need to set this up for you.) Rank the connections from most (#1) to least (#5) important.
  3. Provide evidence for your ranking. You should show how each connection makes a positive change for both Australia and Malaysia. One country may benefit more than the other but you will have to show why this is still a positive outcome for both countries. Remember to show the source from which you drew your ideas.
  4. Once you have written the positive changes under each heading (Trade, Education, etc.) for both Australia and Malaysia, go back and review your ranking. In many cases, you might now want to change the order of your ranking.
  5. If you used the Ranking Scaffold Worksheet, compare your rankings within your group. If you used the Visible Ranking Tool, compare your top three priorities with your classmates.
  6. Having selected your top three areas of engagement, decide how you will present this information. Remember that you will need to persuade and engage your audience. Here are some online Educational Technology and Mobile Learning tools and apps you can use to create your presentation.
  7. Share your presentation with the rest of the class and complete the activity by conducting a class poll and deciding which was the most compelling presentation.

Activity 4: Reflection

In this final activity take time to reflect on what you now understand about Australia and Malaysia engagement and what this means in the Asian century. Use the following questions to guide your reflections on what you have learnt:

  • What did I learn?
  • How did I learn this information?
  • What didn't I understand?
  • What would I still like to know?
  • What questions do I still have?
  • What can I do with this learning?

Keep this reflection where you store your other learning goals and reflections, whether that's in a paper notebook, your personal blog, ePortfolio or other format.

Useful websites 

  • You might like to sign-up for Intel's free Visible Ranking Tool. Doing so allows you to 'pre-load' the topics to be ranked (the 'connections' students investigated) and then allow students to compare their rankings.
  • Helpful tutorials (PDF 2.4 MB) are available on the Intel Web site as well as apps for all mobile platforms. Using this or the provided Ranking Scaffold Worksheet (DOCX 68 KB) supports the Australian Curriculum's general capability in ICTs in that either of these help students develop their decision making and empirical reasoning. 

It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by AEF and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

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