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Year 9: Attitudes towards Chinese migrantsBookmark

Learning area: History
Year level: Year 9
Country: Australia, China

Students explore in greater depth what life was like for Chinese immigrants who travelled to Australia in search of gold through comparison and analysis of images, identification of goldfield locations and examining their local community connections with Chinese people. 

Key inquiry questions

  • What were the experiences of the Chinese in Australia prior to the 1900s?

Harvest Endurance scroll Chinese migrants at work


Image: National Museum of Australia: See copyright information

Related resources

Activity 1: Chinese immigration to Australia


For many Chinese who migrated to Australia during the nineteenth century they were faced with many challenges including the attitudes of others towards them. This activity enables you to investigate a range of primary source material.

Key inquiry question:

  • What were the experiences of the Chinese in Australia prior to the 1900s?
Access to Scootle digital content

Digital content has been incorporated into these learning sequences to support student learning.

A link is provided to open each of these Scootle digital resources

You need to login to Scootle to access the digital content in these learning sequences.

  1. Using the links provided open each of the digital images for examination.
  2. Choose one to look at as a class or small group. 
  3. Use one of the Thinking Routines below the digital image links and focus on each step of the routine, one at a time. No need to rush; deep thinking works best when you take your time!. You can use other Thinking Routines listed below as well. 
  4. ICT provides a number of opportunities to collaborate with your classmates. Explore the ICT suggestions below.
Thinking routines
See-Think-Wonder Claim-Support-Question
What do you see? Make a claim about the topic.
What do you think is going on? Identify support for your claim.
What does it make you wonder? Ask a question related to your claim.
The 5 W's Seeing Themes
Who would have drawn this? What is the main subject or action shown?
What were they for or against? What things in the image are important?
Where did this take place? What are stereotypes shown?
When did this happen - what was going on? What are the main feelings the cartoon is targeting?
Why was this drawn?  
Additional thinking routines

Thinking Routines are used from Harvard's Visible Thinking initiative and Cultures of Thinking.

Technology integration – group analysis tools

The following ICT activities can be used to support student collaboration.

EtherPad / PrimaryPad for collaborative writing

You can choose your favourite collaborative writing software, but the one currently recommended is an EtherPad variant called PrimaryPad and you can read detailed instructions on using it in the Resources section of this curriculum resource.

Diigo for social bookmarking and sticky notes

Diigo is a powerful tool for gathering favourite sites and collaboratively researching and anlaysing online posts. You can read  detailed instructions on using it in the Resources section of this curriculum resource.


Discuss with your classmates the attitudes towards the Chinese before 1900s.  Reflect on the life of migrants who arrive in Australia in the twenty first century. Have attitudes changed?

You are now ready to further investigate the experiences of the Chinese the by completing the next level - Knowledge Building.

Activity 2: Stereotyping and attitudes towards Chinese migrants

Knowledge building

Now that you have experienced Look to Learn, it's time to investigate further and learn more about Australian attitudes toward Chinese migrants at the end of the 1800s.

Your close study of the other digital images probably gave you some insights and also raised some questions. Fortunately, additional information is available on the images that can lead you in the right direction.

Access to Scootle digital content

Digital content has been incorporated into these learning sequences to support student learning.

A link is provided to open each of these Scootle digital resources

You need to login to Scootle to access the digital content in these learning sequences.

  1. Open each link to see the image.
  2. Look through the basic and additional information that is provided with any images you may choose to investigate.
  3. Decide which image will become your study focus.
Gathering your Information

There are many ways that you can collect the information you find useful to deepening your understanding of the facts and issues involved in a particular image. You can:

  • use your  notebook
  • record in an electronic document
  • post what you are learning into an online discussion or comments on a blog.
  • if you have a Google / Gmail account, you can join in a shared document
  • or you can start an EtherPad / PrimaryPad page where you and a team can build knowledge.)

Either way, make sure you note the Web address (URL) and TLF ID (The Learning Federation Identifier) so you can return to it later.

Additional resources
Simple searches

The information provided by The Learning Federation should give you both some background and some leads you can follow to learn even more. For example, a particular event might have been mentioned (e.g., the arrival of The Afghan carrying Chinese migrants into Sydney Harbour). 

  1. Go ahead and run some initial searches on any leads you uncovered. 
  2. Complete a KWL chart on what you now know and what you still want to know so that you can best understand the image you're studying. 
  3. Write out any specific questions you want to find answers to.
Explore a web exhibit

Now that you have some good background on your image and the events surrounding it, you are ready to learn more and add to your knowledge. This is the exciting time of learning when you know enough to add more knowledge fairly easily. The SBS channel and partners combined their expertise (as you are doing right now!) to present the special Web site Gold!. A section of the site focuses on Stereotyping the Chinese and highlights how "racist stereotypes fuelled the European diggers' sense of superiority." Explore this page and others in the Gold! Web exhibit. Add new information to your growing collection.

As an extension you can choose to also investigate a few more sites that could be helpful by adding to your understanding of how Australians' viewed and represented early Chinese migrants.

Contributing your knowledge

You have already gathered information you found useful. As listed above, you might have collected this in a traditional paper notebook, an electronic document, a blog, shared document or collaborative space. One of the main places in the world where people contribute their knowledge and expertise is Wikipedia. In only about 10 years, Wikipedia has gone from not existing to sharing over 4 million article in English and many more than this in the many other languages of the world. Instead of only using Wikipedia, how about contributing to it?Wiki

Most of us would have very little that we could contribute to a page such as the one above. However, another version of Wikipedia might be a different story:

If you think you can add some details or another article to the Simple English Wikipedia project. To quote from the Web site:

Articles in the Simple English Wikipedia use fewer words and easier grammar than the English Wikipedia.

The Simple English Wikipedia is also for people with different needs. Some examples of people who use Simple English Wikipedia:

Other people use the Simple English Wikipedia because the simple language helps them understand difficult ideas or topics they do not know about.

So how about contributing?

If contributing to the Simple English Wikipedia seems like something you want to try, use the links below. Who knows where this could lead you?

If you don't want to write articles for Wikipedia, you can still create your own wiki pages. Set up an account with one of these open wiki sites:


This is the end of Australian Attitudes toward Chinese Migrants in the 19th Century. You may want to continue adding information to the article you've contributed to or create whole new articles on topics such as:

If you are ready to take action, try the Level 3: WebQuest Challenge where you will be guided to create your own contemporary editorial cartoon on an issue related to 21st Century Australian attitudes toward the Chinese.

Activity 3: Past and present relations


Now that you have experienced look to learn and knowledge building, you might want to try a challenge.

This WebQuest challenges you to take your insights and knowledge of early Australian attitudes toward Chinese migrants and apply them to a current situation. And, since we've been investigating them, now it is your turn to draw an editorial cartoon.

If you need to review some of the archival examples from 19th Century Australia, go ahead and return to Level 1 Look to Learn. If you want to review how the facts of current events got interpreted into editorial cartoons return to Level 2 Building Knowledge. By  Level 3, we assume you have already gained insights into some of the issues and stereotypes that challenged 19th Century Australian attitudes toward early Chinese migrants.

Your challenge is to:

  • understand the craft of editorial cartooning, and
  • explore a controversial current event where Australians have strong feelings about the Chinese
  • combine these two to create your own editorial cartoon
  • publish your cartoon on a website for others to view and comment.
  1. The craft of editorial cartooning

    Use the links below to learn more about editorial cartooning. The first link in each list is required, but you are encouraged to read through them all. Follow your interests!

    The past
    The present
    globe cartoons

    Now that you have a good idea of how people used editorial cartoons in the past, it's a good idea to see some examples from recent times. The cartoons below focus on China. Are there any similarities to those from the early days of Australia? 

    How to do it!

    You might be ready to get your pencils and start drawing. Great! You might also want to look through some of the links below to make your editorial drawing the best it can be. Remember, we'd like to see your work online so do your best!

  2. Case study: Cubbie Station

    Edited from Wikipedia article on Cubbie Station.

    Cubbie Station is the largest privately owned irrigation property in the southern hemisphere. Its dams stretch for more than 28 km along part of the Murray-Darling system. On 29 October 2009, Cubbie Station announced it would enter administration. This was due to Cubbie Station gaining debt of over $300 million, and poor rainfall in the region over the past 5 years. On 31 August 2012 the Australian Labor Government approved the sale of Cubbie Group, owner of Cubbie Station, to a consortium comprising Shandong RuYi Scientific & Technological Group Co Ltd (a company owned by Chinese and Japanese investors) and Lempriere Pty Ltd. Some members of the National Party have concerns with foreign-ownership of agricultural land and water rights and believe the sale is not in Australia's national interest.

    The ABC reported that Cubbie Station sale sparks war between Swan and Joyce. Additional links might be useful in giving you additional knowledge into the controversy.

    Other possible topics

    If you don't want to focus on the Cubbie Station case study, you might find inspiration and motivation for your editorial cartoon from one of the topics below. Feel free to explore and pursue your interests.

    Chinese 'princelings'
    Rio Tinto / Stern Hu
    Chinese investment in Australia
    The world stage
    Chinese imports
    Chinese automobiles
  3. The challenge

    You now have ideas about how people create good editorial cartoons and you know something about a current event involving Australia and China that has people in hot debate. That means it's a good topic for a cartoon!

    To review, you could look again at the SBS Gold page on Stereotyping the Chinese that show how racists stereotypes gave the European diggers' a sense of superiority. To focus your thoughts, also use this Scholastic activity on Reading an Editorial Cartoon (pdf). It will get you started with the main parts of your cartoon.

    A twist! You would be aware of how racist the early (and some current) editorial cartoons come across. Relying on stereotypes that are over two hundred years old is hardly a challenge.

    This is why your cartoon must actually poke fun, not at the Chinese, but at ourselves - Australians. You probably know the expression, "to take the mickey out of someone." This is a great Aussie characteristic: that we can laugh at ourselves, that we don't take things so seriously that we can't see our own shortcomings. So the editorial cartoon you create should show the funny side to our current relations or views of the Chinese.

    Technology integration—Posting editorial cartoons online

    Once you have created your editorial cartoon it makes sense to post online for others to see. There are lots of easy ways to publish online. Here are some ideas:

    • Use a phone to take a picture or scan your drawing.
    • Upload the photo to any number of blogging platforms such as:
    • Consider having one drawing per post so others can use the comment feature on most blogs to get feedback from others.
    • You can make your blog and posts public or private. Make sure any school filtering doesn't block your blog if you want to view it at school.
    • Encourage your classmates to comment on your blog post. 

You should now have a far deeper understanding of the history of the Chinese in Australia, both past and present.

Useful websites

Throughout the China eLearning sequences, a number of learning opportunities are provided for students to collaborate with each other through the use of ICT. A range of applications are available to support this process, some of which are listed below.

Diigo for social bookmarking and sticky notes

Diigo is a powerful tool for gathering favourite sites and collaboratively researching and anlaysing online posts. There are two main parts: a browser toolbar and your account. Teachers can also create student groups which allows students to have their own account, but also contribute what they find and share their comments to classmates.

It is suggested that a teacher start an educator account (see the FAQ link below), add all students and then place Thinking Routines into Sticky Notes on which all student can contribute their thinking.

Primary Pad

A set of instructions are provided on how to use How to use PrimaryPad.

When students have access to computers or personal devices (Netbooks or updated iPads) a real-time collaborative writing page can easily be created and generate word clouds of the dominant terms used by students.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to PrimaryPad: Click on the link or the image below and then click on the "Create New Pad" button.

  2. Copy the URL ie the web address that is automatically generated for your page.

  3. Paste the URL into your blog post so students can all access the same page.
  4. Edit the PrimaryPad page to include any instructions or prompts you want students to respond to, such as a "See–Think–Wonder" thinking routine. Then turn off the Authorship Colors so that only students' writing is colored.

  5. Have students type their names at the top of the screen to sync their comments with their colour.

  6. Now you are ready to engage the students in a Look to Learn learnig sequence.
  7. Once students have completed the writing, you can have them read through it, edit or select the most insightful passages.

One additional way to explore this collaborative brainstorming is to copy the collective text and paste it into Wordle or ABCya. This creates a word cloud, highlighting the dominant or keywords students used to explore the topic. This Wordle option is an embedded feature in PrimaryPad if you join and potentially become a fee-paying user.

Venn diagram tools



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 the Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

The full resource can not be displayed on a mobile device.

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