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Intercultural understanding

The Australian Curriculum identifies Intercultural understanding as a general capability that all students should develop. It aims to enhance skills in three areas:

  • recognising culture and developing respect
  • interacting and empathising with others
  • reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility.

 In terms of the History curriculum:

…students learn about the perspectives, beliefs and values of people, past and present, and the importance of understanding their own and others' histories. This includes learning about the origins and development of Australia’s national identity and the forging of its cultural heritage.

From the Australian Curriculum: History – general capabilities.

Curriculum content which can assist with intercultural understanding is identified – and therefore searchable – in the Australian Curriculum: History.

The Intercultural understanding learning continuum shows how students are expected to progress with respect to the organising elements. There are six levels corresponding to Foundation, Year 2, Year 4, Year 6, Year 8 and Year 10.  

Note: Intercultural understanding in the Australian Curriculum suggests capabilities that students would typically display at the culmination of various levels of schooling. The levels in this chart relate to the following years of schooling.

Level 5 – Years 7/8
Level 6 – Years 9/10

Recognising culture and developing respect

Level Investigate culture and cultural identity Explore and compare cultural knowledge, beliefs and practices Develop respect for cultural diversity
5 Explaining the factors that lea to the rise of imperial China (Yr.7) Examining ‘bushido’ – the chivalric code of conduct of the samurai (Yr.8), as in Feudal Japan
Investigating the history of Hinduism and its significance to India over time (Yr.7), as in The spread of Hinduism in Southeast Asia and the Pacific
6 Investigating the experiences of ‘Chinese Anzacs’ during World War 1 (Yr.9), as in Chinese ANZACs: A missing history?

Identifying the ways that globalisation and immigration from the Asia region have shaped the Australian community (Yr.10), as in Vietnam War 1962–75

Considering the ways in which international cricket competitions shape Australia’s relationships in the Asia region (Yr.10)

Interacting and empathising with others

Level Communicate across cultures
Consider and develop multiple perspectives
Empathise with others

Investigating how Genghis Khan treated conquered peoples and his motivations for this (Yr.8), as in Genghis Khan

Role-playing characters from various social groupings in Ancient India to explore their experiences and attitudes (Yr.7), as in Ashoka and the Mauryan Empire
Creating an artwork about the Black Death (Yr.8), as in The Black Death
6 Investigating why a dictation test was used as the means of enforcing the Immigration Restriction Act (Yr.10)
Investigating the work of Christian missionaries in China at the turn of the 20th century from various perspectives (Yr.9)
Writing a diary entry for a Japanese soldier serving in World War 2 (Yr.10), as in Unscrambling acronyms: Australia–Japan relations

Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility

Level Reflect on intercultural experiences
Challenge stereotypes and prejudices
Mediate cultural difference
5 Forming a personal response to quotations from Buddhist or Hindu texts (Yr.7), as in Hinduism
Analysing how Shoguns have been represented in art and film over time (Yr.8), as in Japan Under the Shoguns
Debating the significance of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as a class (Yr.7)
6 Reviewing and rating a Bollywood movie (Yr.10), as in Bollywood and Women Identifying stereotypes about Asian peoples depicted in cartoons around the turn of the 20th century (Yr.9), as in Australian attitudes towards Chinese migrants
Critiquing the policy of multiculturalism as first introduced in the 1970s (Yr.10)

Illustrations of practice

Video of Deborah Henderson, associate professor at Queensland University of Technology, discussing intercultural understanding in History. 

What Works 3: Achieving intercultural understanding
What Works 3: Achieving intercultural understanding


Discover how schools develop students intercultural understanding through English and History in the research report What Works 3.   

The Intercultural understanding toolkit supports how to improve capacity for intercultural understanding, how it is addressed across all learning areas and examples of activities that can be used in schools.



Video: AEF
Image: AEF

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