One of the really enjoyable aspects about being a writer is that I get to visit schools and talk to students. More to the Story – conversations with refugees is being used in a number of high schools around Australia for English, social sciences and a number of other subjects. The response from students and teachers has been heartening.
Recently I visited Churchlands Senior High School in Perth and was so impressed with how the teaching staff were approaching the topic. Apart from reading chapters of my book (which was lovely to see), they had also watched some of the SBS programme Go back to where you came from, as well as examining speeches by Julian Burnside QC, information on the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Border Security website, different media reports and the Refugee Council of Australia website. The context for several classes was ‘making choices’ which explores the formation and influence of values and attitudes in individuals and society. A number of others were also looking at the power of language and how it is used to empower and disempower.
I find young people ask very different questions compared to adult audiences. I have to say there also seems to be more astonishment and outrage that Australia treats asylum seekers as it does. As one student said to me: ‘I just can’t understand why we treat people like this – it is a fundamental human right to be able to seek asylum. How does this happen?’
There also tend to be more personal questions about the individual people I have written about. For example: What happened to John’s mum in Afghanistan? Why can’t she come to Australia? Why couldn’t Paul immediately apply for refugee status when he escaped Burma? What do kids like us do in a refugee camp? Do you keep in contact with the people in your book? Are they your friends?
I am always pleased to explain yes, the people I have written about in my book have become friends and my life is richer for it.
We have a page for schools on this website (under Resources in the menu) which contains information for teachers on school visits, some teaching notes and a contact form for those interested in me visiting their school.