Skip to main content

Teaching teenagers about racism: Teaching teenagers about racism

Teaching teenagers about racism

In early June, National Reconciliation Week 2020 was followed by dramatic events in the United States, and protests across the world and Australia. Young people are witnessing a surge of interest in issues of race and racism. These guides are developed to support teachers who wish to discuss the recent events or issues of racism in their classroom.


9 tips teachers can use when talking about racism

Racism: is it a problem in Australia?

Is Australia Racist? 

SBS February 26, 2017

Media Below: the first media is a short clip (1:10), and the second is a full recording (53:17), classified as MA 15+

Description: One in five Australians has experienced racism in the last 12 months according to one of the biggest ever surveys conducted on racism and prejudice in Australia, commissioned by SBS with the Western Sydney University. Ray Martin investigates the question: Is Australia Racist? This one hour documentary puts survey findings into action through a series of hidden camera social experiments, capturing the experience of racism through the eyes of those who have suffered it. The results are at times confronting, but 'Is Australia Racist?' also reveals inspiring Australians facing up to racism and standing up when witnessing discrimination.

Current events

Black Lives Matter

Season 2020| Episode 15| NITV | June 3, 2020

The Point examines deaths in custody in Australia and the US following the global Black Lives Matter demonstrations held in the wake of George Floyd's death. Hosted by Ryan Liddle and Shahni Wellington.

Black Lives Matter

Season 2020| Episode 15| June 6, 2020

The death of African American man George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police has made global headlines. The Point examines deaths in police custody in the US compared to Australia, three decades on from the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. Hosted by Ryan Liddle and Shahni Wellington.

African Australians| ABC Me| May 16, 2019

General high school selection
Senior fiction
Jasper Jones

A young boy living in an Australian country town sets out on a dangerous journey with Jasper, the local outcast, to solve a mystery that is consuming the entire community. Based on the novel by Craig Silvey, this story explores themes of fear, racism, scapegoating and understanding. M -Suitable for Year 9 and older. Director: Rachel Perkins

Mystery Road

A brutal crime, and a rookie cop out of his depth who stands alone between two worlds where the mystery lies just below the surface. Indigenous cowboy detective Jay Swan returns to his outback home town to solve the murder of a teenage girl whose body is found under the highway trucking route out of town. Written and directed by Ivan Sen. M - Suitable for Year 9 and older.

Rabbit Proof Fence

Based on the true story of three young Aboriginal girls, Molly and Daisy and their cousin, Gracie (Evelyn Sampi, Laura Monaghan, Tianna Sansbury), who in 1931, were forcibly removed from their mothers and their home in Jigalong and moved over 2400km away, as a part of official government policy. Molly leads her younger sister and cousin on a brave escape and in a bid to find their way home, following, on foot, the rabbit-proof fence that cuts across the Gibson Desert and towards Jigalong. Directed and produced by Phillip Noyce. PG - classified as Year 9 and older.

Romper Stomper

This is a controversial, angry and uncompromising film about hatred and violence. Occurring when unemployed and bitter young nationals blame immigrants for their unhappiness and insecurities, Hando leads a gang of Neo-Nazi skinheads, with his right hand man, Davey. Into this maelstrom of violence wanders a young woman, who ends up falling in love with Hando. Written and directed by Geoffrey Wright. MA15+ - Classified for Y11 and 12.

Samson and Delilah

Winner of the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Australia's official entry in the 82nd Academy Awards - Samson and Delilah was one of the most critically and commercially successful Australian films for this year. It has played to sold-out audiences around the world and is about to open in England and France. Samson and Delilah's world is small - an isolated community in the central Australian desert. When tragedy strikes they turn their backs on home and embark on a journey of survival. Lost, unwanted and alone they discover that life isn't always fair, but love never judges. M - Classified for Year 11 and 12.

Sweet Country

Sweet Country is set in 1929 in the outback of the Northern Territory. It is the story of a young boy called Philomac, who witnesses Sam, an Aboriginal stockman kill station owner Harry Marsh in self defense. Sam and his pregnant wife Lizzie go on the run and a posse pursues them across the outback. Director: Warwick Thornton. MA15+ Classified for Year 11 and 12. 

12 Years a slave

In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Subjected to the cruelty of one malevolent owner, he also finds unexpected kindness from another, as he struggles to survive and maintain some of his dignity. In the 12 year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon's life forever. Director: Gordon Parks. MA15+ Classified for Year 11 and 12.

The color purple

Whoopi Goldberg stars in this screen adaptation of Alice Walker's joyous, Pulitzer-Prize winning novel. A young black woman who is mistreated from an early age by the people who "own" her, is sustained by the close bond with her younger sister, to whom she pours her heart out in letters. Director: Steven Spielberg. PG - Classified for Year 11 and 12

Do the right thing

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence. Director: Spike Lee. MA15+

Fruitvale Station

The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008. Director: Ryan Coogler. M - Classified for Year 11 and 12.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures tells the incredible untold story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson - brilliant African-American women working at NASA who served as the brains behind the launch into orbit of astronaut John Glenn, a stunning achievement that turned around the Space Race. The visionary trio crossed all gender and racial lines and inspired generations. Director: Theodore Melfi. PG - Suitable for Year 9 and older.

I am Not Your Negro

Based on Baldwin's unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, a stirring, personal account of the lives and deaths of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. Documentary directed by Raoul Peck. M - Classified for Year 11 and 12.

The Green Mile

The lives of prison guards in the 1930s are forever changed when a black man with a special gift is accused of child murder and sentenced to death row at their penitentiary. Director: Frank Darabont. M - Classified for Year 9 and older.


In New York City's Harlem in 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate 16-year-old who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enrol in an alternative school in the hope that her life can head in a new direction. Winner of two Academy Awards in 2010, and nominated for four others, including Best Picture. Directed by Lee Daniels and stars Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique (in her Oscar-winning role) and Paula Patton.. MA15+ Classified for Year 11 and 12.