Refugees Teacher notes


Who are refugees?

They are people who have been forced to flee from their country because they are afraid of being persecuted or killed. The reasons for this maybe their race, religion, politics, nationality or because they belong to a particular ethnic group.


Refugees are different to migrants in that they do not choose to leave nor can they bring their belongings.


Refugees come from almost every country where there is a war or abuse of human rights. The largest group of refugees is from Afghanistan (about 6 million). There are many from countries in Africa also. Half the number of refugees are children.


Basic needs: firstly they need asylum a safe place to live where they will not be forced to return to their homeland against their will.

Usually refugees have fled with nothing so they also need food, water, clothing, medical care, and shelter. Many go to refugee camps to obtain these things.


To help them be able to look after themselves refugees need schools, access to land, training and activities to make money from.


Why help? Wee believe in freedom of speech, religion and political association. We are lucky in Australia to have these things. If we believe in justice, equality and the right to live in peace, we need to help those who do not have this freedom.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the agency of the United Nations which helps refugees.


Famous refugees: Many refugees make an important contribution to their host country eg Eistein, Rudolf Nureyev (a famous ballet dancer), Marlene Dietrich (a famous actress), Freud, and Chopin.


Websites for contacts about refugees

To contact a migrant resources centre:

Some information about refugees:


Information on refugees and policy in Australia:
About refugees worldwide:

The refugee council:

Other info at

Other stories at:


More on refugees and detention centres etc at the end of these notes. Plus Malcolm Fraser's letter. See also



Also see article about children in asylum by Tom Mann, posted separately on this site under Soraya, the story teller




Written and oral Activities about refugees:


1 First of all have the class close their eyes and imagine throwing out one by one all the things in their house toys, sports equipment, nice sneakers, the food in the kitchen, turn off the water, no shower, pull down the house and live in the shed. Lose all books and pens, music, no TV or videos or games, your Dad loses his job, the school disappears, the hospital too. Someone in your family goes missing. How do you feel? Write a creative piece about how you might cope.


2 War has just been declared in your neighbourhood. You can't get home, but must fend for themselves and find a safe place. Write a story about how you survive. 


3 Paint or use collage to make a mural of the life of a refugee like Soraya. The problems in the homeland, escape, life in a camp or detention centre.


4 Write a poem about how you would feel if you had to live in a detention centre but you had done nothing wrong.


5 Bring a picture of your home. Discuss. Write a piece about what home means to you and how you would feel if it was suddenly taken away.


6 'Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.' Discuss this Universal Declaration of human Rights and what it might mean. Write a poem or story about someone who has been denied these rights.


7 Interview a refugee and write their story.


8 Have a refugee come and speak to the class. Then write a play and dramatise the story.


9 For older students: Debate the statement, 'Refugees should fully integrate into their new society and forget their past culture.'


10 Find news articles about refugees. Are their refugees in your neighbourhood? Do a survey to find out what people thinks about them and if they think Australia should help them. What do you think?


11 Is there a refugee family that you can help? How? With English? Extra items for the home? Being friends?


12 Choose a country and find out what refugees have suffered there and what their problems are in settling into Australia. Write up a report around a character that you have created even the events may be true. You may like to do this as a fictional piece like Soraya.



Many other activities regarding refugees can be found in 'Refugee Children Around the World', United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Austcare, Longman Cheshire, 1991.