Lessons from the field


18 September 2020

In the nine months since Cool Australia released its 52-lesson package of resources around the racism and related issues in 2019 documentary The Final Quarter, compliments and feedback have poured in from teachers and students around the country.

One group of secondary students from a predominantly Indigenous school in Western Australia were so inspired by their lessons they wanted to write personal letters to Adam Goodes and asked Cool Australia to forward them to him.

Produced by Shark Island Institute, the film is about the final stages of the Australian Rules Football career of Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes and raises many important themes and concepts across the Year 5 to 12 curriculum.

“It has been a story that Jason Kimberley, our CEO and founder, has been incredibly passionate about even before the film was developed. He’s a Swans fan and had quite a response to the Goodes story when it was occurring,” says Cool Australia general manager Thea Stinear.

Cool Australia was launched by Kimberley, a retailer, builder, restaurateur, photographer and adventurer, in 2008. He identified educators as the “best voice” for his goal of providing students with relevant and engaging information about three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental responsibility. All lesson packages and resources are available for free.

Resources in demand

The organisation has more than 132,000 teacher members supporting its programs and Stinear says they have shown an overwhelming demand for resources to help them teach students about racism.

A team of teachers and topic experts lead by education specialist, Janine Meadley, has worked together to create the lessons, with advice from a youth psychologist, Reconciliation Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“It has been very much a collaborative experience, and we have worked to ensure we are accessing the most up-to-date information,” says Meadley

“Subject-specific educational writers have worked on the content to ensure an accurate fit for the curriculum across all age groups and relevant subject areas.”

Stinear says the lessons have been downloaded more than 20,000 times in less than a year.

Students are encouraged to watch the documentary before beginning any lesson and Stinear says the resources were used extensively during the COVID-19 lockdown, with traffic up by more than 240 per cent.

“The resources are more than just a Q&A guide to the film," she says. "It is about really supporting teachers to build their confidence and their capacity to talk about racism and tall-poppy syndrome and mob mentality within the classroom.”

Cool Australia resources

The Cool Australia resources are broken into “watching the film” lessons and follow-up lessons that align across the curriculum and assist with forward planning.

At primary level, the resources explore race relations and social action. Students are asked to consider how formal and informal treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples impacts
upon their sense of belonging.

Secondary lessons work with specialist units from health and physical education to social action, civics and citizenship, media arts, English and music and include topics such as societal values, equity, equality and inclusion, casual racism and vilification and how the media influences audience perspective.

By Leanne Tolra

This article was originally published in The Australian Educator, Spring 2020