As I write, many of you are launching into your final semester of teaching Contexts. It can be difficult to find relevant, short, interesting, contemporary additional material to accompany the study of your central texts for this Area of Study, especially when your time is limited. But sometimes allowing students to explore how a range of writers respond to the ideas embedded in your Context study can help them to find their own authentic voice in their responses. Perhaps, for the last ride around the Contexts carousel, you might be looking for some new inspiration to keep things fresh? If so, dip into SBS’s podcast series True Stories.
Season 2 of True Stories focuses on the theme of ‘untold Australia’, inspired by the SBS documentary of the same name. Season 1, released last year, focused on the theme of high school. The series gives Australian writers the opportunity to tell a true story about a formative moment in their lives. It’s sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes funny, but always beautifully constructed and engagingly told. Each writer reads their own story, so you get a real sense of them as both a writer and a person.
A few of my favourite episodes from the podcast are Osamah Sami‘s piece, ‘Mosque, Mourning and Girls’, about pursuing a girl during Ashura, a ten-day Islamic ritual. This funny story demonstrates beautifully how teenage crushes, religion and culture intersect. Andre Dao‘s story, ‘Greyhound’, about travelling to central Australia, reflects on the idea that through ‘seeing more of the world’ we somehow live a fuller life. Sofija Stefanovic’s story, ‘Ex-Yugos’, about migrating to Australia from Serbia in the late 1980s, explores the impact of a homeland’s conflict on migrants building their lives in a new country. Cyrus Bezyan‘s ‘What’s in a Name’ explores how a name can alter people’s perceptions of who you are, including your own. But the most powerful is probably Ellen van Neerven‘s ‘The Confidence Game’, in which the horror of daily schoolyard racial taunts intersects with a passion and talent for sport. If you have students in your class who think on-field ‘sledging’ is ‘all part of the fun’, you might want to play them this.
While most of these stories are classroom friendly, there are certainly a few that contain mature content so I would definitely suggest you listen to any stories you intend using in class before you play them. (Nakkiah Lui’s story ‘Late Night in a Car Park’ is engaging and powerful, for example, but she discusses date rape and sexual encounters that might not be appropriate content for your school context or with your specific class.) Other stories also touch on issues that might be triggers for some students, such as the Srebrenica massacre.
The television series that inspired the podcast Untold Australia would also provide some great inspiration for Context writing (or for exploring cultural diversity in Australia in other year levels). The show includes stories about an Orthodox Jewish community in Melbourne, Indian Australians’ dating and matchmaking experiences, and Norfolk Islanders’ fierce sense of independence from Australia, which would provide a particularly interesting addition to studies of the Imaginative Landscape. You could also use these in flipped classroom activities as they are all freely available online.
Click on the icon below for a free downloadable PDF of analysis questions and writing tasks based on the podcasts mentioned in this post for each of the four Context studies. Please note that all links below and in the PDF will take you to third-party sites.
Best wishes and happy teaching.
- True Stories, produced by SBS.
Suitability and relevance
- Form: podcasts (approx. 10–20 minutes each), some with accompanying animations
- Central topics: Australian diversity, cultural practices in Australia, belonging, growing up
- Content warnings: some coarse language and mature themes in some stories (but not the majority; most are very classroom appropriate)
- Suitable for: Years 10–12, although our activities target Context studies in Year 12