Workers' rights

[Episode 12 | 1898 : Rowley]

Rowley tells his mother that he went to see the manager of the brickworks about getting his father a job. His mother eventually tells Rowley what caused Rowley's father to leave home. Rowley learns of his father's involvement in sticking up for the workers and his eventual sacking.


English

The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [3]

Activity 1: What's the problem?
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Subtheme(s): Relationships; Social order and education
Discover
  • Ask students to identify the focus of this clip. Have them identify what they think the main issues are. Create a class chart listing the identified issues and the evidence from the clip that describes them.

Reflect
  • Have students pretend to be Rowley and write a diary entry summarising his day as seen in this clip. What was the main thing that happened to him and how do you think he feels about what he found out? Why is this day so important to him? Encourage students to empathise with Rowley and explain his feelings.

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Activity 2: Workers' health
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Social order and education
Discover
  • As a class, discuss the health problems for workers at the brickworks. What is happening to them? How do we know this is happening? Have students view the clip again and look for specific information. Some examples include the man coughing in the opening shot and Rowley's conversation with his mother.
  • Ask students to find out:
  1. What did Rowley's father do for a living?
  2. What happened to Rowley's father as a result of this work?
  3. What eventually happened to him and what impact did it have on his life?
  4. What does this mean for his family?

Reflect
  • Have students reflect on what measures could be taken to fix the situation for Rowley's dad. Students could take part in a debate where they present arguments for and against the case for workers' entitlements. Issues for debate could include sick leave, holiday leave and workers' compensation for work-related illnesses (such as respiratory illness due to the brick dust from the brickworks). Ask students to research more contemporary examples where workers' rights have been ignored.
  • Ask students to design a poster depicting the danger of working in a mine. Discuss the characteristics of a good poster. As a modelled class activity, analyse examples of different posters, identifying the generic structure and key features of an effective poster. How are the slogan, subheading, images and body text used to communicate their intended message?

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Activity 3: Letters to the editor
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment
Discover
  • Ask students to view the clip and list all the information provided about the issues of workers' health and unsafe working practice at the 1898 brickworks. The information is given in a variety of ways, so they need to listen and watch carefully. Ask them to list each issue they find and discuss them as a class.
  • Introduce students to the TLF digital resource L336 'Letters to the Editor, 2009: community disagrees'. This could be used as an example and support with writing their own letter to the editor.

Reflect
  • Have students choose a character from the clip and write a letter to the newspaper as that person, using the formal written English of 1898. They should argue for the brickworks to introduce sick leave and safety measures to ensure that their workers remain healthy. Prior to students writing their own letter, create a class example as a modelled text. Focus attention on the format of the letter: salutation and introduction, body of text, conclusion and sign-off.

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