Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

The apology

[Episode 1 | 2008 : Laura]

Laura and her family are at the community centre to listen to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s address to Indigenous people apologising for decades of government policy that allowed children to be stolen from their families. However, Laura is more concerned with the apology she needs to make to Michaelis.


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 [6]

Activity 1: Laura's apology
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Indigenous perspectives; Politics
  • Before viewing the clip, ask students to think about its title, 'The apology'. Have students 'think, pair, share' what they predict the clip might be about. Invite students to record their ideas on a 'graffiti wall'. Ask students to brainstorm the word 'apology' and list all the ideas and words that come to mind. Discuss the list and have students write a brief description of what they think an apology means to them.
  • After viewing the clip, as a class, note down all the significant events that occurred. Ask students to share and discuss.
  • Discuss Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's speech to Parliament, apologising for Australian laws and policies that caused Indigenous Australians to be mistreated, and especially for the removal of Indigenous children from their families and the continuing impact on people today. Part of the speech is screened during this clip. You could also look at R10332 'Kevin Rudd's apology speech 2008 - item 1 of 6'.
  • Ask students to respond to the following questions:
  1. Who is Kevin Rudd apologising to?
  2. What is he apologising about?
  3. Why is he apologising?

  • During the speech, ask students to look at how the filmmaker uses Laura to draw attention to the way people are feeling in the room and also to focus on how Laura herself is feeling.
  • View the whole episode from the beginning scene where Laura accidentally sinks Michaelis's boat. Ask students to consider what apology Laura needs to make. Who has she offended and what did she do wrong? Ask students to write an apology letter from Laura to Michaelis.


Activity 2: Sorry
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Subtheme(s): Historical events; Indigenous perspectives

Introduce the concept of Stolen Generations to the class and discuss what this means. As a class, discuss why it is important to understand what happened and how it makes sense of Aunty Bev's story.

  1. Ask students to write down who they think the key characters are in this clip and why they think so.
  2. Share responses and discuss the techniques used by the filmmaker to focus audience attention on two characters: Laura and Aunty Bev.
  3. Discuss ways in which the camera is used throughout this clip to draw attention to people and their feelings as the events unfold. Start with the scene in the kitchen when Laura and her family are preparing to go to watch the apology speech.
  4. View the clip again and focus on Aunty Bev. Have students note what she does, how they think she is feeling and why. Highlight the moment when she is sitting quietly and Laura's mother asks her if she is all right.
  5. Discuss the reason why the filmmaker does this. It could, for instance, be intended to focus audience attention to Aunty Bev, foreshadowing that she will be a character of interest in the story.

  • Look at how the filmmaker uses Laura to draw attention to the way people are feeling in the room and also to focus on how Laura herself is feeling.
  • Ask students to imagine the feelings of the older people in the room during the speech and how Laura might be feeling. Think about why they would be feeling the way they do.
  • Two characters are the focus in this clip: Laura and Aunty Bev. Have students write a description of the event from their differing points of view: Laura's as she struggles to understand what is going on and Aunty Bev's as she deals with her feelings on this day. Students may wish to use a 'sunshine wheel' to explain their points.


Activity 3: Aunty Bev's story
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Subtheme(s): Indigenous perspectives; Language and scripting; Politics
  • Aunty Bev tells Laura a little about the story of how she was taken from her mother when she was so young she can no longer remember her. As a class, discuss how Aunty Bev feels about this now and what impact this story might have on Laura. Ask students how they feel about this story.
  • Play the clip from R10333 'Kevin Rudd's apology speech, 2008 - item 2 of 6' to the class. Focus on the story of one woman, Nanna Nungala Fejo. Ask students to note any information that they think is important in the story. Have students read the story of Nanna Nungala Fejo in the transcript from this resource.

  • In small groups, discuss and compare this story to that of Aunty Bev.
  • Have students draft a letter to the Prime Minister describing how they feel about this situation and what it means to them.
  • You could show students selected clips from the film Rabbit-Proof Fence for more insight into the way children were taken from their families. Clips from the film with teachers’ notes are available from australianscreen, 'Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)', http://aso.gov.au/titles/features/rabbit-proof-fence/
  • Please note that Rabbit-Proof Fence is rated PG (parental guidance) and permission should be gained from parents and the school principal before viewing. It is recommended that teachers view all film content before introducing it to students to ensure that it is appropriate for the class.


Activity 4: Emotive language
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Language and scripting
  • Replay the scene in the My Place clip showing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivering his speech. Ask students to note any words or phrases he uses that particularly resonate or 'stick in their heads'. Some examples might be 'fellow Australians', 'pain', 'suffering and hurt', 'Stolen Generations', 'indignity', 'degradation' and 'we say sorry'.
  • As a class, discuss the impact these words and phrases have on the audience in the clip. Ask students:
  1. How do these words make you feel?
  2. What was the intention of the Prime Minister when choosing these words?
  3. Are these words successful in stressing the intent and meaning of his apology? Why or why not?
  • Discuss responses and have students define key words and phrases and the impact these words have on the listener.
  • Using a transcript of the speech, ask students to highlight other interesting and emotive words that are used. Refer them to R10332 'Kevin Rudd's apology speech 2008 - item 1 of 6'.
  • Look also at the use of repetition of the phrase 'we are sorry'. Discuss why the speech writer uses this phrase in the speech; does this repetition add or detract from the power of the speech? Why or why not?

  • Drawing on this information, ask students to discuss the elements they think are important in a good speech or public speaking. Using this as a guide, ask students to write a one-minute speech on a topic of their choice and present it to the class.


Activity 5: The old fella
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Subtheme(s): Culture

The ancient Moreton Bay fig tree provides a quiet place for Laura and her Aunty Bev, who was taken away from her family and is a member of the Stolen Generations. Laura sits close to her as she tells her poignant story.

  • Ask the students to find out more about these magnificent trees. The image of the Moreton Bay fig is a constant feature of the My Place episodes. Have students investigate these trees to find out if they originate from Australia, where they got their name and any other interesting information. Ask the students to present their findings as a report to the class.
  • Additionally, take the students on a nature walk within the school grounds to explore native trees. List which ones they find with their species name. Collect sample leaves to make a botanical journal of information, samples and drawings.

  • Have the students write a haiku poem about their chosen tree/s.


Activity 6: Two apologies
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Subtheme(s): Indigenous perspectives; Politics; Relationships
  • The story in this episode is about two apologies:
  1. Laura's apology to Michaelis for sinking his dinghy and disposing of his dog's ashes
  2. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Discuss the nature of an apology and why it is sometimes so hard to say sorry.
  • As a class, discuss the differences between the two apologies in this story. Ask students to look at the script for Episode 1: 2008: Laura and find the scene where Laura apologies to Michaelis. She never really articulates what she did but the apology is understood and accepted anyway. Compare this with Prime Minister Rudd's apology speech where he clearly outlines all the actions and events he is apologising for.

  • Discuss the way in which Laura apologises and how Michaelis receives it. What do students think of this as an apology? Do they think it is good enough? Why or why not?
  • Compare the ways in which both apologies are received by the people being apologised to. In Prime Minister Rudd's case these are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, represented in this story by Aunty Bev and Laura's family, and in Laura's case, it is Michaelis.
  • Using these discussion points as a guide, ask students to write a letter of apology to a teacher, friend or family member.


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