The dole inspector

[Episode 8 | 1938 : Colum]

The dole inspector is a feared authority in the neighbourhood where Colum and his family live. When the alarm is given that he is on his way, the families hide any evidence of making a living. The dole inspector could enter the homes of people receiving the dole and tell them to leave their house or sell their belongings.


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: Hardship
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Historical events; Social order and education
  • Following a screening of the clip, ask the class to list the main events that occur in this story, identifying the key characters and the story focus.
  • Use the following questions as prompts for further class or group discussion:
  1. What are the main difficulties for Colum's family and for his friends?
  2. What is the meaning of the term 'dole'?
  3. Why do you think Colum's family are on the dole?
  4. Why are these families raising chickens and growing vegetables in their backyards? What benefits would this have for them?
  5. What would happen to people on the dole if they were caught raising 'chooks'? Why?
  6. Do you think it is fair to stop a family's dole payments for doing this?

  • Ask students to find out what resources are available for unemployed people and families today, for example, Centrelink and unemployment benefits. Compare this with the situation of Colum's family in 1938. Ask students to write a report outlining which system they think is fairer and the reasons why.
  • Discuss ways in which students might be able to help save money or contribute to the household if things were tough for their family. Brainstorm a class list of ideas. Have students write a letter to their family outlining what contributions they could make to help the family in a time of economic need.


Activity 2: Family
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Social order and education
  • Ask students to think about Colum and his family and then write a description of the family using three rich adjectives to create a word picture. Share and compare these descriptions and have students give reasons why they have described the family in this way. Encourage them to use evidence from the clip to support their opinion. Discuss the ways the filmmaker communicates important information about the family and their friends to the audience. Look closely at costumes, actions and the setting.
  • Discuss how Colum's family works together in this time of hardship, identifying specific examples in the clip. Introduce the old saying that 'blood is thicker than water' and discuss what this might mean, and what it means in this context.

  • Students work in small groups to build up a richer picture of the family and their situation from all the information collected. Students can write a short story about what happened to Colum and his family before this situation, and how hardship has brought them together.


Activity 3: Dole inspector's coming
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Social order and education
  • As a class, discuss the role of the dole inspector. Ask students to focus on this character very carefully, taking notes and collecting as much information about him as possible from what is shown and heard in the clip. Looks at how he dresses, how he acts and how he speaks. Have students compare notes and then individually write a detailed description of the dole inspector from the information they have collected.
  • As a class, briefly discuss these responses and have students give reasons why they think the dole inspector is doing this job. Part of the discussion may focus on the fact that his job may be all that stands between the dole inspector and being unemployed and on the dole, like Colum's family.

  • Ask students to create a webpage for the dole inspector. Ask them to imagine that he is alive today and needs a Facebook page to connect with other dole inspectors across the country. Alternatively, design an advertisement asking people to apply of the job of a dole inspector.


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