[Episode 5 | 1968 : Sofia]

Michaelis tells Sofia why he is going to the Vietnam War even though he doesn't want to go. They discuss what it may be like and his fears are evident.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [3]

Activity 1: The birthday ballot
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Subtheme(s): Australians at war; Historical events

The National Service Act 1964 required 20-year-old men to serve for two years in regular army units. From 1965, they served overseas. The men were chosen by ballot according to their birthdays. Birthdates were placed on small balls and put in a barrel. The balls were individually selected and birthdates were called out.

  • Ask students to discuss the impact of a conscription ballot on people today. Brainstorm students' opinions on the issue of conscription and collate their ideas on a poster or electronic whiteboard.
  • For background, visit 'Australia and the Vietnam War',

  • Using Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats, the students respond to the statement, 'Countries use conscription to help grow their armed forces and be ready for war.' See the Edward de Bono website, for information on using the Six Thinking Hats.
  • Using the Six Thinking Hats, split the class into the following groups:
  1. Questions (white)
    Use only the information available. What are the facts?
  2. Emotions (red)
    Provide a gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification).
  3. Bad points judgement (black)
    Apply logic to identifying flaws or barriers; seek mismatch.
  4. Good points (yellow)
    Apply logic to identify benefits; seek harmony.
  5. Creativity (green)
    Provide statements of provocation and investigation. See where a thought goes.
  6. Thinking (blue)
    Think about thinking.
  • Ask each group to respond with a series of points supporting their allocated 'thinking hat' description and then share their views with the class.


Activity 2: A soldier's life
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Subtheme(s): Australians at war; Culture

Many Australians were opposed to involvement in the Vietnam War and even more objected to the use of conscripts. The first conscript to die in Vietnam was Errol Noack from South Australia. Groups such as the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam vigorously rejected conscription, with thousands joining the protest marches. Many young men refused to register for the draft.

  • Ask students to discuss the impact that conscription had on young men and their families in the 1960s. Have them interview family members who were involved in the Vietnam War or who remember the political atmosphere of the era. Use the websites below to find information:
  1. Australia and the Vietnam War,
  2. Digger History,
  3. Returned and Services League,
  • Students can research the conditions set out by law for those who claimed to be conscientious objectors. What happened to objectors and how were they treated by society in the 1960s? Ask students to create a mind map of the information they have collected.

  • Ask students to locate a picture of Michaelis as a soldier in uniform from the My Place 'Stills gallery'. The picture will be used in a storyboard they will create to document a soldier's journey to the Vietnam War.
  • Instruct students to write a short story about Michaelis's life as a soldier. They can write it as a journal entry or a creative piece, based on Michaelis's journey to Vietnam. Ask students to research the following key points before beginning the storyboard:
  1. How were soldiers deployed to Vietnam?
  2. How long did they have to spend in Vietnam?
  3. What types of duties were carried out by soldiers in Vietnam?
  4. What uniform regulations did they need to abide by?
  5. What were conditions like in Vietnam?
  6. Where in Vietnam did they serve? Show on a map.
  7. Who was decorated with a Victoria Cross during the Vietnam War?
  • Each of these statements can be unpacked in a class discussion prior to drafting the storyboard.


Activity 3: The swinging '60s
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Culture; Entertainment and games

Michaelis asks Sofia to look after his record collection. She is the only one who is allowed to touch it and play his music.

  • Instruct students to research what records are, what they are played on and what forms they take. Ask them to find images of record players from the 1960s and create a chart of the technology available for records during this era.

  • Ask students to:
  1. research the type of music played in Australia during the 1960s
  2. list the popular bands, singers and musicians
  3. find out which ones were the most successful in the Top 40 charts.
  • In their research, they should find examples of record covers.
  • Ask students to make a list of 12 popular songs from the 1960s for a compilation album. They can design the cover for the album and complete a mock-up to display in the classroom.


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