Unit 10: From Little Things Big Things Grow


This unit is about activism, and how people or groups can stand up for what they believe in order to bring about change. Students will consider what basic human needs and rights are, and investigate the United Nations declaration of Human Rights. They will identify times in the past and present when people have been denied these rights, and how people or groups have created awareness of this through their words and actions. In particular they will learn about the struggle for rights by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. The students will investigate a wide range of people in Australia and globally who have stood up against injustice and made a difference.

Aboriginal Perspectives

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had to fight to have their rights as Australian citizens recognised.
  • There are many Aboriginal Australians who have been inspirational and have been instrumental in bringing about change in issues of Aboriginal rights in Australia.
  • Land rights, racial discrimination, the right to become a citizen including the right to vote, the stolen generation are all issues where changes have been brought about through activism.


Change, justice, activism, power, democracy, rights and perspective


  • When societies are just, people are more likely to live peacefully and fully participate in life.
  • In difficult times and circumstances, people can take action to bring about change.
  • Different perspectives on an issue can create unjust outcomes.
  • The rights of: freedom of thought, speech and action, enable people to rise above injustices.

Rich Question

Why is it important to stand up for justice? Can people make a difference?

Contributing Questions

  • What are the characteristics of a just society?
  • What basic human rights are all people entitled to?
  • How are people affected when their rights are denied?
  • How can people overcome oppression and change an unjust situation?
  • What are the characteristics of people who fight for justice?

Background Notes

From the Yarra Healing website: essential learnings.

When developing units of work on this particular topic the following learnings need to be considered:

  • Efforts to redress past injustices and to advance the status and cultural integrity of Indigenous people are responsibilities which belong to all Australians.
  • Significant advances have been made by Koorie organisations and people seeking to overcome the long history of discrimination and disadvantage in mainstream social, educational and economic structures.
  • On every available measure of social and economic disadvantage, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples record greater problems and enjoy fewer opportunities than the rest of the Australian population.
  • Employment. The overall rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unemployment is almost two and a half times the national average. Many Aboriginal people employed find themselves in poorly paid, low-skilled and insecure jobs.
  • Education. The low employment status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples reflects in a large measure poor access to education and training.
  • Health. Across Australia (WA, NT and SA), in all age groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience mortality rates and premature mortality rates three times that of the total population. In almost all disease categories, the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is much worse than that of other Australians.
  • Housing. It is estimated that one third of Aboriginal families in Australia live in inadequate housing. An acute housing shortage exists for those desirous of having conventional housing and those who have special needs to accord with their traditional social organisation.
  • Law and Justice. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody found that disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are held in police and prison custody because of profound underlying socio-economic disadvantage. The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration is more than 25 times the non-indigenous rate.


Written texts

  • “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. Abridged version by Chris Van Wyk, Macmillan, London 2009.
  • “Indigenous Australia Standing Strong” by Penny Tweedie, Simon and Schuster, 2001.This book celebrates the lives, enterprise, achievements and culture of sixty contemporary Indigenous Australians. They represent all states and territories, and include sports people, artists, academics and many conventional occupations.


http://www.ouryoungheroes.org.au/young-heroes#23 this website has profiles of many young Australians approx 18-25 yrs who have made a difference in a particular area.

http://www.freechild.org/international.htm includes information on youth human rights projects around the world, and ways young people can get involved.

http://www.theage.com.au/news/Opinion/How-footy-jumper-became-a-powerful-symbol/2005/03/12/1110567746685.html Article and photograph of Nicky Winmar and his stand against racism.

http://www.beyondintractability.org/reflections/peacebuilder_profiles/Craig_Kielburger/Craig_Kielburger.jsp?nid=6579Profile on Craig Kielburger who became an activist at age 12, striving for child labour to be abolished in Pakistan. Since then his organisation has raised millions of dollars to aid human rights.

http://www.freethechildren.com/aboutus/history.php Craig Kielburger’s website.

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/info_for_students/index.html Gives students information about what human rights are, and a history of human rights in Australia. Includes a booklet entitled ‘Lets Talk About Human Rights’ which explains each of the rights and give real life examples from Australia.

http://www.australianbiography.gov.au/ This site has episodes on Faith Bandler, Neville Bonner, Lowitja O’Donoghue, and Charlie Perkins. Each biography comes complete with a study guide and is made available as a downloadable module.

http://www.foundationhouse.org.au/home/index.htm Foundation House is an organisation in Melbourne that supports refugees. They offer a limited guest speaker service.

http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/from_little_things_big_things_grow/ The National Museum in Canberra has an online exhibition about Aboriginal Activism called “From Little things Big Things Grow.”

http://www.yarrahealing.catholic.edu.au/ This website contains a wealth of information about the Kulin Nation. In it’s section on Victorian Indigenous organisations there are contact details for Banyip Kidjeka, a workshop on the Stolen Generation with Kutcha and Eva-Jo Edwards.

http://www.creativespirits.info/ outlines a history of the Aboriginal fight for justice.

http://www1.aiatsis.gov.au/exhibitions/freedomride/start.htm an online exhibition about the freedom ride including information about how it started, it’s ams, newspaper articles and diary entries. Additional information on the freedom ride can also be found on this website: http://www.indigenousrights.net.au/section.asp?sID=33

Audio Visual

Aung San Suu Kyi is fighting for democracy in Burma and has been under house arrest by the military for more than 20 years, even though she was elected prime minister in an open and free election. A short BBC video clip about Aung San Suu Kyi.

BTN story about Tom Woods who is campaigning against cyber bullying.

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/p/paul_kelly/from_little_things_big_things_grow.html Lyrics to From Little things Big Things Grow, also includes a video clip of Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody singing the song in concert

You Tube clips- Craig Kielburger ‘From Me to We: It Takes a Child’
Stacey Dooley Kids for Sale

Dancing in the Dust DVD produced by Victorian College of the Arts in conjunction with the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.