Deakin study aims to build intercultural understanding in schools

13 June 2013

Swans footballer, Adam Goodes, may not have realised how timely he was when he called for education to stop racism in schools.

“She's 13, she's uneducated,” Mr Goodes said in a press conference after the incident last month.

“You know if she wants to pick up the phone and call me and apologise, I'll take that phone call and I'll have a conversation with that girl about 'You know what, you called me a name, this is how it made me feel', and it's school stuff, it is school stuff.

“And that's what it took me back to last night, I felt I was in high school again, being bullied, being called all these names because of my appearance.”

Just before Mr Goode’s interview teachers from 12 Melbourne schools had taken the first steps in a major Deakin University research study to investigate the best ways to build intercultural understanding, including using web technology.

The study is being led by Deakin University's Chair in Education, Professor Chris Halse,UNESCO Chair in Comparative Research on Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, Professor Fethi Mansouri, funded by the Australian Research Council and supported by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Together For Humanity Foundation.

Professor Halse said everyone agreed better intercultural understanding is a good thing.

“Pressure is always put on schools to ‘teach’ diversity, the problem is schools need to know what works, what is most effective.

“That is what our project is about.

“We are a nation of diverse cultures and peoples.

“This project will help us embrace that diversity as a community rather than as different groups who happen to live in the one place.”

Professor Mansouri said that ‘racism has been and remains a problem for our multicultural society.

“Overcoming its ugly manifestation in sports fields, public transport, workplace, schools and other public spaces will require more than just a few public statements from politicians and opinion makers,” he said.

“But education, as is the case in our Project, is the critical institution where a long-term approach can nurture genuine intercultural understanding and acceptance of cultural diversity.”

Professor Halse said as part of the first steps of the study teachers from the schools attended professional training to learn their role in improving intercultural understanding, a key component of the Australian curriculum.

The schools are developing action plans to identify what needs to change so as to be able to show their plans worked.

“The day included presentations by the industry partners, with Donna Jacobs Sife from Together for Humanity introducing teachers to the Difference Differently website,” she said.

“The professional learning day, one of two, gave teachers materials and methods designed to build intercultural understanding.”

Ms Sife said the learning modules on the organisation’s website provided high quality teaching materials to help teachers and students think through issues related to cultural diversity.

“The modules are all curriculum based and full of interactive and engaging activities,” she said.

“Teachers can also do accredited professional development modules.

“We’ve had very positive feedback from students, teachers and schools about the quality and value of the website. "

News facts
  • 12 Melbourne schools take first steps in a major Deakin University research study to investigate the best ways to build intercultural understanding
  • Pressure is always put on schools to ‘teach’ diversity
  • The problem is schools need to know what works, what is most effective

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/ 0422 005 485

Chris Halse Fethi Mansouri

Project leaders Professors Chris Halse and Fethi Mansouri

Further information

Project website

Teaching resources

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13th June 2013