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Institutional racism

Learning Area: English – Humanities and social sciences  Australian National Curriculum InformationAustralian National Curriculum Information
Age Group: Secondary Lower (13-14 years) – Secondary Middle (15-16 years)


  • Students identify and define institutional racism and consider its effects on various groups in society.
  • Students consider the importance of their identities and consider associated stereotyping.
  • Students examine some stereotype clichés and explore their origins.


This activity needs to handled sensitively to ensure that negative stereotypes and myths relating to groups disadvantaged by institutional racism are not reinforced. The aim of the activity is to examine the underlying causes of the disadvantage experienced by some groups living in Australia. Teachers need to set clear parameters for class and group work. Teachers may also like to involve Indigenous staff and include the personal testimonies of Indigenous people.

Resources needed

  • Worksheets
  • OHP pens and transparencies

Suggested activities

  1. What is an institution?
  2. Name key institutions in Australian society.
  3. What is institutional racism?
  4. Write a definition of institutional racism.
  5. Download worksheet Wheel of discrimination. Consider how racism in a range of social institutions e.g. health, education, employment, can compound disadvantage for particular groups.
  6. Discuss whether Australian institutions have had positive or negative effects on Indigenous people.
  7. Download Face the facts worksheet and cut into five issues:
    • Health
    • Education
    • Employment
    • Housing
    • Criminal justice

    Divide class into five groups. Distribute an issue, overhead projection pen (OHP) pen and a transparency to each group. Each group is asked to:

    • Discuss their issue, familiarise themselves with the facts and research for further information.
    • Consider whether their facts are examples of institutional racism and why.
    • Elect a recorder who summarises main points on an OHP transparency.
    • Present their findings to the class.

Additional strategies

Further research

Which other groups besides Indigenous Australians have experienced institutional racism in Australia? (See Teacher’s notes). Students research individually or in groups and report back to class.

Related resources

Wheel of Discrimination - Birth - Early childhood - Schooling - Early school drop out - Employment - Oppressed lifestyle

  • SHIMAN David A. & McLEAN Barbara J The Prejudice Book, Common Ground, Sydney
  • Webquest: Federation for all?
  • Tripcony, Penny, The Commonwealth Referendum of 1967 and Australian Indigenous Citizenship: An interpretation of historical events.
  • State Library of Queensland, Stolen Generations

Racism. No way! lesson ideas


Wheel of Discrimination from: Race and Racism in Australia, McConnochie K, Hollinsworth D and Pettman J. Social Science Press, Wentworth Falls, 1998.

Date: 26 July 2002