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2 — The rights and wrongs when sharing a life story

During this sequence, the students will explore the ethics of life writing, and consider two new life stories. They will begin to consider the implications of becoming life writers.

Activity 1: Ethical life writing

Remind the students of The Little Frenchman from Sequence 1. In the film, the author, David Tytherleigh, touches on how the story came to be and why he believes it is important. Keeping the following statement in mind, share a repeat viewing of The Little Frenchman. 

Telling a life story is a big responsibility: to get it right, to be respectful of the individual, and to do justice to that life. Deciding what can be told, and what should remain private, or who can tell the stories of someone’s life can be difficult, and are aspects of ethical behaviour (behaviour that is seen to be good or morally right according to a set of principles).

As a means of exploring ethics and life stories, the students should consider this scenario: imagine that the author of The Little Frenchman hosts a screening of the film for neighbours in his backyard, and Roger’s ghost attends.

Activity 2: Privacy and permission

A group of refugees on a crowded single-masted sailing boat in the ocean

Above: 35 Vietnamese refugees wait to be taken aboard a US naval ship, 560 kilometres northeast of Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, after spending eight days at sea.

‘We screamed from below deck, with what little energy we had,
hoping they would take us aboard. They never did.
’ (Journey to Freedom, page 201)

Read the life story ‘Journey to Freedom’ by Hai-Van Nguyen from Dark Dreams. Students should use the Life story matrix worksheet to deconstruct the features and qualities of this story.

Touch on the possible strengths and appeals of print-only life stories compared to digital stories, and vice versa. The consideration of the affordability (potential and possible uses) of different media will be a focus of Sequence 5.

Students should identify aspects of the story that may be considered sensitive or private. As a class, consider the ethics of telling the story of someone newly arrived in Australia as a refugee. What might be the consequences of showing images or giving precise details of their life now? ACELA1551ACELT1633ACELY1745ACELT1772

Activity 3: The benefits and risks of disclosure

As a class, watch the video clip Street Kids. Discuss the meaning of disclosure (making something that has hitherto been private known to others) in relation to ethics. Ask the students:

Ask the students to return to the Life story matrix worksheet and use it to respond to Street Kids. What risks is Dmitry taking by describing illegal activity and gang involvement? 


A fence covered in graffiti

Above: Graffiti covered wall, Sydney, public domain, no copyright

Activity 4: Getting ready to be a life writer

Assessment task 2 asks that the students construct a life story in the third person, enabling them to interact with someone else. Ensure that clear deadlines for the submission of the proposal are established, and that the students understand that the consent of their subject is required. Compiling the story within the word/time limit is part of the skill of constructing this text. Note that still images, even those taken on just one occasion, can be as powerful as video (see Demander 24/7 Roller Derby Queen).

Consult with the students to ensure that their subject:

Ensure that the students’ plans take account of: