Refugee migration

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The reasons for spatial variations between countries in selected indicators of human wellbeing (ACHGK077)

Source: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Learning goals

Students have the opportunity to explore details about the world's refugees and briefly look at the conflicts that have led to the large movement of people on a local and global scale. The location of refugee camps in countries accepting people and the living conditions of refugees are considered. Strategies to enhance the wellbeing of refugees are examined together with the global humanitarian approaches taken to address the refugee issue more generally. The process of refugee acceptance in Australia is also examined.

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • identifying the size of the refugee problems on a global scale
  • understanding the conflicts that have led to the refugee crisis
  • analysing the factors that create the humanitarian crisis 
  • describing the means by which refugees can move to other places
  • examining the measures used to allow acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers.

Geographical understanding and context

The world currently has many millions of people fleeing their homes as a result of war, civil unrest and persecution. Many people attempt to find their way to safe places around the world where they are free of persecution. A great number end up in temporary camps in other countries, but have nowhere to go in the long term. 

People are also forced to leave their homes because of a range of environmental factors such as drought and desertification. Climate change is likely to displace tens of millions of people as it transforms the physical liveability of places.

This illustration of practice looks at a range of issues associated with refugees, including location, causal factors and human wellbeing. It also examines the measures that Australia and other countries take to assist refugees within the camps and when they arrive on their shores.

Teaching approaches

The resources provided with this illustration can be used to both introduce and extend the learning experiences of students. You can use the resource Refugee migration inquiry (PDF, 356 KB) to support your planning, or it can be provided to students to work from. It includes:

  • a suggested approach to the topic
  • inquiry questions that facilitate the analysis of sources
  • tasks that promote student engagement and learning.

1. Map and data interpretation

Commence the illustration with a source analysis activity using the document Refugee migration 1: Source analysis (PDF, 260 KB). This activity provides students with all the key terms to be used in the unit. Some discussion should occur as a result. 

2. Map creation – Where are the refugees?

This is to be followed by a range of mapping and data analysis tasks on 'Where are the refugees?' 

The Worldmapper website has a wealth of relevant data that can be sourced by students. Two resources from this website, Refugee origin (PDF, 650 KB) and Refugee destination (PDF, 685 KB), are provided. 

A United Nations map shows the subcontinent distribution of refugees in Populations of concern. More data is provided in Refugee migration 2: Data analysis (PDF, 470 KB). 

Ask students to use Google Earth place-marks or Quikmaps to locate the countries of origin and the countries of destination. Use the colour option for the place-marks or different colour markers to distinguish between origin and destination. Save the data input into one 'Keyhole Markup language Zipped' file (.kmz file extension), or save it as a screen grab with Quikmaps.

3. Source analysis and research – How have people become refugees and what is it like?

To examine the conflicts displacing people in 2011 and 2012, access Refugee migration 3: Source analysis (PDF, 331 KB). As a class, analyse the factors that are leading to people fleeing. Classify them in some way in table form. For example, environmental or political. The countries concerned could also be plotted on a map.

Use a variety of Internet resources to examine the question 'What is it like to be a refugee?' There is much written by non-government agencies and charities about refugee wellbeing and what it is like to live in a refugee camp. You will need to consider with the class the issues and concerns facing refugees. 

4. Australian refugees

Use the resources Refugee migration 4 (PDF, 188 KB) and Refugee migration 5 (PDF, 159 KB) to examine some of the policies of the Australian Government on refugees. These could form the basis of a class or group discussion on refugee solutions.

What you need

Access to the Internet.

Populations of concern (PDF, 481 KB).

Refugee destination (PDF, 685 KB).

Refugee migration inquiry (PDF, 356 KB).

Refugee migration 1: Source analysis (PDF, 260 KB).

Refugee migration 2: Data analysis (PDF, 470 KB).

Refugee migration 3: Source analysis (PDF, 331 KB).

Refugee migration 4 (PDF, 188 KB).

Refugee migration 5 (PDF, 159 KB).

Refugee origin (PDF, 650 KB).

Worldmapper provides interesting maps and a wealth of data on a variety of topics. Look at 'movement' for this topic.

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum.


  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements to influence a course of action (ACELY1751)
  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, confidently, flexibly and imaginatively to create, edit and publish texts, considering the identified purpose and the characteristics of the user (ACELY1776)
  • Evaluate the social, moral and ethical positions represented in texts (ACELT1812)


  • Analyse patterns and trends in data, including describing relationships between variables and identifying inconsistencies (ACSIS203)
  • Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems (ACSIS206)


  • The intensification of environmental effects in the twentieth century as a result of population increase, urbanisation, increasing industrial production and trade (ACDSEH125)
  • Responses of governments, including the Australian government, and international organisations to environmental threats since the 1960s (including deforestation and climate change) (ACDSEH128)

Source: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).



Amnesty International. Human rights for refugees. Retrieved September 2012, from:

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from:

Australian Government. Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Visas, immigration and refugees. Retrieved September 2012, from:

Refugee Council of Australia. Providing information and resources to help you find out about key issues affecting refugee and asylum seekers both in Australia and internationally, including policies and statistics. Retrieved September 2012, from: It includes a section called FAQs (frequently asked questions). Retrieved September 2012, from:

Refugees International. An organisation helping refugees. Includes current field reports from refugee camps. Retrieved September 2012, from:

United Nations. Global issues. Refugees. Retrieved September 2012, from:

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Retrieved September 2012, from:

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Reliefweb. This is a specialised digital service that provides updates and analysis on current conflicts or humanitarian crisis. Retrieved September 2012, from:

United States Association for UNHCR. About refugees. Provides a variety of information about refugees. Retrieved September 2012, from: It includes definitions in the section What is a refugee? Retrieved September 2012, from:

United States Association for UNHCR. Teacher's corner. Provides free lesson plans and other resources for teachers. Retrieved September 2012, from:

All other required resources are listed in the 'What you need' section above.