Playlist Challenge - Activism

Years 7/8

Suggested duration: Two lessons


In this task, students will research music popular in the eras of the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s in Australia. They will select songs that relate to or otherwise illustrate movements in activism in Australian society during one of those eras. The songs must relate to the struggle for social justice, the nature and purpose of activism in society and the push for equality, freedom and the idea that all people and cultures deserve a fair go. Students will select one song by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist, to analyse and discuss the connection of the lyrics to activism in society.

The popular band Yothu Yindi, from north-east Arnhem Land, combines traditional Yolngu melodies and words with modern pop and rock songs. One of their most widely recognised songs ‘Treaty’ includes both English and Yolngu languages and was the fifth biggest selling Australian song in the first year of its release (The Little Red Yellow Black Book, p. 86).

Jimmy Little from Cummeragunga on the Murray River in New South Wales sang ‘Royal Telephone’ on TV in the 1960s, and launched a long and illustrious career inspired by his parents. Many of our communi­ties were sustained by songs like ‘Nemeralla Pines’, ‘Yorta Yorta Man’ and others that protested against the conditions faced by Aboriginal people (The Little Red Yellow Black Book,p. 87).

Learning outcomes

  • Students will be able to identify and discuss songs which illustrated activism in Australia both past and present.
  • Students will be able to analyse and understand the connection of song lyrics to communicate a specific purpose.
General capabilities Cross-curriculum priorities
Literacy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
Critical and creative thinking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures organising ideas: 5, 7, 9
Intercultural understandingg  

Australian Curriculum content descriptions

Years 7 and 8 Music

  • Analyse composers’ use of the elements of music and stylistic features when listening to and interpreting music (ACAMUR097).
  • Identify and connect specific features and purposes of music from different eras to explore viewpoints and enrich their music making, starting with Australian music including music of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ACAMUR098).

Provisions for differentiation

Learning support

To support students with learning difficulties, teachers may elect to provide them with a selection of songs with printouts of the lyrics, rather than requiring students to find these themselves. This will better enable them to make appropriate selections.


Students could consider using Audacity or another music editing program to cut together their playlist and turn it into an audio soundtrack. Audacity is free software which can be found online at


  • Copies of the Assignment sheet (PDF)
  • Computer and internet access
  • The AIATSIS website at:
  • The Little Red Yellow Black Book - an introduction to Indigenous Australia (4th edition), ‘Our leadership and activism’, Aboriginal Studies Press, AIATSIS, Canberra, 2018.

For teachers

Ensure that the guidance notes included in The Little Red Yellow Black Book teacher resource have been considered.


  • Activism
  • Social justice

Preparation: Ensure that students have access to computers and the internet to complete this task. Make one copy per student of the Assignment sheet.

Step 1.

Ensure students have access to copies of The Little Red Yellow Black Book. Refer them to the chapters entitled ‘Our Leadership and Activism’ (pp 141-176) and ‘Our achievements – our music’ (pp 84-91). Discuss the key points as a class and check that students understand the task. Discuss the artists mentioned in The Little Red Yellow Black Book (pp. 86-90),including the band Yothu Yindi, Dr Gurrumul Yunupingu, Jimmy Little and Briggs.

Step 2.

Set students up with computer and internet access.

Step 3.

Distribute the Assignment sheet and direct students to complete their online research and begin work on compiling a selection of songs and their lyrics for their music playlist. This work may take two lessons.

Step 4.

Check the draft playlists and provide feedback about the suitability of their choices so that they can make an appropriate choice for the song lyrics they will analyse. Students should choose a song written by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist.

Assessment ideas

  • Completed and checked playlist
  • Q and A to check for understanding
Last reviewed: 8 Nov 2019