Institutional racism

Lesson overview

Learning Area:English – Humanities and social sciences 
Age Group:Secondary Lower (13-14) – Secondary Middle (15-16)


  • 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

Student laptops/chromebooks or tablets


  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 to each group and ask them 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 a device (laptop/chromebook or tablet).
    • Present their findings to the class.

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.