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Outwork - A Vietnamese Refugee's Story

From the website Australians At Work.
Video clip synopsis – Migrant women work long hours sewing garments at home for a few dollars an hour. Many are refugees and have little understanding of their rights or the chance of alternative employment.
Year of production - 2001
Duration - 1min 46sec
Tags - gender, migrants, outwork, social class, work, see all tags


Outwork - A Vietnamese Refugee's Story

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About the Video Clip


Outwork- A Vietnamese Refugee’s Story is an excerpt from the film Heart On The Sleeve (26 mins), an episode of the series Fearless – Stories From Asian Women (4× 26 mins), produced in 2001.

Heart On The Sleeve: Although Australia has a first-world economy, hidden within it a third-world industry thrives. Outworkers sewing at home are paid per piece by clothing companies. They work to unforgiving deadlines, often seven days a week, for a pitiful few dollars per hour. Hundreds of thousands of workers from non-English speaking backgrounds suffer in these archaic conditions. They have no sick pay, leave, superannuation or insurance. Now, Hien Tran, former Vietnamese refugee turned union representative, is speaking up for her fellow outworkers, trapped by their circumstances and financial need.

Fearless – Stories From Asian Women examines the experience of four women fighting for social justice. Each is from a different culture and has her own fascinating story to tell. All are united by their refusal to remain silent and accepting. These courageous and committed women are prepared to risk everything in pursuit of human rights. This compelling series examines the issues that incite them to action, their personal motivations and their hopes for the future.

Fearless – Stories From Asian Women is a Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Mask Productions. Produced and developed with the assistance of ScreenWest and the Lotteries Commission of Western Australia. Produced in association with SBS Independent.

Curriculum Focus


This digital resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
A student
H2 analyses relationships within and between social and cultural groups
H3 accounts for cultural diversity and commonality within societies and cultures
H5 evaluates the influence of power, authority, gender and technology on decision making and participation in society

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


Outwork is a system of production involving people working at home for a manufacturer. Although Australia has laws regarding minimum wages and occupational health and safety, the system is open to abuse.

Classroom Activities

  1. This clip raises issues about the Nature of Work and Leisure. In particular, it raises issues about the effect of social class and gender on work and leisure aspirations and opportunites as well as the relationship between power work and leisure.
    1. What aspects of Hien Tran’s situation make her vulnerable to exploitation as an outworker?
    2. What impact does her regime of daytime english lessons and nightime sewing have on her leisure time?
  2. Clearly not all business people are ethical in terms of providing fair wages and conditions.
    1. Is Australia becoming a fairer society through legislation to protect vulnerable workers?
    2. Make a table of of characteristics that would make people vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace with the characteristic listed on the left and examples of how such a characteristic contributes to vulnerability on the right.
      Share your completed table with your classmates.