This is a printer friendly page
Free for educational use

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 - exploitation, minimum wage, outwork, see all tags


Outwork - A Vietnamese Refugee's Story

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 heart_pr.mp4 (13.0MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 heart_bb.mp4 (6.1MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

buy iconYou can buy this clip on a compilation DVD.

buy iconYou can buy the program this clip comes from.

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:

H.1 A student demonstrates understanding of how relationships between composer, responder, text and context shape meaning.
H.5 A student analyses the effect of technology and medium on meaning.
H.6 A student engages with the details of text in order to respond critically and personally.
H.7 A student adapts and synthesises a range of textual features to explore and communicate information, ideas and values for a variety of purposes, audiences and contexts.
H.8 A student articulates and represents own ideas in critical, interpretive and imaginative texts from a range of perspectives.
H.11 A student draws upon the imagination to transform experience and ideas into text, demonstrating control of language.

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. Discuss and write answers to the following questions.
    1. What is a definition for ‘outwork’?
    2. How do you define ‘exploitation’ in the context of the video clip?
    3. Why do you think Hien Tran continued to work as an ‘outworker’?
    4. What problems did she face trying to learn English?
    1. Write a 100-word summary of the video clip and include; the messages it gives about learning English, outwork and about Australia as a fair and reasonable society.
    2. Briefly outline what you think is the filmmaker’s point of view on the topic of outwork.
    3. List the different images the filmmaker uses to support their point of view.
  2. Imagine that you have to present a 3-minute speech entitled, ‘Australia – a great place to work-unless you are a migrant’.
    1. Plan your speech to include points about unions, migrant workers, a citizen’s right to work, workplace opportunities.
    2. Structure your speech to start with an interesting quote or description and to finish with advice about how to solve issues in the workforce.
    3. Present your speech to the class.

Literacy Activity: Focus= Listening / Responding

  1. How many Australians are trapped in the world of outwork? (1 mark)
  2. Why didn’t Hien have any choice about continuing to work in this way? (1 mark)
  3. What does Hien do each day? (1 mark)
  4. What information do the images in this clip tell us about the life of the outworker? (2 marks)

Further Resources


Go to Australians At Work