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Repetitious Work Affects Migrant Women

Video clip synopsis – Female migrant workers discuss the pain in their hands after long hours of sewing and repetitive factory work.
Year of production - 1984
Duration - 2min 5sec
Tags - migrants, multiculturalism, trade unions, see all tags


Repetitious Work Affects Migrant Women

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 teno_pr.mp4 (15.4MB).

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About the Video Clip


Repetitious Work Affects Migrant Women is an excerpt from the film Teno (10 mins),
produced in 1984.

Teno looks at a widespread workplace illness, tenosynovitis – a crippling and often misunderstood disease. The nature of modern work practices can inadvertently lead to the illness, which mostly strikes women, since they predominantly work in jobs requiring repetitious activity. This is especially evident among migrant workers. The program also considers the responsibility of both employers and employees.

Teno was produced by the Women’s Film Unit for Film Australia.

Curriculum Focus


This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
P.1 A student demonstrates an understanding of the relationships between composer, responder, text and context.
P.5 A student demonstrates understanding of how audience and purpose affect the language and structure of texts.
P.6 A student interprets texts using key language patterns and structural features.
P.8 A student uses a variety of textual forms appropriately, for different purposes, audiences and contexts, in all modes.
P.11 A student analyses and synthesises information and ideas from a range of texts in a range of modes and media.

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

Background Information


During the 1980s Australia had many small manufacturing workshops, usually located in the major capital cities.

A large proportion of the workers in these factories and workshops were migrant women.

The jobs often involved repetitive manual work in poor conditions.

Unions had won equal pay for women, but traditionally women’s manual work was paid the lowest wage possible. There was also sometimes pressure on women workers to work at below-award rates.

Women often worked at home or in places where unionism was weak, and conditions and pay were below the minimum required.

Increasing competition from developing countries with low wage-rates often meant that there was great pressure on local manufacturing industries to produce goods in greater quantities at lower costs. Such jobs and conditions were accepted by many because the alternative was not to work at all.

Classroom Activities

    1. Explain the message about migrant work that is presented in this video clip.
    2. List points identifying the cinematic techniques (camera shots, editing, voice-over, music etc) and how the filmmaker uses them to convey his/her message.
    3. State who you think would be the intended audience for this video clip.
    4. Whose point of view is presented in the video clip and how do you know this?
    5. Describe what you think was the filmmaker’s purpose in creating this video clip. Do you think that the filmmaker achieved this purpose? Explain your reasons.
  1. Discuss and write answers to the following questions.
    1. This video clip is clearly ‘partisan’ — it is presenting its ideas in a way that supports a particular view. Does it do this effectively? Explain your reasons.
    2. The video clip is very critical of some of the values that result in the poor conditions being described. What are these values as presented in the video clip? Why are they themselves harmful?
    3. The workers presented are female and many are immigrants. Why do you think that these two groups might be so significant in this problem area?
  2. Imagine you are a responsible and fair employer, concerned about the image of work and employees that is presented in this video clip, and you want to respond to it. Write a detailed letter presenting your point of view about the issue explored in the video clip and list the recommendations you would make to change the situation. Select some key comments / messages / ideas that could be given in response. For example, it might be a statement such as ‘Most employers strictly apply all health and safety rules in their workplaces’.

Literacy Activity: Focus= Viewing / Interpreting

  1. List the types of work we are shown in this clip. (1 mark)
  2. Why does this clip focus on hands and faces to present the information? (2 marks)
  3. What was the attitude of management to the women’s health problems? (Give examples) (2 marks)

Further Resources


Outwork – A Vietnamese Refugee’s Story, Fearless – Stories From Asian Women, Film Australia & SBS Independent, 2001.
Go to the Australians At Work website