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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 - immigration, minimum wage, outwork, social justice, trade unions, 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


Historical knowledge and understanding
At Level 6 students analyse events which contributed to Australia’s social, political and cultural development. These events could include: immigration. They explain aspects of increasing global interconnections in the twentieth and twenty first centuries.

Historical reasoning and interpretation
At Level 6 students locate relevant resources, including online resources. They identify, comprehend and evaluate a range of primary and secondary sources. They critically evaluate sources of evidence for context, information, reliability, completeness, objectivity and bias.

This video clip is also relevant to Civics and Citizenship (Level 5)
Community Engagement
At Level 5, students present points of view on contemporary issues and events using appropriate supporting evidence. They explain different perspectives on some contemporary issues and propose possible solutions to problems.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority 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. How does the law protect this woman?
    2. Why should ‘outwork’ be illegal if it means that more work can be completed?
    1. Imagine a dialogue between an outworker, an employer and a union representative. What position would each take? How would each justify their position?
    2. Why does outwork seem to be so heavily associated with female migrant workers? Suggest reasons and for this, and ways you might test these hypotheses.
  1. What does this clip tell us about ways in which the immigration policy of Australia may have ‘gone wrong’?

Further Resources


Destination Australia – The Migrant Experience Since 1788, Film Australia, 1984.