Tony Thomas

A lesson in brainwashing

Adult Asian and African refugees and migrants in Yarraville, Melbourne, have been given Labor and Green propaganda to study in their English language lessons, in lieu of normal comprehension tracts. The students had enrolled for English lessons at Yarraville Community Centre (YCC), which has a "positioning statement" entitled “A Bit Left of Centre”.

YCC (left) is a "registered training organisation", and the language course for adults is conducted under contract with Centrelink via the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program, “to improve the chances of getting and keeping a job”. A Quadrant Online investigation has found students were given hagiographic screeds about Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Greens leader Christine Milne to study, then tested on their success at absorbing the material. The two documents are reproduced in full below.

Yarraville is in the Maribyrnong electorate of senior Labor minister Bill Shorten. With a 17% Labor margin, it is home to many Vietnamese and African migrants and refugees and is one of Rudd’s safest seats.

The three-page tract on Kevin Rudd was composed and printed after his return to office on June 27. After a laudatory account of his alleged upbringing and career, the document sets out his policies in glowing terms. The last of the 20 test questions is: “Do you think he will be a good recycled prime minister? Why/Why not?”

One Vietnamese woman student with minimal spoken-English skills wrote, “Yes, because He alway looking for after the people [sic].”

The sheets on Christine Milne are headed with a flattering picture of her at the microphone and go on to provide a fairy-tale account of her upbringing, noting that she was “put in jail for trying to save the Franklin River in 1983”.

The document sets out her policies, such as “have 100% Clean Energy in the future”. The test questions include answering why she went to jail (in fact it was a three-day term for breaking a law against loitering in the rainforest, not “for trying to save the Franklin river.”)

Students were asked to recapitulate Milne’s policies, e.g. which energy sources she wants to stop, namely coal and oil. They also were required to draw a “timeline” of her life and career.

The course to date has provided no comprehension text and tests involving the upbringing and policies of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. (My view is that no party political material should have been distributed to uncomprehending students, and that handing out only Labor/Green material compounds the abuse).

The Milne document has the name "M.Ryan" at the foot of each page. The Rudd document follows the same formatting but lacks the M.Ryan name.

The issue has come to light only because the Vietnamese wife of an independent candidate for Maribyrnong, Ken Betts (left), is attending the course and brought the documents home. She has been in Australia only nine months. Betts, 71, a Justice of the Peace and retired marketer and journalist, was a Liberal candidate in the 2010 Victorian election, but quit the party several months ago.

Betts is outraged, charging that vulnerable Vietnamese and Horn of Africa adults are being brainwashed at the Yarraville Centre. The Rudd tract strongly emphasises the Prime Minister’s sympathy for and affinity with Asians, as well as his advocacy of the teaching of Asian languages. One might easily see this as an attempt to target the course’s Asian students.

Betts’ wife did the free, 510-hour voluntary course under the auspices of the government-supported Australian Migrant Education Program (AMEP). She wants a job in a shop or office, but found she could not learn enough English using only books at home. AMEP referred her (via Centrelink) to the community centre, and she began there four weeks ago. 

Betts said his wife had no suspicion she was being brainwashed and was shocked by his adverse reaction.

“I don’t know how widespread these objectionable teaching materials are, but they suggest an improper culture is in place," Betts says. "Surely such materials are checked by the teacher’s superiors. Either the centre has endorsed them or the teacher is not supervised.”

Betts believes he saw the teacher handing out Greens how-to-vote material at the 2010 state election. Quadrant Online sought comment from the teacher via the Centre but has received no response.

Quadrant Online also put a series of questions (below) about the documents to the Centre at 9am on Monday July 22, with a 5pm deadline. No reply was received.


I attach copies of two Yarraville Community Centre documents, “Kevin Rudd” (Doc1) and “Christine Milne” (Doc 2).

1.     Does YCC have any policy against party-political proselytising by its staff to their students/clients? 

2.     Does your positioning statement, “A Bit Left of Centre” have any political overtones?

3.     Were Doc1 and Doc2 authored by your staff member M. Ryan, if not who was the author?

4.     Were they printed at YCC on YCC equipment? If so, when?

5.     Was YCC management aware of the existence of these YCC documents?

6.     If not, is there sufficient supervision of YCC teaching practices by management?

7.     Was it appropriate and ethical for a teacher to distribute these documents to her S.E.E. clients early last week (especially given the imminence of a federal election)?

8.     Did the teacher mark the clients’ responses to Doc 1 and Doc 2 as correct or incorrect, e.g. with ticks?

9.     Does YCC have any comparable comprehension document describing the background, personality and policies of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott? If so, could I please have a copy?

10.    If the two documents were unauthorised, how does YCC propose to remedy the situation, ie to mitigate the damage done to the vulnerable clients from being fed party propaganda?

11.     What are the teacher’s qualifications?

12.     What is her job title at YCC?

13.      How long has she worked for YCC?

14.      What classes does she teach?

15.      Was the vacancy to which she was appointed advertised? If so, pls provide details.

16.     Have other YCC staff used Doc 1 and Doc 2 in any way?

17.      Is use of Doc and Doc 2 at YCC consistent with YCC’s obligations to government as a Registered Training Organisation?

18.     Question I would like you to refer to the chair of the board of YCC for reply by 5pm tonight:

a. Do you have any concern about the use of Doc 1 and Doc 2 at YCC? 

Full texts of the comprehension tracts:

Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd was born on 21 September 1957. He became the Prime Minister of Australia in June 2013. He was also prime minister from 2007 to 2010.

He was born in Queensland to Bert and Margaret Rudd. He was the youngest of four children and grew up on a dairy farm where his parents worked. When he was eleven, his father died and the family had to leave the farm. They became homeless. Keven was sent away to a tough, harsh Catholic boarding school where he was very sad. It was an unhappy time for him because everyone knew his family were poor. He joined the Labor Party at the age of 15.

Kevin studied hard and won prizes for public speaking. At university he studied Chinese language and history and he got a Chinese name Lu Kewen. He was happy that university became free in 1972 because he was from a poor family.

He married Therese Rein in 1981. He worked and lived overseas from 1981 to 1989 with his family in different cities including Stockholm and Beijing. They had three children, two sons and one daughter, Jessica. His daughter has recently had a  baby  Josephine, with her Chinese husband. Jessica lives in China.

When he came back to Australia he worked in the Queensland government and in his job he tried to make Australians learn Asian languages.


When he became prime minister in 2007 the first thing he did was apologise to the Stolen Generation who  are the Aborigines who were taken away from their parents. He also promised to help fix the environment with a special plan to make factories pay for pollution, but then changed his mind and didn’t do it. He started Fair Work Australia which helped people get better pay and conditions in the work place.

In the Global Financial Crisis he kept Australia safe and gave out $900 grants to everyone. This kept people spending money which kept the shops and business going.

Rudd also organised for every secondary school child to have a computer.

He took the soldiers out of Iraq in 2009.

Kevin Rudd used to be against same sex marriage but he changed his mind. He now says it is ok for same sex couples to get married.

In 2010 He [sic] became the Foreign minister and flew all over the world talking to other prime ministers and presidents. He was called Kevin 747. Because he worked long hours he was also called Kevin 24/7.

1. Where was he born?

2. What were his parents’ names? What did they do?

3. How old was he when his father died?

4. Where did he live after his father died?

5. Did he like boarding school? Why not?

6. What did he study at university?

7. What was his Chinese name?

8. Where did he live between 1981 and 1989?

9. When did he marry? What is his wife’s name?

10. How many children does he have?

11. What is the stolen Generation?

12. Why did Rudd apologise?

13. What did Fair Work Australia do?

14. How  much money did he give out during the Global Financial Crisis?

15. What did he give each secondary school student?

16. What kind of languages did he want Australians to learn?

17. Does he agree with same sex marriage?

18. Why was he called Kevin 24/7?

19. Why was he called Kevin 747?

20. Do you think he will be a good recycled prime minister? Why/Why not?


Christine Milne

Christine Milne is the leader of the Greens. She is the Greens Senator for Tasmania. She was born on May 14 1953 in Tasmania. She loved the land and playing in the countryside of Tasmania. Her family were dairy farmers. She grew up riding horses and milking cows. Later she was sent away to boarding school and she didn’t like it. She missed the countryside.

Christine Milne worked as a secondary school English and History teacher from 1975 to 1984. She became an activist. She was put in jail for trying to save the Franklin river in 1983. She thought jail was not too bad because she had already gone to boarding school.

She has fought hard to save the environment in Tasmania and the rest of Australia. She wants to stop pollution and she wants to use clean energy instead. In 1993 she became the leader of the Tasmanian Greens. She became the first woman to lead a political party in Tasmania.

She married Neville Milne in 1975 and they divorced in 1999. Her sons were born in 1984 and 1986.

Clean Energy is solar, wind farms and other energy that doesn’t make pollution. Clean energy also does not ‘run out’. Petrol, oil and coal all cause pollution and they also run out. One day we won’t have any left.

Her policies are:

Stop using coal, oil and petrol. Instead use clean energy.

Put more money into making solar energy and solar hot water systems.

Put $3 billion into clean energy every year for ten years

Make 90% of energy clean energy by 2030.

Have 100% Clean Energy in the future.


Christine Milne

She is ~~~ years old.

She is the Leader of the ~~~

She thinks we should put  ~~~ into clean  ~~~ for  ~~~ years.

She wants Australia to stop using  c~~~, o~~~ and p~~~

She wants Australia to use w~~~ f~~~, s~~ energy and renewable energy

By the year ~~~~ she wants ~~~ per cent of energy to be clean.

When she went to boarding school, she felt unhappy because ~~~~~~~

She went to jail for trying to save ~~~~~~~.

Draw a time line for her life.

Explain these pictures. What do they have to do with Christine Milne?

Answers (as provided by Betts’ wife):

This is a wind farm. It is clean energy.

This is a solar panel. Christine Milne want more clean energy. It does not make pollution and it is renewable. It doesn’t run out.

This is dairy farmers and milking cows.

This is Tasmania. She was born in Tasmania.

This is a teacher.  Christine Milne was a teacher.

This is petrol pump. Christine Milne doesnt like the petrol.

This is coal. She doesn’t like coal. She wants Australia to stop using it.

Tony Thomas, a frequent Quadrant and Quadrant Online contributor, favours teaching English without a political slant.

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