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Cult of The Family, The (ATOM Study Guide)

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The Cult of The Family (2019) directed by Rosie Jones is a three-part investigation into the rise and fallout of Australia's most notorious cult.

With survivors and former cult members telling their stories alongside the Australian detectives and the investigative journalist who worked the case, The Cult of The Family exposes not just The Family but also the conservative community that allowed it to flourish.

Curriculum Links:

The Cult of The Family is suitable for secondary students in Years 10–12 studying English, Ethics, Health and Human Development, Legal Studies, Media, Psychology and Sociology.

ENGLISH:

The Cult of The Family can be used as an individual or supplementary text. Students should study texts that explore ethical dilemmas in real-world settings. It is also recommended that students have access to non-fiction texts that represent a synthesis of information from credible and verifiable sources. Activities in this study guide provide opportunities for students to:

  • identify and discuss key aspects of the documentary;
  • comprehend, appreciate and analyse the way in which the documentary is constructed and may be interpreted;
  • construct spoken, written and multimodal responses to the documentary.

ETHICS:

The Cult of The Family can be used to discuss the principles that guide practical moral judgment and the justification for moral choices – identifying the arguments and analysing the reasoning behind them. Activities in this study guide provide opportunities for students to:

  • examine concepts used in ethics and ethical decision-making, such as 'good', 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong';
  • identify the factors involved in the process of ethical decision-making, such as reasoning, conscience, intuition, common sense, assumptions, authorities, world views, values, ethical principles and the competing rights and responsibilities of individuals, groups and society.

HEALTH AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT:

The Cult of The Family can be used to explore the complex interplay of biological, sociocultural and environmental factors that support and improve health and wellbeing and those that put it at risk. Activities in this study guide provide opportunities for students to:

  • the impact of early life experiences on future health and development;
  • examine how health and wellbeing may be influenced across the lifespan by the conditions into which people are born, grow, live, work and age;
  • analyse the role of healthy and respectful relationships in the achievement of optimal health and wellbeing.

LEGAL STUDIES:

The Cult of The Family can be used to investigate the ways in which the law and the legal system relate to and serve individuals, particularly children, and the community. In addition, the documentary can be used to study the administration of justice. Activities in this study guide provide opportunities for students to:

  • understand how laws are used by society to preserve social cohesion, and to ensure the protection of people from harm and from the infringement of their rights;
  • acquire an understanding of legal rights, responsibilities and ways in which individuals can engage in the legal system;
  • understand the need for effective laws and legal processes;
  • apply legal reasoning and decision-making to contemporary cases and issues;
  • engage in analysis and evaluation of existing legal processes

MEDIA:

The Cult of The Family can be used to study the documentary's representation of events, people, organisations, places and ideas. Activities in this study guide provide opportunities for students to:

  • understand the codes and conventions that are used to construct media narratives;
  • analyse media narratives to understand how meaning is constructed and how audiences are engaged;
  • learn that media narratives are created through a process of selection, construction and representation;
  • analyse and discuss the selection of images, words, sounds and ideas and the ways in which these are presented, related and ordered;
  • understand how media representations are subject to multiple readings by audiences who construct meaning based on a range of personal, contextual, social and institutional factors.

PSYCHOLOGY:

The Cult of The Family can be used to study aspects of social psychology by examining interpersonal and group behaviour. It is generally accepted that a key factor in the psychological wellbeing of individuals depends on the extent to which the need for affiliation is met – a sense of belonging and connectedness whether it be to family, a group, a school or workplace, or a wider community. Activities in this study guide provide opportunities for students to:

  • explain how attitudes are formed and changed;
  • analyse how behaviour and perceptions of self and others are shaped by social and cultural influences including the attitudes and behaviours of groups;
  • discuss the factors that affect the behaviour of individuals and groups;
  • understand the interplay of factors that shape the behaviour of individuals and groups.

SOCIOLOGY:

The Cult of The Family can be used to study human behaviour and in particular, the social institution of The Family and the purpose and experiences of family life portrayed in the documentary. In addition, the documentary can be used to study concepts of deviance and crime. The study of deviance and crime from a sociological perspective involves ascertaining the types and degree of rule-breaking behaviour, examining traditional views of criminality and deviance and analysing why people commit crimes or engage in deviant behaviour. Activities in this study guide provide opportunities for students to:

  • consider definitions of family and key influences on family life;
  • examine the ways people create and experience family life;
  • analyse the institution of family;
  • explain the role that family plays in terms of influencing the values and behaviours of family members;
  • explore the concepts of deviance and crime;
  • investigate the threat a subculture or group may pose to the social values and culture of broader society.

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