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Image analysis - The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Ask your teacher for information regarding Australia's history of immigration. You may have some knowledge of the current immigration issues including refugees and asylum seekers in recent times. Perhaps you could read Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Otley, or talk to classmates, your teacher, or family and friends.

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Record your responses to the following in your journal.

Imagine you are a migrant from a non-English speaking country. You speak very little English and do not know much about Australians and their way of life. In your journal, write a couple
of paragraphs from the point of view of a new migrant who has just landed in Australia.
Think about:

  • how you would feel leaving your family behind
  • what your job prospects might be in the new country
  • how to find a place to live
  • how to make new friends
  • the different food and different customs
  • the language barriers.

Consider what a new migrant would see, hear, feel and think about Australia when he/she arrives.

Share your thoughts and ideas with others.

You will need a copy of Shaun Tan's picture book The Arrival.

If you do not have a copy you can look at a selection of images from his book by following the instructions below.

  • Open the webpage at
  • Select 'picture books' located at the top lefthand corner.
  • Choose the picture book cover 'The Arrival'.

Take some time to explore Tan's images.

'The suitcase', 'The old country', 'Cloud', 'Harbour' and 'Inspection'.

How do they tell a story about the experience of a new migrant?

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Select four images from The Arrival and complete a Y-chart for each image. Print and/or download the Y-chart at the link below.

The Arrival Y-chart

The headings for each section of the chart are:

  1. What do I see?
  2. What do I feel?
  3. What do I think?

Share and compare your observations and thoughts with your teacher or others in your class.

Read examples of the analysis of some of Shaun Tan's images at the links below before doing your own analysis of 'The suitcase'.

Image 2: 'The old country'

Dragon's tail

The title

Image 4: 'Flock'

Image 4: 'Flock' - the shot type and effect

Image 4: 'Flock' - larger image analysis

Image 5: 'Harbour' - inside and out the frame

Image 5: 'Harbour' - the same people?

Image 5: 'Harbour' - the statues

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  1. Read the introductory paragraph for The Arrival on the webpage. This is the story of many migrants in Australia.
  2. Open and download or print the analysis sheet at the link below.
    Analysing still images
  3. Use this to complete an analysis of the first image, 'The suitcase'.

Your teacher may ask you to discuss your findings with others in your class.

journal iconRespond to the following in your journal. Select the link below each question for suggested answers.

  1. Shaun Tan uses no written text to go with his images. Why do you think this is
    the case?

Lack of written language

  1. What do you think about the layout of the pictures on individual pages? What might the layout with multiple frames on the same page suggest?

Picture layout

  1. Why would Tan include such unusual objects and characters in his book?

Objects and characters

  1. Look again at all the images. What overall impression do they give? Summarise the story that is presented through the use of these pictures.

Impression and summary