Helleman books

Book one page 3 & 4


In order to understand a text, it is important to determine the context of a passage. Look for dates, mannerisms of speech or other clues with the text to help you determine the setting (context and time period) of the text. This will help in understanding the prevailing attitudes and beliefs in comparison to the time period in which you are reading or viewing or listening to the text.

Example 1

Consider how Australian attitudes have changed towards war. In 1914, our men were eager to volunteer to fight as evidenced by the number of men who lied about their age to enable them to enlist. Today, Australians adopt a far more cynical attitude towards enlisting to fight in a war.

Once you have identified the context, you must next determine the purpose of the passage. In the example above, the context is the start of WWI (1914) and today. The specific purpose is to show the change in Australian attitudes towards war. The following exercises have been developed to help you become more skillful in determining the context and purpose of a text.


Read the following passage to determine its context and purpose. Respond to the questions that follow.

The Sydney Morning Herald
PO Box 506
Sydney 2006

Dear Editor

What hope do I have? I really want to study law at Sydney University , yet after reading your article in your newspaper on Friday 11 th April, I now realise that my dream has become nothing more than wishful thinking. I had already set myself incredibly high achievement targets for my final exams - yet I now realise that I have to achieve far higher marks to be admitted!  

It was stated that 25% of places would go to full fee paying students, that is, students whose parents are prepared to foot a $120,000 bill for the completion of their son or daughter’s degree. No, despite my parents’ good intentions, there is no way they can invest this amount of money in my education. What has happened to justice? What has happened to the concept of giving Aussies a fair go? Why at the young age of 18 are career options closed for those who are high achievers in our system, who for the sake of a few points in their final exams fail to gain the required results. Why does our education system have to continually favour those who have wealth in our society?

I need answers; I need you all to object to this repulsive aristocratic idea. If we don’t act now we may find that our universities of the future are institutions for wealthy Australians and wealthy overseas students and not for our mainstream youth.

Disgruntled student


What is the context of this passage?
What is the purpose of this letter to the editor? Justify your choice/s with specific evidence from the passage.
What cultural values and beliefs underpin this passage and how do they relate to purpose?

Turn to page 44 to compare your response to the sample responses.


Read the following passage to determine its purpose. Respond to the question that follows.

Australia has the smallest population of any continent in the world. It is home to only 20 million people. Interestingly over 80% of its population live in cities, making it one of the most urbanised countries in the world.


What is the purpose of this extract? Justify your choice/s with specific evidence from the passage.



Copyright Babs Helleman 2013