Bachelor of Arts student showcase

 Humanities assessments at Deakin aren’t just essays and exams

Deakin’s arts students have many opportunities to take their learning beyond the classroom. But when we talk about what you can do beyond the classroom, we don’t want to suggest that what we do in the classroom – or the virtual classroom – isn’t interesting, fun and sometimes a bit different.

This different style of study is demonstrated best in the types of assessment we ask students to do in our units. Students in one of our history units can choose to complete an unessay instead of an essay, where they are able to present their research findings in a creative form. Students who have taken this option have created video essays, made board games, created embroidery work, written poetry, and painted artworks. 

Study unit: Sex and Gender in the British Empire

The Sex and Gender in the British Empire unit focuses on questions of gender and sexuality within the British Empire, from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. Looking at colonies across the world, in India, Africa, Australasia and the Pacific, we ask what roles women and men were expected to play, how women and men actually behaved, what sex and sexuality had to do with the Empire and how imperial power itself was gendered. Students explore the ways in which gender is relevant to understanding intellectual, political and social change in the history of the British Empire. Find out more about history at Deakin.

Unessay response: Artwork using Pointillism

Topic: Women’s suffrage
Student: Vanessa Huynh-King

Vanessa's unessay assignment

The first element that influenced my construction of my artwork was a gender equality timeline that showed the important events throughout Australian history in relation to females’ rights[1]. This allowed me to pick up the events during the women suffrage that I felt were important to represent, which lead to ‘non-indigenous women win the right to vote and stand for federal election’, ‘women stand for federal elections for the first time’, ‘women gain the right to vote in Victorian Elections’, ‘first women elected to house of representatives and senate’, and ‘indigenous women win the right to vote in federal elections’[2].


These events mention some key figures that inspired me to draw them as the centre figures, they were Vida Goldstein who was the first women to stand for suffrage, and a popular suffragette that also went overseas to help other countries suffrages[3], Dame Enid Lyons was the first female member of parliament and Dame Dorothy Tangney the first senator in Australia that also held her record for 25 years[4]. Photos of Dame Enid Lyons and Dame Dorothy Tangney entering the Parliament House in 1943 inspired their images[5], while a 1930-1940 newspaper photograph of Vida Goldstein[6] and a 1911 photograph from a London suffragette demonstration that included Vida Goldstein inspired her drawing[7]. The banner that Vida Goldstein is holding is inspired by an actual event and real banner that Dora Meeson created which was first carried by Vida in a 1908 march in London[8].


The signs and saying of ‘vote for women’ and ‘do you want fair treatment! ORGANIZE’ were representing the actual signs that women would hold during marches for women’s right[9], while the 30,000’ represents the 1891 collection of signatures for women’s right to vote[10]. The black and white banner and aboriginal badge were important parts of Indigenous’ movement to gaining the rights to vote, with the banner showing the desired item as the badge represented their people[11]. The final aspect of the drawing was the male cockatoo arguing back against the women suffrage, as it represented the people against allowing women the right to vote[12].

View references.

‘The unessay option sound like an interesting and creative option to completing an assessment in comparison to an essay. I found it more enjoyable and fun to complete, as I was able to take a creative and unusual approach that made me eager to complete it. I was trying to create a piece of artwork that represented the women’s suffrage/women’s petition to vote, that displayed both the positive events and figures, along with the negative view people had towards the petition.’ 

Vanessa Huynh-King

Bachelor of Criminology student

Unessay response: ‘A Pox on your Houses’ card game

Topic: Contagious Diseases Act (CDA)
Student: Meriana Grant

Meriana's unessay assignment

The construction of the game A Pox on your Houses was based around the Contagious Diseases Act (CDA) and its invasion of rights into women under imperial Britain. To lose the game a player needs to pick up a CDA card, which effectively imprisons them and they lose the game. The reason the CDA card was selected to be the losing card was to reiterate the injustice of the CDA laws and how victimized the women were during the time the laws were in effect. The reasons for imprisonment on the cards are real life situations women did encounter under the CDA[1].


The addition of Josephine Butler cards to counteract the players incarceration due to CDA cards, is as a result of the Butler spearheading and leading the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act. Josephine Butler’s work giving speeches and rousing support all across England, was instrumental in the repeal and removal of the CDA. The laws under the CDA that allowed women to be forcefully examined were described as ‘instrumental rape’ by those against the laws[2]. Josephine and the LNARCDA group did toward restoring women’s basic rights, is why the Josephine Butler card is the savior card and the only defense against the CDA.


All research regarding the Contagious Diseases Act shows a glaring distinction between the rights of men far outweighing the rights of women. As a step further, women of colour are even further victimised during colonization by the British Empire. The decision to use a loophole card, in which the player is rewarded for simply being a man, signifies the privilege men lived with. Women were considered the problem and accused of being immoral[3].


The two class system cards of High-class or Low-class prostitution is due to the fact, in the Indian Contagious Diseases Act specifically, women were placed into two distinct classes of prostitution, the high-class were reserved for European johns and the low-class were for the local men[4]. Therefore those in the lower class were at a higher risk of contracting a Venereal disease, thereby why the player if picking up a low-class card is made to take another turn, raising their chances of a CDA card.


Read complete exegesis and references.

‘I was attracted to the idea of having the freedom to create my own idea and build an essay around it. The unessay was a very creative and fun option that helped break up the “traditional” essay format. I wanted to take a somewhat heavy subject and create a game that had a sense of humour, yet was still informative and accurate.’ 
Meriana Grant

Bachelor of Arts/Master of Teaching (Secondary) Major in History and Literary Studies

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