Students at the Sydney Jewish Museum with guide

How effective are Holocaust education programs?

2 March 2023

Antisemitism and faith-based discrimination on the rise

Associate Professor Avril Alba will lead research with three Jewish and Holocaust museums around Australia to assess the long-term impact of Holocaust education programs.

The University of Sydney will partner with the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM), the Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM) and the Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Andrew Steiner Education Centre (AHMSEC) to lead a first-of-its-kind inquiry into the long-term effectiveness of Holocaust education programs in Australia.

Holocaust expert Associate Professor Avril Alba will lead the research team, working closely with the three museums and scholars from Deakin University and UTS. Associate Professor Alba is a leading historian in the School of Languages and Cultures, where she focuses on modern Jewish history and contemporary Jewish and Holocaust museums.

Associate Professor Alba said: “Given the rise of racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and extremism, both in Australia and abroad, a key goal of the research is to chart and measure whether, and to what extent, Holocaust education programs empower students to make informed connections between historical events and contemporary issues such as human rights and racism.”

Students look up at the ceiling in the Sydney Jewish Museum

High school students participating in one of the Sydney Jewish Museum's education programs. Photo credit: Sydney Jewish Museum 

"There is a pressing need to understand how learning can be more effective in countering the current rise in racist, antisemitic, and religiously motivated attacks in Australia and internationally.

“Such work cannot be based on assumptions – it must be rigorously tested. The success of these educational initiatives is essential, as they link directly to the social cohesion of current and future generations of Australians.”

As there are currently only a small number of Holocaust survivors alive today, national Holocaust programs increasingly rely on the use of personal, audio-visual, written and material forms of storytelling to educate students.

Associate Professor Alba and colleagues will evaluate both the immediate and long-term impact of these forms of testimony. The project will also provide an Australian contribution to a growing international area of research by generating insights about the Holocaust, genocide and human rights education that may benefit similar institutions worldwide.

Students stand by glass case filled with artefacts in the Sydney Jewish Museum

Students observe visual material at the Sydney Jewish Museum. Photo credit: Sydney Jewish Museum

Kevin Sumption, CEO of the Sydney Jewish Museum, said: “Each year, over 30,000 students visit the Sydney Jewish Museum to learn about the history of the Holocaust and the dangers of racism and discrimination.”

“While we have a lot of data about the immediate impact these programs are having on students, we don’t have visibility of how our programs are impacting the values, beliefs and actions of young people – our future active citizens – for the long term. 

“This new collaborative inquiry with the University of Sydney, Deakin University, the University of Technology Sydney and other Holocaust museums will deliver important insights that can then be used to improve our programs so that we can make the most far-reaching and long-lasting contribution possible to the human rights landscape of Australia.” 

Associate Professor Alba and the team were awarded an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant of $566,499.

Declaration: This research was funded by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Grant program.

Top photo: Sydney Jewish Museum

Media contact

Tess Gibney

Assistant Media Adviser

Associate Professor Avril Alba

Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
See Associate Professor Alba's academic profile

Related articles