Northern Territory

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Schools using democratic processes to influence communities

Loraine Caldwell and Sandra Kenman

Teachers interested in ‘real’ examples of community participation for civics and citizenship education

To describe a model for organising students and teachers so that civics and citizenship education has a key role in the school curriculum.

Links to Curriculum:
Civics and citizenship education is a mandatory part of the new Northern Territory Curriculum

Discovering Democracy links:
Key example: "Our Town" activities. The curriculum is closely linked with the Discovering Democracy materials.


The following notes were taken at a presentation by:

Discovering Democracy Project Officer, Northern Territory

Background information:

  • Curriculum framework being developed

  • Lack of understanding or knowledge by teachers in some areas

  • Curriculum choice used to be available – easy to avoid certain topics – now civics and citizenship is mandatory

  • Links between curriculum framework and the Discovering Democracy materials

Case studies of citizenship in action – Parap Primary, Darwin High

  • Essential learnings:

  • Constructive – how can I make a useful difference?

  • Inner – who am I? Where am I going?

  • Collaborative – how do I commit and relate to others?

  • Creative – what is possible?

  • Whole school approach to citizenship education

  • Classroom activity stems from the curriculum

  • Discovering Democracy is a valuable resource which helps teachers to meet curriculum outcomes

Parap Primary

  • Pilot school for NT curriculum

  • Developing meaningful and integrated programs using learning outcomes as well as essential learnings

  • Emphasis on the development of the whole person

  • East Timor/Indonesia issues – impact on local community

  • Pride in different cultural identity – eg teacher developed unit on peace keeping

  • Needed to change student representative council after realizing the peace keeping unit educated students in the importance of having decision making and leadership skills/representation

  • Types of projects and students in leadership roles changed – issues deliberated more carefully - moved to dealing with issues beyond ‘fund raising’

  • Considering involving year 7 students to plan orientation for new year 8 cohort

Darwin High

  • Oldest school in Darwin

  • 5 km from CBD

  • Around half the students come from outside the feeder area

  • Over 1100 students

  • Citizenship education an integral part of SOSE – SOSE including social systems; environments; commerce

  • No electives, but multiple choices with some minimum requirements

  • Some single sex classes for girls, but unsuccessful with boys

  • Students can elect to be in a lap top class – different pedagogy

  • ESL class available

Extra curricular activity

  • Developed a ‘Students’ Round Table’ rather than a student representative council

  • More flexible; investigating more issues; different representation; officers and Chair elected; notice of meeting and agenda posted – students interested in issues attend.

  • Year level committees established

  • Special programs are offered eg E-Team

  • Students enter competitions and attend conferences and special events days

  • Students need good planning skills and commitment when involved in civic issues

  • Students helped write the Student Code of Conduct

  • Student mentors are available

Case Study – History Project

  • Community support for a Year Book 50 years on

  • Linked with a reunion and Centenary of Federation project

  • Students conducted a local area study

  • Used "Our Town" activities in Discovering Democracy materials

  • Study included listening to guest speakers, excursions to local sites, using maps, developing proposal for Darwin City Council, preparation of media articles

  • Students attended commemorative events; took part in TV and radio interviews

  • Now have a large body of well-prepared students to represent the school at events


  • Civics and citizenship education works best when students are involved in ‘real’ tasks

  • Civics and citizenship is more likely to remain in schools where there is a civic tradition to encourage students and teachers to go beyond the classroom and engage with the community.

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