Western Australia

BULLET.GIF (608 bytes)

St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School

BULLET.GIF (608 bytes)

Prendiville Catholic College


St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School


Year 10 Politics: lower to average ability, all girls (21)

Classroom context:

Course – compulsory for all Year 10’s. Other teachers modified this course to suit their classes. No common assessment. Based on developing skills and understanding concepts rather than knowledge.
Time available – 8 weeks (Term 4, 1999)
Class – lower to average ability, all girls (21)

The republic referendum was scheduled for Nov. 6th. This was seen as an excellent opportunity to get students actively involved in the public debate. Therefore the first weeks of this course were devoted to preparing them for a whole school referendum vote that the Year 10 students would organise and run. The school vote would take place on Nov. 4th and the 6 Houses system was used to represent the concept of the 6 States. Counting would also be completed by the Year 10’s.

1. Introduction: Several newspaper headlines and cartoons based on the Republic Debate were place on OHP and students were encouraged to comment and share their understanding of the issues.

Assignment: Over the next 4 weeks collect 3 cartoons, 3 articles and 3 letters to the editor based on the Republic Debate. For each state – source, date, author/cartoonist, for cartoons – message and purpose, for articles - summary and analysis, for letters – purpose. (These skills covered earlier in the year and revised)

Understanding some key terms – the aim was to develop understanding of the terms used in the media and Australian Electoral Office information and thus place this debate into an historical context as well as explaining current situation.

Referendum, Constitution, republic, democracy, vote, monarchy etc…

To show the difference between absolute monarchy, direct democracy and representative democracy use the simulation game from Stories of the People and Rulers (Middle Primary) – How should a Nation be ruled?

Activity 1 and 3 were most successful, quick and easy.

(The issue of absolute monarchy and ‘people power’ could be further investigated in Parliament Vs Monarch (Upper Primary) – What does it mean to have absolute power?)

Democratic Struggles (Lower Secondary) What is democracy……? Develops the concept and evolution of democracy in Australia. Activity 1 and 2 fitted in well.

To develop an understanding of the constitution we began by looking at its origins in the federation movement in the 19thC. Two Units are useful depending on time and class ability. The People Make a Nation (Upper Primary) – Arguments for and against Federation, has detailed information but is most useful for its handouts which are great OHP sheets whilst covering the activities in Making a Nation (Middle Secondary).

Both the CD Roms One Destiny (Making the Constitution) and Stories of Democracy (Making a Nation) have interactive activities for students. Rotate students through using these in pairs whilst others investigate sources in the Library. Teachers will need to prepare a handout to guide students to the appropriate sites for this part of the course. If time One Destiny offers students the opportunity to get quite involved in the personalities, issues and years leading to federation

(iv) Making a Nation (Middle Secondary) – How do you make a federation work?

Worked very well in developing understanding of constitution. Copy pages 116 – 118 for each student. Have copies of the constitution on hand. Explore and share!

Set some challenging Q’s such as which section talks about….? Where would I go to find out about…? What is the GG? Where is the PM mentioned? (Get students to take it home and show their parents!!) Don’t forget One Destiny has the American and other countries contribution summarised.

Used AEO material for dealing with the term referendum plus some great ‘old’ stuff from the Parliament Packs and earlier civics materials!

Republic Vs Constitutional Monarchy – this final part of the lead up to the referendum

looked specifically at what would change if Australia became a republic. By this time the collection of material, media coverage and their own understanding of the issues led to active student discussion at the beginning of each lesson.

The Australian Constitution – used handout 16 from The People Make a Nation.

CD Roms present interactive information. Students draw own diagram showing Queen as Head of State, GG, Parliament, PM, High Court…State governments.

Republic – complete new diagram showing President as Head of State. Stories of Democracy (Making a Nation) has a nice comparison of the USA and Australian systems.

Should Australia Become a Republic? – Making a Nation (Middle Secondary) – copy two statements pages 129 – 131. Read and discuss (this was homework).

Compare this to newer literature from AEO and media. Discuss and try to explain some of the discrepancies and emotional issues now emerging.

Also interesting is the issue of republicanism during the time of federation – see One Destiny – The Crown

School Referendum – students now had to ‘take sides’. For most this was quite easy. Each student had to prepare a poster and an A5 size pamphlet showing their argument for the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ case. These were displayed around the school. A ‘speakers corner’ was set up for the day before the referendum during lunchtime. The school newsletter contained one argument for each case in the week leading to the referendum. The final of the Year 10 Inter-class debate competition was based on the referendum.

Year 10 students were appointed to organise the ballot papers, ballot boxes and returning officers for each House.

The School Referendum took place on Nov. 4th during House meetings. Staff, both teaching and administration/grounds/boarding house voted if they were a member of a House, ie. on the ‘electoral roll’. Voting was compulsory. Both the local and state newspaper plus one TV station covered the event. Votes were counted in class that afternoon but the result was not announced until end of school on the 5th.

After the national referendum classes examined media coverage looking at issues of bias and style of reporting; especially the significance given to the breakdown of voting trends.

Note: the issue of the Preamble was not covered at school level.

The Australian Political System - It was now time to consolidate student understanding of our political system, its functions and powers. One Destiny - How Parliament Works

The new Parliament at Work CD Rom should be useful here. We mostly used existing material from the Parliamentary Education Office, Parliament Packs etc. Activity 3 under how do you make a federation work? – Making a Nation (Middle Secondary) compares State and C/w powers well. Also useful was How do the People Rule in Australia? – Should the People Rule? (Lower Secondary).

Students constructed diagrams to illustrate the federal system and visited State Parliament to see government in action….

Some classes wrote essays on the issue of State Vs C/w powers. The Franklin Dam video

"Getting things Done" (Secondary video) was compared to current forest debate in WA.

Having a Say – the final part of this course ends with a whole Year 10 voting activity. Classes select one or two candidates and then form campaign committees to get their candidate elected to a position on the school council. Electoral Education Office is most useful here. Students are taken through the campaign process and taught both the preferential and proportional voting systems whilst allowing plenty of time for each ‘party’ to devise its strategy.

Parties Control Parliament (Middle Secondary) has a range of activities for different abilities (be careful). We covered - Who do Australia’s political Parties represent? and Why have political parties? (Briefing page 17)

Election day is a full day end of year activity. The morning is spent hearing from each of the 13-15 candidates and their ‘party’. This includes a quiz the candidate time. Lunch is a pizza/cool drink and ice cream affair with cooperation from the Year Teacher. Voting takes place after lunch. Each candidate appoints a scrutineer who oversees the counting officers. Whilst this is being done students have gathered in another room for a fun quiz on the mornings events. The federal member for our electoral then gives a presentation about being a politician and parliamentarian. He/She then announces the winning candidate.

Final Comment

I found the DD materials a useful compliment to our established Politics course. They changed our approach and offered something different in some cases. It is definitely preferable to be familiar to what is offered on the same topic at other levels. This allows the teacher to accommodate a variety of learning abilities in their classes. I’m not sure I would ever use one unit exclusively. But by going through the books in such detail I did find short and interesting ideas for use in other courses! I have noted these…

From:  Meredith Wright


Prendiville Catholic College


Year 10

Units used:

Democracy Destroyed and part of Making a Nation

When used:

Term one 1999. To be repeated with all year 10 classes throughout 1999.

School context: 

Coastal northern suburbs six stream Catholic high school in Perth.

Classroom context:

So far the unit has been presented to two unstreamed year 10 history classes. The idea was for students to explore the threats, which can be posed to democracy (ie Germany in the 1920s and 1930s). Also, the republican issue needed to be examined in the context of how a democracy can go about changing itself without bloodshed.

Story so far.....

Year 10 SOSE classes rotate through a term each of History, Geography and Economics in order the help them choose wisely for year 11 and 12 subjects. In the past the major focus has been World War One. With the advent of the DD materials it was seen as a good opportunity to rethink the approach and content. An introduction to a formalised study of history included primary/secondary sources, what is history and why study it. The world in 1900 was investigated around the themes of technology, social, economic and political life and people's attitudes.

This led into the causes and results of World War One through the use of a wide range of source material. At this point the Democracy Destroyed unit was begun. We worked through it in the order presented and used the assessments/activities suggested. Once completed we moved on to the republican issue, arranged guest speakers and conducted our own constitutional convention. The students were assessed as the materials suggested.


The DD materials gave a slightly different focus to our work, with the emphasis on threats to democracy and the need to be ever vigilant to preserve accepted freedoms. We found the reading level of the materials to be way too high for the majority of our students. However, the activities and assessments seemed very well targeted. It was necessary to explain very carefully some of the terminology, especially left and right wing. Also, the repression game needed some rethinking. However, once it was fine-tuned it provided an excellent springboard for class discussion - we were interested to note that the survivors were all girls! With the republican component, we went outside the DD materials somewhat to 'revise' the idea of a constitution, the present structure of our government and the process of referenda. It was necessary to simplify the arguments around three key viewpoints - ARM, ACM and Direct Elect. The student run convention was a great success and certainly helped even those students professing no interest in politics to understand some of the issues involved. Perhaps as a portent of November student views changed significantly over the three weeks spent on this. In one class, the ACM support went from 3 out of 25 to 11 out of 25 after one of the guest speakers explained the complexities of change!! Next year I would like to add more material from the Human Rights unit and leave out the republican issue.

Overall comments:

Reading level of material too high for average students but activities and assessment ideas work well.

From: Liz McGinnis