Australian Association for Environmental Education


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AAEE Celebrating Democracy in Victoria

Date Of Forum: 29 October 2002
Melbourne Museum
Guest Speaker:
Dr Daniella Tilbury

Visions and values in a democratic society: teaching for responsible citizenship

Note:  Boxed sections in blue added by AFSSSE Project Officer.

Summary of Address

Presenter: Dr Daniella Tilbury, Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Development, Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University, and IUCN Chair, Commission on Education and Communication

Guest speaker Dr Daniela Tilbury

Teachers might access the Discovering Democracy materials which link to the theme Citizens and Public Life.

The forum was chaired by Greg Hunt, who introduced Jo Lang, President of AAEE who spoke about the outcomes for the forum and welcomed the guest speaker Dr Daniela Tilbury. Dr Tilbury had attended the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) as an Official Delegate of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). H. Her theme was the interaction of responsible citizenship and the achievement of sustainable development (SD).

The forum commenced with an activity regarding the nature of SD that underscored the following propositions:

  • there is a significant diversity of understanding of the nature of SD

  • SD encompasses many issues - there are many elements to SD

  • people's views regarding SD vary widely

  • the very concept of sustainable development is problematic;

  • SD is relevant to all of us

The activity served other purposes:

  • it provided an opportunity to focus our thinking

  • it revealed our personal views regarding SD

  • in considering the diversity of views within the room, consider the diversity upon extrapolating to the wider community

  • it provided a basis for a common conversation regarding SD and an opportunity to start with the learner's prior knowledge

  • it was an exercise in participation and cooperation, which should underpin all activity within citizenship education

AFSSSE suggests the following address could be used for discussion at teacher professional development meetings or as stimulus for students investigating the history and nature of democracy.


  1. How does the speaker’s address link with our current teaching for responsible citizenship?

  2. What values of responsible citizenship might we apply from the address?

  3. What are the future possibilities for using the Discovering Democracy resources to explore responsible citizenship?

The WSSD, held in Johannesburg in August 2002, was the biggest gathering of significant people in the world. That they gathered showed that these world leaders believe that SD is important. A number of principles were at the basis of the WSSD:

  • multi-stakeholder processes are important in recognising that there many stakeholders in SD

  • public participation is vital in decision making

  • sound decision making requires an active and informed citizenry

  • that education is critical for effective public participation in decision making, as a precondition for sound decision making is an active and informed citizenry.

This suggests strongly that there is a pressing need for citizenship education to link more explicitly with SD. Discussion then turned to the nature of the education programs needed. There was positive comment regarding some geography texts from the late 1980s, New Wave Geography, which advocated that students take a critical view to community structures and processes. The Curriculum Frameworks that were in use at that time were also less prescriptive of outcomes compared to current approaches, and so they allowed a more critical view to be developed within classrooms. It would appear currently that much environmental education centres on the aesthetic (litter prevention) or is peripheral (turn off the tap or light switch) rather than taking on a critical pedagogy that examines community and business structures and processes within the contexts of SD. To demonstrate this approach, Dr Tilbury presented a cartoon with a fast food container littering a forest glade, the question to be asked is not who threw it, why, and what can be done about it, but rather what kind of society allows fast food containers that are made to be discarded. What are its basic structures and assumptions? What are, and who is involved in, its decision making processes?

The DD project would appear to be more about the democracy we have and how it operates, rather than providing opportunities for developing a futures perspective for how we can use democracy and its processes to re/envision and create sustainable futures. This approach would allow for the integration of education for SD. The citizenship component of the DD project, however, does provide opportunity to pose culturally-critical questions. It is up to us to take those opportunities.

An outcome from the WSSD is a proposition to go to the UN that 2005 - 2015 be declared the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development. There is strong support for this, and Dr Tilbury expressed her confidence that this will eventuate.

Summary of key points from the forum’s discussion

Focus Question 1: How does Dr Tilbury’s address link with our current teaching for responsible citizenship?

Dr Tilbury’s address:

  • explores the wider contexts for the concept of responsible citizenship

  • builds on the understanding that active and involved citizens are vital for a democratic society

  • provides opportunities to further explore global perspectives of responsible citizenship

  • continues to build on the use of integrated curriculum approaches for learning and teaching for responsible citizenship

Focus Question 2: What values of responsible citizenship might we apply from the address?

Responsible citizens display the following:

  • an awareness that they are global citizens

  • respect for identity and culture that recognizes local, regional and global perspectives

  • values of sustainable development which include:

    • participatory democracy and informed decision making based on economic, environmental and social contexts

    • stewardship of the environment

    • critical thinking

    • creativity and innovation

    • empowerment and engage in processes of change

    • social justice

    • intergenerational equity

    • ecological integrity and species equity

    • cultural diversity

    • economic prosperity

    • good policy and governance

Focus Question 3: What are the future possibilities for exploring responsible citizenship?

Future programs and projects should allow participants to:

  • broaden their vision of responsible citizen to include their role as global citizens that engage in and re/envision sustainable futures

  • become engaged in deeper and authentic learning that allows learners to make connections between their learning and their lives

  • use an integrated curriculum approach to provide for more holistic analyses of issues related to SD and provide opportunities for taking actions that reflect a systems understanding

  • move from a historic approach to DD to incorporate a futures perspective which would allow for creating sustainable futures

  • develop a deeper understanding of SD and take increased opportunities for reflecting this understanding through positive and sustainable actions

  • make connections regarding SD with learners in local, regional and global communities

  • incorporate critical thinking and values education perspectives into education for responsible citizenship

  • examine how democracy as good governance can provide mechanisms for participation in society as it confronts, as a community, the issues and challenges of SD

  • examine the growth and development of our identities – that we have local, regional and global perspectives from which to create our identities and that these should reflect sustainability

Recommendations for AFSSSE to forward to DEST:

For building teacher capacity for integrating SD with responsible citizenship, teachers need support to develop their conceptions of SD and the learning and teaching of this global perspective, particularly in the area of citizenship. This could include:

  • developing programs and resources (eg issues briefs) on the nature of SD for and with teachers

  • providing diverse opportunities for teacher professional learning to build understanding of SD and the implications for their learning and teaching

  • providing professional learning opportunities for teachers to develop a pedagogy that encourages learning and teaching of SD and responsible citizenship

Recommendations from AAEE for the AFSSSE Board in considering future work in DD:

DD should be considered to be not merely a national curriculum project in Australia but a national curriculum project for Australia in a global context. The move globally towards SD is of such importance that future national curriculum projects, including involvement in DD, should occur within this global context.

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