Business Educators Australasia


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Business Educators Australasia Celebrating Democracy in Queensland

DATE OF FORUM: 28 October 5 PM – 7 PM
Parliament House, Brisbane
Councillor Maureen Hayes – Brisbane City Council; Mrs Joanne Miller, Member for Bundamba

Introductory remarks: Federally funded project Discovering Democracy; state government venue; local council speaker.

DD materials on display

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

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?


Councillor Maureen Hayes provided participants with a number of challenging statements to reflect on whether or not democracy can and should be the result of acting ‘for the people’. She provided a number of examples where politicians consult and listen but may not make a decision based on the views of the majority of the people. Councillor Hayes also provided examples of media influence and the difficulties politicians have in overcoming media stereotyping.

Hon Jo-Anne Miller, MP provided examples from her electorate to demonstrate the complexities involved in making decisions which adhere to democratic principles yet at the same time meet the needs of diverse groups. This address provided information to complement the Discovering Democracy material on the life of a politician and working within and outside parliament.

Notes from participants on three questions:

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

  • Highlights the importance of members developing relationship/interface with constituents.

  • Importance of critical literacy; media studies.

  • Gives more concrete idea of what a politician does

  • Need more contact between students and politicians – activity based.

  • Some politicians eg Dean Wells run little activities in schools. (The guest speaker Joanne Miller had just been Acting Principal at a local high school for the day).

  • Real life examples of what politicians do ie complexity behind politicians making decisions.

  • What is democracy? What does it mean to represent the people? Key word – listen. Central conflict – what people want and what I want as the person who has to make the decision; greater good for greatest number? Is there a basic democratic right for people to be heard? What about the conflict between democracy and bureaucracy? The key feature of democracy is that it can frighten people in power – have to be honest – a true believer in democracy. Leadership role in a democracy – making decisions – maximum participation in helping to make decisions but not actually making THE decision.

  • Democracy is about the ordinary person.

Teachers might access the following Discovering Democracy units:
  • Men and Women in Political Life
  • Should the People Rule?

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

  • Great insight into being a politician. Very interesting exercise when asked by Maureen to define "democracy" in a realistic manner. The differences between "informed citizenship" and "active" citizenship, with the leadership role in democracy, were explored.

  • Civics is valuable – year 7 too late

  • Ethical self government/sense of community/ethical accountable systems important

  • Tolerance to be emphasised

  • Can’t have a democracy if people despise politicians – people must respect people they voted for.

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

  • Ethics case studies; develop role plays and debate information about the tensions that Members have to deal with when consulting them making decisions.

  • Highlight the range and types of consultative processes used and how these inform decisions.

  • Need to teach concepts to year 4 (too late in year 12).

  • Bring back grass roots action to formal decision making

  • Optional preferential voting as opposed to first past the post

  • Active citizenship vs informed citizenship

  • Greater understanding of consultation process ie gathering data and decision making

  • Political process; safe seats; marginal seats; role of senate

  • Formal body of knowledge – how do we make this interesting.

  • Do teachers know enough?

  • Representative democracy that makes decisions that we may not agree with, but we must show them how they can help influence decisions.

  • Is there enough information being taught at teachers’ colleges?

  • Materials need to have some "characters" – Maureen Hayes as a character; Bob Hawke as a character; Pauline Hanson (despite what people say) as a character.

  • Local, state and federal distinctions important; knowledge of history; ancient history

  • Mrs Miller described part of her electorate - 149 nationalities; 87 languages; 7000 Samoan people –have their own ‘government’ – complexities of types of government

  • Politicians need to come into the schools and outline what they do ina week.

  • Media analysis important

  • Need to know that politicians can’t be dishonest but also accept that fact is not necessarily the truth (context distorts message.

Emailed message from Joy Schultz subsequent to the Forum:

I know I have delayed this since we had the Celebrating Democracy Week Forum at P'ment House quite a few days ago. I am conscious of the message sent by the two speakers about the lack of understanding about the functions of the three levels of government, and I wonder if some materials could be produced that are based around scenarios. They may be actual cases from the offices of Councillors and MPs, including mistaken approaches which have to be re-directed to the appropriate level. This could be put into or related to a historical context to explain the development of these functions, but I would like to see it being essentially practical. I had a preservice teacher the other day tell me that she had to teach the functions of the three levels and she didn't know and couldn't find anything on the web to help her!

The other thing that concerned me in my past teaching is the lack of understanding and respect for what our legislators do. I used to invite the local state member to come in and describe his day from the first phone calls about the noise of dredging in the river at 5am to the last local Scouts/Guides/p&c, etc meeting that night. The students realised how hard their members worked for their money. But it needs a bit of a philosophical discussion to take place about how to encourage good people to offer to represent us, and the need for good financial rewards for the things that they forego in many cases (like family life). I can remember some materials from the 80s that followed the life of an MP, but that quickly becomes dated as they age and lose seats etc. There needs to be encouragement for students to link at the local level and ask the questions face-to-face, with some guidance about the scope of questions to ask about what they actually do and how that helps the students and their families.

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