HTAA Celebrating Democracy in New South Wales
Date of Forum:
Monday 28th October
Time of Forum:
6.00 – 8.00 pm
Venue: Judges Common Room, Hyde Park
Barracks, Macquarie Street, Sydney
Linda Burnie, Director General, Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Warren Duncan, Community Relations Commission
Eva Cox, University of Technology Sydney
Richard Fidler, Australian Republican Movement
sections in blue added by AFSSSE Project
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
How does the speaker’s address link with our
current teaching for responsible citizenship?
What values of responsible citizenship might we
apply from the address?
What are the future possibilities for using the
Discovering Democracy resources to explore responsible
Teachers might consider access the following
Discovering Democracy units and topics:
– Aboriginal Laws
The Law Rules – Myall Creek Massacre
Law – Aboriginal Customary Law
Human Rights – Indigenous people’s human rights
People Power – Australian Freedom Rides
1. Summary of Speakers’
A. Linda Burnie, Director General, NSW Department of
Indigenous issues in relation to our civic society
were part of an agenda for open debate in the early 1990s.
Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation has provided
the opportunity for Indigenous people to share their experiences and
to feel part of the nation.
There have been some improvements in education.
There has been an increase in the level of knowledge
of Indigenous issues and how they affect all of us as a nation.
We now have acknowledgements of Indigenous people
like "welcome to country" at functions and forums.
The "places and spaces" for the debates of the early
90s about Indigenous issues have disappeared. Any intellectual edge
has been taken away and the debate has been relegated to a concern
of the "chattering classes". True civil debate has been lost to the
new form of political correctness and authoritarianism. We need to
re-ignite the discussion about Aboriginal Studies and its part in
civics education. Teachers have a great responsibility to promote
discussion and debate.
The improvements in education have been negligible
in relation to the seismic changes needed to achieve equity in our
society. Many Indigenous Australians do not feel part Australian
society, especially the kids. Some Koori children have to leave
culture, home and family to get an education. There is pride in the
current generation but also a tragically high suicide rate. (Linda
mentioned five Koori teenage suicides in the last three weeks).
The alienation and disenfranchisement of young
people is the biggest issue facing our society today. Civics
education can embrace the young. It’s not only what is learnt in
schools that counts, it’s what is projected by society.
The socio-economic reality for Indigenous people is
not changing, despite the rhetoric of "practical reconciliation".
The depressing conditions on some of the old reserves are stark
evidence of this.
The impetus for Reconciliation has lost momentum.
The American idea of national identity, the "hand on
heart" and flag-waving ceremonies is not the way forward. Perhaps we
have been talking for more than 20 years about Indigenous issues –
so what? We need the debate and much broader understanding if
Indigenous people are to feel part of Australia’s "democratic"
B. Eva Cox, University of Technology Sydney
Australia is a much better society than it was in
the post-war years, especially for women and migrants. We can
congratulate ourselves on the progress made, however we are now
sliding backwards. The old certainties and grand theories don’t work
as well any more. This uncertainty and fear make a toxic mix which
produces distrust of our fellow human beings and even our government
and can lead to extreme forms of nationalism and fundamentalism.
We must teach respect, not tolerance. Let’s respect
difference, lets argue with those who are different - as equals.
Harmony, consensus and conflict avoidance do not
create an inclusive society. We need a society where we can deal
with conflict and disagreement. We need to recognise and deal with
the fear of the "other".
How do we create an atmosphere where we can deal
with difference? We must learn and teach the capacity to work with
and explore commonalities with others.
It’s no good teaching about democracy to students
who are being bullied in the playground. This can often be a result
of authoritarian leadership or administration.
Civics and civility are taught by example – where
students are included and have some sense of agency, where they are
taught to learn about and be respectful of difference. This sense of
belonging builds a sense of responsibility and a sense of civility
and democratic engagement. Issues must be approached in terms of how
people treat each other, with values of respect, inclusion, ethics
and democratic process.
Unless we work in organisations which operate
ethically and democratically, it’s difficult to teach about
democracy and civics.
C. Warren Duncan, Community Relations Commission
What Sort of Nation?
NSW was the first state to establish a Ministry of
NSW was the first state to implement a
Principles on which the Community Relations
Commission are based set the scene for an understanding of
citizenship in the 21st century. Citizenship is not
limited to "citizens", it encompasses the rights and
responsibilities of all. Citizenship is a unifying commitment to
This is the most important time to discuss
citizenship. Talkback radio is dominated by people’s "commitment to
the nation", but really their commitment is to the dominant culture.
The link between citizenship and national identity
is no longer relevant, it breeds discontent and conflict as citizens
find themselves in a cultural trap from which there is no escape.
There should be a strong link between citizenship
and social justice.
There should be no barriers to people passing on
language, religion and culture and also being citizens. What is
important is the obligation to the nation or state.
Governments need to manage their countries’
diversities. If they did, there would be far fewer refugees.
Citizenship should be seen as a unifying force with
both common values and respect for difference.
D. Richard Fidler, Australian Republican Movement
Australia is good at democracy, but not so good at
debating democratic issues.
History teachers should be commended on promoting
debate among students about an Australian republic.
The challenge is to convince teenagers that the
constitution and constitutional change are interesting. Many
adolescents are turned off because constitutional history and
constitutional issues involve politicians and they don’t trust
The coming republic needs to be built on lasting
foundations so we need to educate today’s students to have the
confidence to become involved in developing the process for becoming
We need to engage the public and find symbols that
fire the imagination. One of the reasons why the ARM failed in 1999
was that it did not appeal beyond rationalism and failed to engage
the public with "feeling" rather than simply argument. "Fair go" and
"mateship" are no longer enough to bind us, we need to look at a
more emotional connection – and we can’t go past Australians’
abiding belief in democracy.
Australian Constitution does need fixing and we must
counter the notion "if it’s not broke, don’t fix it".
The Governor General is appointed by the discretion
of one person, the Prime Minister, and reports to the Queen. He does not
serve the people.
Monarch may annul laws (Section 59).
There is no definition of the role of the PM and the
The Senate, which is supposed to represent states,
now operates along party lines.
Today’s youth have the opportunity to make a future
republic without a war or without a revolution, but by "gentle
democratic process". The challenge is to give encourage them to
become informed, interested and confident - and to fire them with a
Summary of Discussion of Three Focus Questions
How do the speakers’ addresses link with our
current teaching for responsible citizenship?
They highlight some of the problems in the current
teaching for responsible citizenship:
the importance of student engagement;
the need for appropriate curriculum documents and
realistic time-frames for using participatory pedagogies;
the need for teachers to be confident and assertive
in the ways we teach about democracy;
the importance of student participation in discourse
and debate both in the classroom and society,
the need for inter-agency development of resources
which relate to community dimensions of citizenship which will have
relevance at home and school;
the importance of schools modelling democratic
processes and providing opportunities for real student engagement
What values of responsible citizenship might we
apply from the addresses?
Groups proposed the following values of responsible
responsible citizenship is dependent on students
experiencing opportunities for voicing informed opinions and for
responsible citizenship assumes not only the ability
but the inclination or desire to take part in civic life;
acknowledgement of and respect for difference, as
opposed to "tolerance";
discovering and respecting what binds us together in
civic issues are fundamentally about how people
treat each other;
respect, responsibility and relationships.
What are the future possibilities for exploring
Future of civic education depends largely on
availability and quality of appropriate resources. Discovering
Democracy materials are a start, but now is the time for a move
towards inter-agency development of resources and more community
based models of curriculum and resources that can be "taught" in a
number of social contexts, not just school.
Appropriate pre-service education and professional
development opportunities for teachers, similar appropriate
opportunities for community leaders.
Syllabuses which allow appropriate time for
participatory pedagogies rather than sterile civics content – this
is a particular issue in NSW.
Opportunities for students to investigate an issue
of consequence to them, an individual personal civics study.
Commonwealth of Australia 
All reports in this section
copyright. You may download, store in cache, display, print and
reproduce this material in unaltered form only (retaining this
notice), for your personal, non-commercial use or for any
non-commercial use within your
organisation. Apart from any use as permitted above or under the Copyright Act
1968, all other rights are reserved.
Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be
addressed to the Assistant Secretary, Quality Schooling Branch,
Location Code 141, Department of Education, Science and Training, GPO
Box 9880, Canberra, ACT 2601 (Phone: 02 6240 7900; Fax: 02 6240 7100
or by email to