Social Educators Association of Australia

Northern Territory

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SEAA/SEANT celebrating democracy in the Northern Territory

DATE OF FORUM: Friday, November 1st, 2002


VENUE: Alice Plaza, Alice Springs

GUEST SPEAKERS: Ian Sharpe and Ruth Sheridan

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?


Mr. Ian Sharp

The focus of Mr Sharp’s speech was "Democracy in an Isolated Setting" The issues surrounding the teaching of Democracy in central Australia demand that we need to constructively refer to the pedagogy of the Studies of Society and Environment, what has been achieved, what are we now doing and where are we going. In an era of declining intakes at Universities for teachers, the impact in the NT has already been felt.

Our young people have the right to discover their democracy through curricula which focuses upon multi-cultural and multi-level strategies.

Teachers might access the following Discovering Democracy units:
  • Rules and Laws
  • The Law rules
  • Law
  • Who Rules?
  • Human Rights
  • A Democracy Destroyed


What is needed in the Territory;

  • committed and skilled teachers

  • an increased focus upon social literacy (oral &written media)

  • experimental learning which incorporates

    • indigenous culture and learning

    • other cultural components

    • a focus on "real" assessment

Teaching democracy in our environment that "makes sense":

  • use of simulation activities.

  • Students develop independent skills and understandings through participation in democratic procedures

  • focus on laws and the use of criminal procedure.

The key components include;

  • what is admissible in a democratic country

  • through observation , interview, discussion consider what is admissible in a democratic country

  • what the various roles of the judicial members are and how each impacts upon "democratic process"

  • providing young people with opportunity to discover "our kids, the law and democracy

The knowledge base for many people about social literacy and democracy

  • programs such as "A Current Affair" – raises issues of prejudice

  • respond to issues which have the effect of channelling’ opinions and values

Historical perspectives and current world developments may be localised through the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers and Australia's historical heritage.

  • "Might is Right" Reflection on Australia's "democratic Process"

  • role of agencies such as ASIO, their powers and human rights issues


  • how the "haves" became the "power-brokers"

  • why "have nots" refuse to participate in the process

  • non- participants refuse to cooperate

Therefore consider: "Let’s change the Rules!"

  • competition is an integral part of our life

  • therefore, there always will be winners and losers

  • the way rules are changed are not always fair or democratic

  • ergo, rules need to be fairly made: therefore Doctrine of the Separation of Powers

The way Power and Democracy are a failure of

  • government directions and,

  • the Australian value of freedom and democracy – a "fair go" for all

The talk concluded with a quotation for the audience to reflect upon:

"Democracy is a terrible form of government but it’s a long way better than anything else we have"

Ruth Sheridan

Ruth spoke about the role of teachers of Social Education in the Northern Territory. She raised a number of points

  • inclusivity within the classroom context

  • inclusivity in curriculum planning

  • studies of SEA and implication for teaching democracy

  • networking in the Australian context

  • role of teachers and indigenous students in the NT when teaching democratic government.

© Commonwealth of Australia [2003]
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