Role-play the Parliament: Committee

This video demonstrates a committee role-play, where students can learn how the Australian Parliament investigates bills and issues. It outlines lesson content and what preparation is required to use this immersive learning strategy in a classroom.

The activity shown in this video assumes some prior knowledge of the law-making process. It is more suitable for secondary students but could be adapted to suit a primary school class.

Duration: 12 min 16 sec


Vision Audio
Opening credits showing animated shapes with the words, Understand, Teach, Book, Connect. The Parliamentary Education Office logo.
Title: Role-play the Parliament Committees
The presenter at the front of Parliament House. Presenter: There is a lot more to the Australian Parliament than the debates and speeches that take place in the chambers. Members of parliament work in a variety of ways to ensure they are making the best decisions for the country. With this video, your class can discover through role-play how parliamentary committees gather information to help them make informed decisions.
Footage of Senate, House of Representatives and joint committees at work. Presenter: The Parliament makes detailed decisions on a wide variety of subjects. When members of parliament feel they need more information about a subject, they can ask a committee to investigate it. Committees are usually made up of six to ten government and non-government members of parliament. Committees may consist of senators or members of the House of Representatives, or may be joint committees which include members of both houses of Parliament.
Footage of PEO committee scripts.
Footage of students participating in a committee role-play.
Presenter: Using role-play your students will run their own committee in a simplified way. The role-play captures the ideas and essence of the committee process. While we show secondary students running their own committee, the role-play works just as effectively with upper primary students.
Footage of the PEO website, resources and scripts. Presenter: All the scripts, resources and information that you'll need for the role-play are on the PEO website. If you want to know more about parliamentary committees, watch the PEO's committees video.
The presenter stands in a Senate committee room. Presenter: A parliamentary committee will investigate a matter that the Parliament thinks is important. It can also examine proposed laws which the Parliament may be considering.
Footage of a list of Senate committee inquiries.
Footage of committees listening to witnesses.
Presenter: A committee advertises around Australia to let people know what it is investigating. It invites the community, experts and interest groups to write submissions to provide information or give their opinion. Committee members read these submissions and may invite these people to answer questions, or give more information in person.
Text: Preparing for a Committee Music
Footage of students in a classroom with a teacher at the whiteboard. Teacher: What are some of the issues in Australia that the Parliament might want to investigate further or might want to talk to people about?
Student: Voting.
Teacher: We could look into voting.
Presenter: Do a few preparation activities before you start. Have your students think about the range of decisions that the Parliament has to make and what research they might need to do to ensure they make informed decisions. You will need to decide a topic to investigate. Once you decide on your topic you should write some terms of reference, which explain what specific areas the committee will investigate.
Footage of the PEO website. Presenter: The PEO website has some suggestions for how you can decide on topics and terms of reference. It also has a script for an inquiry which looks at lowering Australia's voting age to 16, which we will be using.
Footage of students and teacher in the classroom. Teacher: The Committee members. Who would like to be on our committee?
Footage of the teacher dividing the class into groups. Presenter: You will need to divide your class into groups. One group will be committee members, and the others will be witness groups who provide information to the committee.
Text: Committee Members Music
Footage of students working in groups in the classroom. Presenter: Your committee members will need to get ready for the hearing. They should think carefully about the issue they are researching, then prepare questions to ask the witness groups.
Footage of the chairperson script. Presenter: The committee needs to choose a committee chair to run the hearings, which are the meetings where the committee members question the witness groups.
Text: Witness groups Music
Footage of students and teacher in the classroom. The students are working in groups. Presenter: Your students in the witness groups will also need time to prepare. They should discuss the issue, and then decide on their group's opinion. Later they will want to persuade the committee to agree with their point of view.
Presenter: All the students in the witness group will have to be ready to answer questions on the issue, so they will need time to research. It helps to divide the research amongst the group so that each member has their own individual knowledge to share.
Presenter: The committee hearings work best when the witness groups have had plenty of time to prepare. Give them time to get creative with their research.
Footage of the Witness Group Spokesperson script and a student writing a script.
Footage of students working in groups.
Presenter: The witness groups will also need to select a spokesperson. This student will make a short statement to the committee to introduce the group and give a brief summary of the group's opinion.
Text: The Committee Hearings Music
Footage of an empty classroom arranged for a committee hearing. Presenter: When your students are prepared you can begin the committee hearings. You will need to set up your room with two rows of desks facing each other.
Footage of students entering the classroom and sitting down. Presenter: The committee members sit along one row, ready to call the witness groups. The rest of the students wait until their witness group is called. The hearing begins when the chair of the committee starts the proceedings.
Footage of the students in the role of committee members. Chair: I declare open this hearing of the Committee into the Voting Age Bill. I welcome all the invited representative groups. The terms of reference are to determine: the advantages and disadvantages of giving 16 and 17 year old Australians the right to vote in elections; what changes would be necessary to enable 16 and 17 year old Australians to vote in elections. The committee will now hear from several witness groups who have expressed interest in the inquiry.
I welcome representatives from Voice for Youth. Please approach the table.
Footage of a group of students sitting at the table across from the committee. Chair: Please state your names for the Hansard record.
Student 1: Elizabeth
Student 2: Rosemary
Student 3: Lucy
Student 4: Jay
Footage of the students in the role of committee members and witnesses. Chair: Do you wish to read a statement to the committee?
Spokesperson: Thank you Madam Chairperson. We are the Voice for Youth and we believe that the voting age should be lowered to 16 years old and that the current voting system and age is unjust and setting double standards for Australian youth and society. Sixteen year olds are treated like children and yet are expected to behave and think as adults in our society and the voting age must be changed to remove this injustice from the lives of young people and advance Australia as a whole.
Footage of the students in the role of committee members and witnesses. Chair: Committee members, do you have any questions for this witness group?
Committee member 1: Will lowering the voting age improve the lives of young Australians?
Witness 1: Yes it will and this is because they will have more control over their lives. It is important for their school lives, as it will influence the way their school and education is run. It will also influence the privileges that they already have, such as driving or work or taxes. The election they vote in at 16 or 17 will be the election that elects a party for the parliament when they are kids but it will also be the party that's in power when they are adults, so it will affect all the issues they will face as both adolescents and adults.
Footage of the students in the role of committee members and witnesses. Presenter: The committee members take it in turns to ask questions, including spontaneous ones, to explore the issue further.
Footage of the students in the role of committee members and witnesses. Committee member 2: If we lower the age on voting, does that mean that we would be able to lower the age on drinking and other things?
Witness 2: I do not believe that we'll need to lower the drinking age or the age of adulthood as we already have 16 year olds doing adult responsibilities such as driving on a road with other people's lives in their hands when they are not considered adults themselves.
Committee member 3: Do you believe that the average Australian teenager can comprehend how their vote will affect the nation?
Witness 3: Yes I think they do. I think the voting age should be lowered as young adults are comprehensive of the environment around them. There's social media; they know a lot more. They learn ten or a hundred times more information than their parents did. And I think that's important as to why they should vote at a younger age. If they have that knowledge, why not put it to good use?
Footage of the students in the role of committee members and witnesses. Presenter: The committee members continue to ask questions until they have heard as much as they need to, or until they run out of time.
The chair thanks one group and calls the next group whose members come and sit at the table. Chair: I thank the representatives from Voice for Youth for coming today.
Presenter: The witness group leaves the table, and the committee calls the next group. 
Chair: I welcome representatives from Elections Australia. Please approach the table. Please state your names for the Hansard record.
Witness 1: Ted
Witness 2: Kelly
Witness 3: Brooke
Witness 4: Charlotte
Footage of the chair and the spokesperson, the rest of the groups, and of the committee members, some of whom are taking notes. Chair: Do you wish to read a statement to the committee?
Spokesperson: Yes thank you Madam Chairperson. We are the spokespeople of Elections Australia. We believe that there will be many obstacles to getting 16 and 17 year olds to vote, these obstacles being cost, employment, and education.
Chair: Committee members, do you have any questions for the witness group?
Committee member 4: What extra cost would your group face if we lower the voting age?
Witness 1: You would lose money by sticking to the previous system, by paying more wages to more employees and more for ballot papers, but we can gain money by putting the system online.
Witness 2: As well as lowering the cost, teenagers will be using a familiar system that's easy to access and easy to use.
Footage of different witness groups answering the committee's questions. Presenter: You can hear from all witness groups at one session, or you can spread the hearings across different days. Once all of the witness groups have spoken to the committee, the chairperson brings the hearing to a close.
The committee chair closes the hearings. Chair: This committee inquiry is now adjourned. The committee will consider the evidence heard here today and will write its report. The report will be tabled in the Parliament.
Text: The Committee Report. Music.
The committee in a group discussing the evidence they have heard and writing their report. Presenter: The committee thinks about the evidence it has heard and prepares a report for the Parliament. The report will summarise the evidence from the witness groups and will recommend what action, if any, the committee thinks the Parliament should take. It may not be easy for a committee to come up with a report when the witness groups have contradictory points of view. The committee may need to compromise in order to come up with the most useful recommendations.   
Students in a classroom with a teacher standing at the front. Teacher: Thanks everyone. So we know that the committee have been working on their report and they now have their recommendations to share. So come on, Jess, you can come and share your recommendations with the class.
The committee chair stands and speaks to the class. Chair: The Senate Voting Age Committee has investigated the issue of lowering the voting age to 16 and makes the following recommendations:
Lower the voting to 16 but for 16 and 17 year olds it's voluntary.
The system should be updated to an online one, but the original voting system should still be in place on a smaller scale.
School education for voting starts at Year 7 but grows into a full scale topic at Year 8.
16 and 17 year olds have to apply to vote at a post office and they require proof.
If they don't give a notification beforehand that they don't vote, they will be fined.
Senator Catryna Bilyk tables a report in the Senate.
The Hon Michael Sukkar MP, the Member for Deakin, tables a report in the House of Representatives.
Presenter: Once a committee completes its report it is tabled in Parliament. This means that members of parliament can use the information in the report to help them better understand the issue, and decide what action, if any, they will take.
The Hon Michael Sukkar: The committee has recommended that the bill be passed by the Parliament and made 23 additional recommendations.
The presenter in committee room at Parliament House. Use the committee role-play to learn how the Parliament researches issues in Australia, but don't stop there. Also use this process to explore any other curriculum areas your class may be studying. It won't be long before your class is running its own committees all by themselves.
Parliamentary Education Office logo with thanks to the staff and students at Campbell High School.