Create a new federation

Explore why the authors of the Australian Constitution designed our Parliament to have both a House of Representatives—with representation based on population—and a Senate—with equal representation for the states. This activity invites students to think critically and creatively to write a new constitution.

Students
Years 5 to 12
Duration
1 to 2 lessons
Related Resource
Hold a referendum

Activity

  1. Organise the class into groups according to the group organisation information. Each group will represent a different colony.
  2. Ask each group to decide between proposed projects (listed below). Which one will most benefit the people in its colony? The federal government will only be able to afford to undertake one of these, and each group must vote as a block.
    • A high-speed rail line between Melbourne and Sydney; or
    • A hydro-electric dam in Tasmania; or
    • Desalination plants for Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth.
  3. Vote, tally the votes and announce which project will go ahead.
  4. Discuss with the class what happened in the activity. If project B or C was chosen, were all the representatives voting to benefit their colony? If project A was chosen, who benefits from it, and why was it chosen? Then discuss how the students felt about the vote.
    • Was everyone's voice heard?
    • Was it fair?
  5. Tell the students how the authors of the Australian Constitution solved this dilemma -between basing representation on population and ensuring that the rights of the smaller states would be protected - by having a bicameral parliament with a House of Representatives and a Senate. Law-making power was also divided between the states and the federal Parliament, and they included a High Court to resolve disputes. Ask your students to share their opinions of our current parliamentary organisation.
    • What are the pros and cons?
    • What could be improved?
  6. Organise the class into pairs or small groups. Ask the students to imagine that they are writing a constitution for a new federation. Using the New constitution scaffold, ask students to design a constitution for a new federation.
  7. Invite students to share the key points of their new constitution with the class.
  8. If you have time, organise the students into their original groups from step 1. Ask them to discuss the merits of each new constitution and to vote on their preferred one. Then discuss why each group chose a particular constitution and how they believe it will benefit the people of the new nation.