Rights, power, action discussion starters for older students

Use these discussion starters to explore different concepts as part of the Unpack democracy classroom activity.

Getting started

Introduce the concepts of rights, power and action to your students.

Rights are principles of freedom and entitlement: what we may do and what is owed to us according to the beliefs of our society.

Power is the ability to influence people or events.

Action relates to how citizens can participate in public and political life and help shape the nation.

Discussion starters

Under each concept, discussion starters are listed from easier (personally relatable) to more complex (abstract thinking). Select the ones that will work best for your class and the discussion strategy you have chosen.


  • What rights do you have? Where do those rights come from?
  • What is a right you have which you might not have if you lived in a non-democratic country?
  • Are there any circumstances in which it might be reasonable for citizens’ rights to be removed, limited or curtailed?
  • Why has our understanding of rights changed over time? What else might be added to our concept of rights in the future?
  • Beyond voting, which of our rights is the most important to sustaining Australian democracy?
  • The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all people ‘are born free and equal.’ Which is more important: freedom or equality? Can you have one without the other?


  • What powers do the Parliament, Judiciary and the Executive government have? Where do these powers come from?
  • Why do you think the drafters of the Australian Constitution included a separation of powers?
  • In a federation, power is shared between a national – federal – government and state governments. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of living in this type of system of government?
  • Can you think of reasons why the division of powers between the federal Parliament, and state and territory parliaments has changed over time?
  • Who do you think are the most politically powerful people in Australia?
  • High Court judges are appointed by the Governor-General of Australia, on the advice of the Australian Government. Should they be elected by the people instead?


  • What can citizens do to protect their rights?
  • How do we ensure those in power are accountable for their actions?
  • Should those who choose not to vote have to obey the law? Should you have to obey the law if you can’t vote?
  • What does a ‘representative’ parliament look like? What does it do?
  • Why is it important for laws to be regularly reviewed and reformed?
  • Which is better, slow, considered reform or fast, reactive change?
  • If you could make a change to the law in Australia, what would it be and why?