Democracy discussion starters for all students

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

Getting started

Introduce the word 'democracy' to your students. Democracy means rule by the people. The word comes from the ancient Greek words ‘demos’ (the people) and ‘kratos’ (to rule). A democratic country has a system of government in which the people have the power to participate in decision-making.

Each democracy is unique and works in different ways. In some democracies citizens help make decisions directly by voting on laws and policy proposals (direct democracy). In others, like Australia, citizens choose representatives to make decisions on their behalf (representative democracy).

Australia’s democracy is supported by 4 key ideas:

As a class, brainstorm some different examples of ways in which Australia is democratic. Use the discussion starters to explore the 4 key ideas of Australia's democracy.

Under each democratic idea, 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.

Active and engaged citizens

Citizens have a voice and can make changes in society.

  • What is a change you’d like to see in your school or local community?
  • Can you do anything about it? If not, who is responsible for the problem/issue?
  • If the problem is bigger than your community, what could you do to make a change?
  • Who is responsible for Australia’s democracy? How are they responsible?
  • Can you think of ways to make our country more democratic?
  • Is violence ever justifiable? Can you think of an example where violence was needed for freedom?
  • How can big changes be made without the use of violence?

An inclusive and equitable society

We work towards a society where everyone is respected and free.

  • Brainstorm a list of freedoms you think are important in your school community. Are some more important than others?
  • Which of these freedoms are most important to you?
  • Is democracy best for everyone? Why or why not?
  • Is it harder for some people to have their say than for others?
  • What’s more important—majority rule or individual freedom? Why?
  • How might Australia be different if we were not a democracy?

Free and franchised elections

We get to stand for election and choose who makes decisions on our behalf.

  • What experiences have you had with different ways of making decisions?
  • Why should citizens be able to choose who represents them?
  • Why is the media important in a democracy?
  • What powers do voters have between elections?
  • Could dictators ever be good?
  • What is the biggest threat to democracy?

A rule of law for both citizens and the government

Everyone is equal before the law.

  • When have laws or rules kept you safe or protected your freedom or rights?
  • Should the law ensure everyone gets a fair go?
  • Why is it important for everyone to follow the law?
  • Is everyone equal before the law? Why or why not?
  • Is it fair for the law to treat everyone exactly the same?