Year 10

After completing this Unit of work and associated assessment tasks, students will have met the achievement standard for the Year 10 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum.

Year 10
This Unit of work is organised into 6 topics

Inquiry questions

How is Australia’s democracy defined and shaped by the global context?

How are government policies shaped by Australia’s international legal obligations?

What are the features of a resilient democracy?

Topic 1: Features of Australia’s system of government

Introduction (15 min)

As a class, read the System of government fact sheet and summarise the 4 key features of Australia’s system of government in a table like the one below:

Key features of Australia's system of government

Representative democracy


Constitutional monarchy


 Federation of states


 Separation of powers


Comparing systems of government (60–120 min)

Divide the class into small groups (4 students per group). Each group will choose one of the following democratic systems of government to research: India, Indonesia or Japan.  Give students the following scaffold to guide their research:

Key features of ………………….’s system of government

Parliament and representation


Constitution and head of state


Levels of government


Separation of powers


In their groups, students generate 2-3 research questions for each of the categories above. A team member is assigned a category to research. At the conclusion of their research, students share their findings with the rest of their group. Individually, they could use a Venn Diagram to summarise the key similarities and differences between Australia’s system of government and the country they have researched. 

As a class, discuss the following:

  • What factors might shape a nation’s system of government?
  • Countries that define themselves as democracies can have vastly different systems of government. In your opinion, what features MUST a system of government have in order for it to be a democracy? Why are these features important and what would happen without them?
  • Compared to the country you researched, do you think Australia’s system of government is better, worse or ‘just different’? Justify your answer. 

Topic 2: Values of Australia’s system of government

Introduction (20 min)

Read the Democracy fact sheet to identify the key values of Australia’s democracy. The 4 key values are:

  • active and engaged citizens
  • an inclusive and equitable society
  • free and franchised elections
  • the rule of law

Have a discussion about these democratic values using 3-4 of the questions from the Unpack democracy Classroom activity such as:

  • Can you think of ways to make our country more democratic?
  • Is it harder for some people to have their say than for others?
  • Could dictators ever be good?

Changing a system of government (60 min)

Working in the same groups as the last topic, ask students to recommend a change to an aspect of Australia’s system of government that they believe will promote our democratic values.

Give students the following options:

  1. In Indonesia, the legal voting age is 17 years old. If you wish, you could argue the legal voting age should be lowered to 17 (or younger) in Australia.
  2. In India, some parliamentary seats are reserved for minority groups. These members are elected by all voters. If you wish, you could argue Australia should introduce a system to increase the representation of minority groups.
  3. In Japan, the emperor has a purely ceremonial role—they have no political power at all. If you wish, you could argue the Australian Constitution should be changed to redefine (or remove) the powers of the King in Australia.
  4. Alternatively, your group may come up with its own recommended change to our system of government in Australia.

In groups, students must use a democratic process to decide on which change they want to make. As a group they will need to:

  • Describe in more detail what their proposed change will look like.
  • Develop an argument that justifies how their proposed change will promote one (or more) of the 4 key values. 
  • Elect a spokesperson from their group to explain and justify their proposed change to the class.

After hearing from each group, discuss:

  • Did you think that any of the changes we discussed today would not be democratic? Which change/s did you disagree with and why?
  • In our democracy, we value our ability to hold and express different points of view. Were there different viewpoints in your group? How did you manage these differences?
  • What could a citizen do if they wanted one of the suggested changes implemented in Australia?

Topic 3: Australia’s global roles and responsibilities: foreign aid

Introduction (15 min)

  • Distribute Skittles/Smarties/grapes unevenly between groups of students in your class, keeping the majority for yourself.  You could substitute food with items such as coins or marbles.
  • Inform students you have the most because you are an adult. Do they think the current distribution of resources is fair? Why or why not? If not, what would be fair? 
  • Give groups one minute to develop a reasoned argument for why you should share your resources with them.  Ask a representative from each group to present their argument.
  • Explain to students that if the classroom were the Asia-Pacific region, you would be Australia. Ask the whole class if Australia should address this inequality by sharing its wealth with its neighbours? Encourage a diverse range of opinions and encourage students to justify their reasoning.
  • Inform students that in 2019 Australia spent $4 billion on helping other nations grow and develop. This represented about 0.2% of our gross national income. Ask students if they think Australia spent too much, the right amount or not enough on developmental aid. Once again, encourage a range of points of view.

How and why Australia gives foreign aid (15 min)

Define bilateral, non-government and multilateral aid. To do this, you may like to watch the World Vision What are the different types of aide? video (4 min 12 sec) and/or complete this World Vision activity.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (60 min)

In 2015, Australia—alongside the 192 other member states of the United Nations—signed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At the Agenda’s heart are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that urge developed and developing countries to work together to end poverty and preserve the environment. By signing the Agenda, Australia has agreed to strive to achieve these goals at home and work with other nations to achieve the goals globally. 

Achieving the goals requires collective action: governments, businesses, academics, NGOs and individuals all have a role to play. Providing developmental aid to nations in our region is one way the Australian government is working to achieve the SDGs. As a class, use the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website to find out where Australia gives aid and identify the top 3 countries Australia currently gives aid to. As a class discuss why they think Australia prioritises our near neighbours when providing foreign aid.

SDG bingo

  • Provide each group with WS1 Sustainable Development Goals bingo card.
  • Refer students to the scoring instructions. Allow students to decide on which difficulty level to begin at.
  • Tell students they need to work as a team to research ways Australian aid has contributed to meeting the SDGs in the Asia-Pacific region. To do this, they will need to return to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website and look at the nations under Pacific, South and East Asia and South and West Asia. For each nation, the ‘Our results,’ section will describe how the aid is being used. Students should identify how these results link to the SDGs and record their answers on WS1 Sustainable Development Goals and cross the icon for that goal on their bingo sheet.
  • If you wish, motivate students with some of your Skittles/Smarties/grapes as prizes when they complete their selected level. Groups can move onto the next level if they finish early.

After completing the SDG bingo activity, discuss the following as a whole class:

  • Do you think the Sustainable Development Goals will be achieved by 2030? In your opinion, are the goals realistic?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting ambitious goals like ‘zero hunger’?
  • Through completing the activity, are you satisfied with the results Australia has achieved in the Asia Pacific region? Do you think our aid budget is being spent effectively?
  • Australia is also striving to achieve these goals domestically. Looking at the goals again, which do you think will take the most work to achieve in Australia? What do you currently see happening to address these issues in Australia and what else could be done?
  • The Sustainable Development Goals require collective action, including from individuals. Looking at the goals again, discuss what efforts you can make in your life to help achieve the SDGs.

Topic 4: Protecting World Heritage: Franklin River controversy

Introducing World Heritage (20 min)

Ask students if they have been to or would like to go to any of the following sites: The Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, Ha Long Bay (Vietnam), Grand Canyon National Park (United States), the Swiss Alps. What do all the listed places have in common? 

Explain that all these places are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Use the UNESCO World Heritage explained video (2 min 8 sec) to introduce students to the concept of UNESCO World Heritage. After watching the video, discuss the following with students:

  • The video describes World Heritage Sites as places of ‘Outstanding Universal Value.’ What do these words mean? What characteristics should a site of Outstanding Universal Value have?
  • What are some of the threats to World Heritage identified in the video? Review the list of Australia’s World Heritage sites. Are any vulnerable to these threats?
  • Countries that have signed the 1972 World Heritage Convention agreed that they would protect sites of Outstanding Universal Value on their territory. Can nations effectively protect their World Heritage on their own or is global co-operation also required?

Case Study: The Franklin River Dam controversy (20 min)

Introduce students to the Franklin River Dam controversy. The National Museum of Australia’s Defining Moment entry provides a succinct introduction, including a short video. Key points students should understand are:

  • In 1979 the Tasmanian Government approved a plan to build a hydroelectric dam on the Gordon River. This plan would impact the Gordon River and the environmentally sensitive Franklin River nearby.
  • The dam was opposed by environmental protestors in a large and co-ordinated campaign. In 1982, thousands of protestors blockaded the site to stall construction of the dam.
  • The Franklin River was added to the United Nations World Heritage List in 1982.
  • The Tasmanian Government, the state opposition and many Tasmanian workers remained in strong support of the dam. They believed it was needed to meet future power demands and create jobs for Tasmanians.
  • In March 1983, the Australian Government passed a law to stop construction of the dam. They did this shortly after a federal election. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) won the election, and their campaign included a promise that they would save the Franklin River if elected.
  • The High Court of Australia was asked to determine the validity of the Australian Government’s law. The majority of the High Court found in favour of the Australian Government. Construction of the dam did not go ahead.

Source interpretation (40–60 min)

Divide students into small groups and direct them to the National Archive of Australia’s Protesting the Franklin Dam learning resource. The resource contains 6 primary sources that shed light on the complexity of the issue. Assign each student in the group a source to analyse. The sources differ in length and complexity—from photographs to cabinet minutes—so you can differentiate how you assign them.

Individually, students analyse their source to identify who made it, when and why. Use the source analysis strategy your students are most familiar with or try the templates on the State Library of Victoria website. In their groups, students share the source they analysed and summarise their findings. Encourage students to focus their discussion on why each source was created; does it appear to support, or oppose the construction of the dam?

After reviewing all the sources, ask students to formulate and share their own point of view. Was it right for the Australian Government to step in and halt construction of the dam? Why or why not? 

As a class, discuss the following prompts:

  • International law is not enforceable. Although Australia had pledged that it will protect its World Heritage sites, the United Nations cannot make Australia or any other member country keep its promise.
    • Why do you think international law is not enforceable?
    • Do you think it should be? If so, how?
    • Why do countries keep international obligations if they are not forced to?
  • In the Franklin River controversy, environmental interests came into conflict with economic interests (such as creating jobs).
    • Can you see conflict between environmental and economic interests in Australia today? 
    • Is it possible to protect the environment and grow the economy?

Topic 5: The Constitution and the High Court

Introduction (20–30 min)

Introduce students to the Australian Constitution and the High Court’s role in interpreting it. Play the Australian Constitution quiz or Australian Constitution Kahoot! as a whole class. Then watch The Constitution video (2 min 26 sec) and read the Australian Constitution in focus paper.

Ensure students understand the following key information:

  • The Australian Constitution was written prior to Federation in 1901 and is the rule book by which our country is run.
  • The Constitution outlines the relationship between the Australian Parliament and the state and territory Parliaments. Sections 51 and 52 of the Constitution describe the areas the Australian Parliament has the power to make laws. Any area not transferred to the Australian Parliament in 1901 remain the responsibility of the states. The states have the power to make laws in any area not listed in the Constitution. These are called residual powers.
  • The High Court of Australia has the power to resolve disputes over the meaning of the Constitution. If an Australian law is believed to be ‘unconstitutional’ – i.e. the Australian Parliament did not have the constitutional power to make it – it can be challenged in the High Court.

Analysing the High Court’s interpretation of the Constitution in the Tasmanian Dams Case (60–120 min)

Distribute WS2.1 High Court of Australia case study: Tasmanian Dams Case. Before students read the worksheet recap the key facts of the Franklin River Dam controversy. After reading, students summarise the Facts, Issue, Verdict and Reasoning of the case. Challenge them to use no more than 3 dot points per heading.

In small groups students complete WS2.2 Tasmanian Dams case analysis guide. Encourage students to formulate their responses in their small groups and listen to different perspectives. Then, discuss responses as a whole class.

Ask the following questions to prompt further discussion:

  • This case made clear that the Australian Parliament has the power to create laws to protect environmental World Heritage. Do you think it is important for the Australian Parliament to have this power? Do the states also have a role to play? What about companies and individuals?
  • Why do you think the Constitution limits the power of the Australian Parliament to make laws?
  • What is the benefit of having a High Court that can hear Constitutional case, and declare Australian laws valid or invalid?
  • If you were representing the Tasmanian Government in the High Court, what arguments would you use to support your case?

Topic 6: Rights in Australia

Introduction (30 min)

As a class, watch the Australian Human Rights Commission What are Human Rights? video (5 min 11 sec) to introduce students to the concept and history of human rights.

Provide the class with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or a simplified version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Ask students to read the Declaration and work in pairs to sort the articles into the 3 categories below. Although many could fit into more than one category, students should discuss the purpose of each right with their partner to reach an agreement about which category it fits into best.    

Rights to protect freedom

Rights to ensure dignity

Rights to promote equality


Ask students to review the 30 articles and highlight those rights that they believe should be absolute. The Australian Attorney-General’s Department defines ‘absolute’ rights as those which should not be limited under any circumstances in Australia. Discuss findings as a class.  

Safeguarding rights and freedoms in Australia (20–30 min)

Read the Rights in Australia in focus paper. You may like to divide students into groups, with each group member responsible for taking notes about on a different section of the paper and reporting back to the whole group. Ensure students understand that after the Australian Government signs an international agreement, it only becomes binding if the Australian Parliament makes a law to put it into action.

Discuss findings as a class and consider:

  • How are human rights protected in Australia?
  • Do students believe they are well protected, or could more be done?
  • If Australia were to have a bill of rights, what rights would students consider most important to include? 
  • What can they do to promote human rights – globally, locally, and in the school community?

Assessment task: Australia’s international obligations (duration varies)

Distribute WS3 Assessment research task to students.

This research task asks students to consider how Australia’s international obligations shape Australian law and government policies in relation to a specific issue. Students can present their findings as an essay, presentation or creative response. The task is aligned to the achievement standard of the Year 10 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum, including the skills component. Teachers should use the curriculum content descriptions to develop an appropriate marking criterion and rubric.