After completing this Unit of work and associated assessment task, students will have met the achievement standard for the Year 7 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum.
This Unit of work is organised into 3 topics.
How is Australia’s system of democratic government shaped by the Constitution?
What principles of justice help to protect the individual’s rights to justice in Australia’s system of law?
How is Australia a diverse society and what factors contribute to a cohesive society?
Topic 1: How is Australia shaped by the Constitution?
Introduction (20 min)
Show students a copy of the Australian Constitution and ascertain their prior knowledge by asking what they know about the Constitution and what the Constitution does. Show the PEO The Constitution video (2 min 26 sec) and ask students to note the answers to the following questions while watching:
- What did people in the Australian colonies want to achieve by joining together to form a nation?
- Why was the Constitution written?
Portfolio assessment 1: Key features of the Constitution (90–120 min)
Distribute WS1 Power-sharing. Tell students that the Australian Constitution explains how power is shared in Australia. Small groups will research an aspect of this power-sharing arrangement and present their findings as a poster. Students will need to research the following topics:
- Australian system of government
- Separation of powers: Separation of powers: Parliament, Executive and Judiciary fact sheet
- The Governor-General: Governor-General fact sheet
- Role of the Executive: Ministers and shadow ministers fact sheet and Cabinet fact sheet.
- Roles of the houses of Parliament: Senate fact sheet, House of Representatives fact sheet and Australian Parliament fact sheet.
- Division of powers (three levels of government): Three levels of government video and The responsibilities of the three levels of government fact sheet
- The Judiciary: The Australian Constitution in focus, Parliament and the courts fact sheet and Role of the High Court webpage.
As each group presents their poster and explains the feature they researched, ask the other students to note 3-5 points from each presentation to help them remember the key features of the Australian Constitution.
This research task can be used as an assessable portfolio item for this Unit of work. The task, together with the other suggested portfolio assessment items, align with the achievement standard of the Year 7 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum, including the skills component. Teachers should use the curriculum content descriptions to develop an appropriate marking criterion and rubric.
Power sharing scenarios (60–90 min)
Next, distribute WS2 Power-sharing scenarios and discuss each example and the prompt questions. This can be done in small groups or as a whole class.
To help students understand why the drafters of the Australian Constitution designed the Australian Parliament to have both a Senate – with equal representation for the state – and a House of Representatives – with representation based on population, run the Create a new federation Classroom activity.
Changing the Constitution (90–120 min)
- What is the key difference between a referendum and a plebiscite?
- Why did the 1967 referendum achieve such a high ‘Yes’ vote?
Extension: Ask students to construct a flow chart to describe the steps for changing the Australian Constitution.
To help students understand how the Constitution can be changed by a referendum run the Hold a Referendum Classroom activity commencing from the YES/NO cases activity.
Portfolio assessment 2: Referendum brochure
The information brochure developed by students as part of the Hold a Referendum Classroom activity can be used as an assessable item for this unit. Students will develop an information brochure that demonstrates an understanding of constitutional change and uses information from a variety of sources to present a persuasive argument. This task forms part of a portfolio of items that together align with the achievement standard of the Year 7 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum, including the skills component. Teachers will need to develop an appropriate marking criterion and rubric.
Topic 2: What is justice?
Rules, laws and justice (15 min)
Show students the University of Texas Justice video (1min 28 sec) to define this topic.
Use the Unpack democracy Classroom activity to discuss with students some general ideas about justice. Use the questions listed under ‘A rule of law for both government and citizens’. You could use the affinity mapping discussion strategy with your class.
The Rule of Law (20 min)
Rule of law principles (30 min)
Ask students to research and provide a brief explanation of some or all of these principles:
- Independent courts
- Presumption of innocence
- Arbitrary arrest
- Equality before the law
- Burden of proof
Our legal system (20 min)
Give each student a copy of WS3 Inside the courts. Ask students to read the definitions of criminal and civil law, and then list 5 types of civil law cases and 5 types of criminal law cases. Ask students to annotate the drawing of a court room and correctly label the features and people.
Rights under the law (10 min)
Show the NSW Law Society What rights do you have when under arrest? video (4 min 14 sec). You may prefer to source an equivalent video from your own jurisdiction or use the NSW video as a point of comparison with the rights in your state/territory. Ensure students understand that in Australia there is a presumption of innocence until a court has proven guilt. Our legal system provides support to citizens who are arrested in order to provide equity and justice. Discuss with students why the presumption of innocence is important in a democratic system.
Alternatively you can distribute the what to do if charged with a criminal offence information sheet from the Frances Burt Law Education Programme. Students in states other than Western Australia can use the sheet as a guide to researching equivalent information about where they can get legal advice in their own state/territory.
A fair trial (60–90 min)
According to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a fair trial is a right all people of the world have. But what makes a trial fair or unfair? To help students understand the principles of a fair trial undertake the Amnesty International Fair trial classroom activity. Teacher’s notes are available. Afterwards, discuss:
- If a suspect is clearly guilty, does it matter if they get a fair trial?
- Should everyone have their rights to a fair trial fulfilled or are there some instances where these rights should be restricted?
- Do you think it is important for regular citizens sit on a jury and pass judgement on their fellow citizen/s? Why/ why not?
Topic 3: A diverse and cohesive society
A secular and multi-faith society (45 min)
Use the Australian Constitution online website to show students section 116. Discuss the meaning of the section, distribute WS4 A secular and multi-faith society and read the definitions of secular and multi-faith. Then ask students to complete the worksheet and share some of the examples they have listed with the whole class.
Display the Department of Home Affairs Australian Values: Our Common Bond webpage and review section 4 (pp33−39). Discuss:
- What freedoms does Australia value?
- What kind of beliefs do you need to hold to be an Australian citizen?
- What is meant by a ‘fair go’?
- Even though students identified groups on WS4 A secular and multi-faith society that are all different, how does having a shared or common set of values promote cohesion within a society?
Individually or in pairs, students can take the Department of Home Affairs Australian citizenship practice test. Students can share their results and discuss:
- Is the Australian citizenship test a fair assessment of Australian citizenship?
- If there is anything they would change in the test?
- What additional questions would they include on the test?