Year 8

After completing this Unit of work and associated assessment tasks, students will have met the achievement standard for the Year 8 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum.

Year 8
This Unit of work is organised into 3 topics.

Inquiry questions

What are the freedoms and responsibilities of citizens in Australia’s democracy?

How are laws made and applied in Australia?

What different perspectives are there about national identity?

Topic 1: Belonging and identity

Introduction to democracy (15 min)

Ask students to write on a sticky note one thing they value about living in our democracy. On a classroom wall or a digital mind-map tool, share the following 4 elements of Australian democracy, and ask students to place their values against the element of democracy it best fits: 

  • free and fair franchised elections
  • rule of law
  • equity
  • freedom

Ask students to explain their choices and encourage the class to add more examples as the conversation continues. You can extend the conversation by using the Unpack democracy Classroom activity or by asking questions such as:

  • What do you value about our way of life in Australia?
  • How do you think our way of life is different and similar to other countries around the world?
  • Do you how life has changed in Australia over time? What might life have been like 100 years ago or 300 years ago?
  • Do you know how the elements of our democracy—including our freedoms—are protected in Australia?
  • What else should we add to this brainstorm to describe what it means to be Australian?

Diverse electorates (45 min)

Show the class the Australian Electoral Commission’s map of Australian electorates. Remind students there are 151 electorates in Australia, each with approximately 100 000 voters. Ask students to consider how life is different across our country and how this might affect what people in those communities value about living in Australia. Ask students to select 3 electorates (their own, an electorate from another state or territory and an electorate that is either larger or smaller than their own) and to make notes about each electorate on WS1 Research Australian electorates. They can research electorates at the Australian Electoral Commission and at the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Australian identities (30 min)

Ask students to think about the many different groups in Australia such as sporting groups, social groups, special interest groups or service groups. In small groups, students discuss and complete WS2 Australian identities and use the National symbols fact sheet to complete the fourth column.

Explain to students that freedom of religion is one of the few rights protected in the Australian Constitution. Ask small groups to research one of the following religions that are practiced in Australia: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism or another religion. Groups should present their research as an info graphic or poster. The Cultural Atlas is a good place for students to begin their research.

After students have finished their research, consider the following reflection prompts.  This could be done as a journal reflection, a 30 second video recording or a class discussion.

  • What 3 values do you consider to be crucial features of Australian identity?
  • Why are these values important?
  • Do you think the groups you listed in the worksheet would identify with the same values as you?
  • Even if some of their values are different, do these groups demonstrate an Australian identity?

Topic 2: Laws

Where laws come from (30 min)

Explain to students that laws that guide Australian life are made by parliaments and courts. By understanding where laws come from, citizens can contribute to law-making processes. You could show students either the State Library of New South Wales How laws are made video (10 min 47 sec) or the New South Wales State Library How laws are made - Courts video (8 min 31 sec) to provide an overview of the types of laws made by parliaments and courts in Australia.

Sources of laws (120 min)

Review the different sources of law in Australia—statute law, delegated law and common law—with the Sources of law fact sheet and then play the Sources of law quiz or Sources of law Kahoot!

Review parliamentary law with the Pass the bill interactive and the Bills and laws quiz or Bills and laws Kahoot!

Optional: Ask students to research bills the Australian parliament is currently considering or has considered. Small groups could each research different bills, and present to the class their summary of the purpose of the proposed law. They can visit the Australian Parliament House website for a full list of current and past bills.

Review the Delegated law fact sheet. You could ask students to highlight key ideas on the fact sheet and summarise the information in their workbooks. Have students complete WS3 Party planning to provide a practical experience of delegation.

Explore the way precedent operates in common law with this scenario activity from Discovering Democracy.

Complete this review of sources of laws in Australia by discussing:

  • What laws in Australia have an impact on your daily life?
  • Are there other sources of law in Australia?
  • What other sorts of regulation or rules or law are important in Australia? You could discuss the customary law of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The TimeBase Australian Legislation could provide a framework for this discussion.

Topic 3: Active citizenship

Introduction (25 min)

Remind students that citizen participation is a crucial part of a healthy democracy. Use the Getting involved in parliament fact sheet to review these ideas and then play the Getting involved quiz or Getting involved Kahoot! Make sure students are clear about the ways they can get involved:

  • voting
  • contacting their elected representative
  • lobbying
  • direct action

As a class, brainstorm issues students believe require action. Issues could relate to their school, services and facilities in their local community, or a broader issue in society. You may like to give students time to research this using local media.

Parliamentary committees (75 min)

As a class, review the Committees fact sheet and the Parliamentary committees video (2 min 49 sec) to build understanding of how citizens can participate in Australia’s democracy with parliamentary committees. Then use the Run a parliamentary committee Classroom activity to get a hands on understanding of how committees work.

Assessment: Write a committee submission (120 min)

The Write a committee submission Classroom activity can be used as the assessment item for this Unit of work. Students will research one of the witness group perspectives from their role play and write a persuasive committee submission. Alternately you could research the current inquiries before the Australian Parliament and consider making a class submission to a real inquiry if it is relevant to your students and their study.  

This task is aligned to the achievement standard for the Year 8 Civics and Citizenship Curriculum, including the skills component. Teachers will need to develop an appropriate marking criterion and rubric.   

Reflection (15 min) 

Conclude the unit by asking the class to reflect on their initial brainstorm about democratic rights, and discuss the types of rights and freedoms in Australia that enable citizen participation in democracy. Ask students to consider other ways they could be involved in the issue they identified.