After completing this Unit of work and associated assessment tasks, students will have met the achievement standard for the Year 9 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum.
This Unit of work is organised into 6 topics
What influences shape the operation of Australia's political system?
How does Australia's court system work in support of a democratic and just society?
How do citizens participate in an interconnected world?
Topic 1: Media literacy
The news (duration varies)
Complete the ABC Education News diet challenge over several days with your class to help students understand what media they’re exposed to and the influence it has on their opinions. Complete the ABC Education World without news activity to consider the importance of the media. This activity will take one or more lessons. As a class, play the ABC Education Facts vs opinion vs analysis interactive. The facts vs opinion vs analysis teacher guide will provide a scaffold for this activity.
Extension activity (15 min)
Political cartoons (30–40 min)
Political news isn’t all long articles and deep analysis. Political cartoons have been a part of the political landscape for hundreds of years. Use the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House’s Slideshare resources and teacher notes to explore and analyse political cartoons.
Vote compass (20–30 min)
Ask students to complete the Vote compass survey. They don’t have to share their results with the class but they should take note of them because they will be revisiting them at the end of the unit.
Please be aware the Vote compass survey asks participants for their opinion on a range of potentially sensitive topics including immigration, gender and sexuality, euthanasia and abortion. Take the survey yourself first and decide if this activity is appropriate for your students.
Topic 2: Political parties
Introduction (20 min)
Distribute WS1 Political parties. Explain the Frayer Model can be used to analyse the meaning of a word. Tell students they will complete a Frayer Model diagram for what ‘political parties’ means in the context of Australian politics.
In small groups, students read the Political parties fact sheet and use the information they find to complete the Frayer model. Under ‘characteristics’, challenge students to limit themselves to no more than 5 key points. Under ‘examples’, tell students they can include general examples (e.g. ‘minor parties’ as a type of political party) and specific examples (e.g. ‘Australian Labor Party.’)
Ask students to share their answers with the whole class. You may like to brainstorm further examples (additional political parties students have heard of) and further non-examples (in addition to ‘independents’ as a non-example, you could brainstorm groups that seek to influence Australian society but don’t aspire to have representatives elected to parliament).
Political parties and the formation of government (10 min)
Explain to students that the Australian Government is formed in the House of Representatives by the political party, or coalition of parties, with the support of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives. Watch The House Representatives video (3 min 51 sec) and then explore breakdown of the House of Representatives current numbers as a class.
Researching political parties (40–60 min)
Create a list of the current political parties in the Senate and House of Representatives. Break the class into small groups and assign each group an Australian political party to research. Before they begin, ask students to brainstorm and record a minimum of 5 research questions about the party they have been assigned. To help with their brainstorming, encourage students to think of questions that could fall into the following broad categories:
Direct groups to explore the party’s official website as a starting point for their research. Ask a representative from each group to share the key points they have learnt about the party they researched.
Discussion (20–30 min)
- Had you already heard of the party you were assigned to research? Did you have any pre-existing opinion about them and where do you think this opinion came from? Did your research prove or disprove what you already thought about the party?
- Do the parties in the Australian Parliament fully represent Australian society? Do you think there is a particular group or perspective that is not currently represented by a parliamentary party?
- When you are old enough to vote, what do you think will be more important to you when selecting a representative: a candidate’s personal qualities or the political party they belong to?
- Would you join a political party in the future? If you were to start your own party, who would it represent and what would it stand for?
Create political parties (40–50 min)
Complete the Create political parties Classroom activity. Ensure students keep their notes from this lesson because they will use them again in this unit.
Topic 3: Election campaigns
Campaigns and messages (60–70 min)
Use the information in the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House’s On paper: some election ephemera and Why wear a badge at election time? blog posts to explore different types of election campaign materials with the class. Discuss the following:
- Which materials do you think are the most effective and least effective? Why?
- What is the importance of campaign slogans?
Using the Senators and Members page of the Australian Parliament House website, find out who represents you in the Australian Parliament. Follow the links to their social media and explore the following questions:
- What kind of topics do they post about?
- Do they post media (photos and videos) and, if so, what type and how often?
- Who do you think is the intended audience for their posts?
Using the opinion continuum strategy from the Unpack democracy Classroom activity, ask students to show which type of media they find to be the most effective form of communication: traditional campaign materials (such as posters, badges), more modern approaches (such as television advertising) or social media.
Run an election campaign (40–60 min)
In this task students will work in the same groups they were in for the Create political parties Classroom activity. Inform the teams a federal election—which occurs approximately every 3 years in Australia—is coming up. The government team wants to keep government, while the opposition sees this as an opportunity to form government themselves. The minor party members are eager to be re-elected in order to continue to have influence from the crossbench.
Give students the option to create traditional campaign materials alongside their social media posts.
Assessment task: How are citizen’s political choices shaped? (duration varies)
Distribute WS2 Assessment research task to students. This asks students to research how citizens’ political choices are shaped and students can present their findings as an essay, presentation or creative response. This task is aligned to the achievement standard of the Year 9 Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum, including the skills component. The teacher should develop an appropriate marking criterion and rubric.
Topic 4: Cabinet and policy
Run a Cabinet meeting (60–120 min)
Run the Extension version of the Run a Cabinet meeting Classroom activity.
You may choose to take an extra lesson to give students time to research their portfolio areas and policy positions. If you decide to appoint additional ministers and give them portfolios relevant to the policy platforms developed in earlier lessons you can check the current ministry list for a list of current government ministers.
Extension (30 min)
Once the Cabinet has decided on a course of action, ask them to come up with a plan to promote the idea to the Australian people using traditional and/or social media.
Additional activities (40–120 min)
You may also like to turn the Cabinet’s plan into a bill and debate it using the Make a law: House of Representatives Classroom activity and the Make a law: Senate Classroom activity or investigate the issue further using the Run a parliamentary committee Classroom activity.
Topic 5: Laws and citizens
Parliament and the courts (30–40 min)
As a class, read the Parliament and the courts fact sheet. Draw attention to the graphic Australian Court hierarchy in the factsheet to ensure students understand the structure of the court system in Australia.
Divide the class into 4 groups and assign each group one of the example cases from the Parliament and the courts fact sheet. Ask each group to evaluate the High Court’s decision in each case and share their thoughts with the class.
The role of the courts (90–120 min)
As a class, explore one of County Court Victoria’s case studies.
Organise students into small groups with a device to explore Sentencing Victoria’s You be the judge. Teachers can prepare for this activity by using the Sentencing Victoria’s You be the judge teachers’ kit.
Use the Socratic circles strategy from the Unpack democracy Classroom activity to discuss:
- Is everyone equal before the law? Why or why not?
- Is it fair for the law to treat everyone exactly the same?
- What rights do you have? Where do those rights come from?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
Extension: law reform (60 min)
Complete the Conduct a law reform inquiry Classroom activity.
Topic 6: Identity
Investigating diversity (70–90 min)
As a class, watch the You can’t ask that segment in the ABC’s Experiences of African Australians (12 min 13 sec) then discuss:
- What new information did you learn from watching this video? How were your preconceived ideas about Africa and African-Australians challenged or reinforced?
- A person in the clip says that ‘belonging to both sides of the world is awesome’. What are the benefits of being a dual citizen?
As a class, read the New York Times article How ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ Became a Global Hit and discuss:
- In which ways does the ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ Facebook group demonstrate global connectedness?
- At 2 March 2021, the group had 1.8 million followers. What actions could a group that large take to influence social/cultural/political spheres?
You may like to watch and discuss further clips or episodes from the ABC’s You can’t ask that. Click on the links below and scroll to the bottom of the page for short clips:
- Autism spectrum – Can you look me in the eye? (3 minutes 35 seconds)
- Invictus Games – Representing Australia (5 minutes 22 seconds)
Investigate the composition of the Australian Parliament. You can do this by looking at the Senators and Members on the Australian Parliament House website. Discuss the extent to which Australians from different backgrounds are represented in the Parliament.
Research activity (30–60 min)
Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to investigate a global movement (eg Black Lives Matter, School Strike for Climate, Me Too) or a global organisation (e.g. Worldwide Fund for Nature, Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders) and answer the following questions:
- What are their main goals? (list no more than 3)
- Who is involved?
- What methods and strategies do they use to achieve their goals? How do they use social media?
- What is the impact of this global movement or organisation on Australia?
Ask groups to share their findings with the class and discuss the relevance, methods and effectiveness of the various movements/organisations they researched.
Celebrating service (20–60 min)
As a class, explore the Australian honours and awards page of the Governor-General’s website. Discuss the qualities, work and achievements which are recognised and celebrated. If your class agrees someone in your community deserves the recognition of an award, you may like to write a nomination.
Vote compass (20–30 min)
Ask students to retake the Vote compass survey and reflect on why their results may have changed.
Please be aware Vote compass survey asks participants for their opinion on a range of potentially sensitive topics including immigration, gender and sexuality, euthanasia and abortion. Take the survey yourself first and decide if this activity is appropriate for your students.