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Stories of the People and Rulers

Teacher notes

Students investigate the nature of different types of rule in this unit. Stories of 'divine' Pharaohs, direct democracy in Ancient Greece and today's Australian government compare absolute monarchy to direct and representative democracy. Activities examine questions of citizens' rights and who is included in and excluded from the decision-making process. This unit leads students to become familiar with concepts that form the foundations of government.

About the unit | Indicators of student achievement | Background notes | Links to other learning areas

About the unit

  • Types of governance: absolute monarchy, direct and representative democracies
  • Citizenship and citizens' rights

Contexts: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, contemporary Australia

Indicators of student achievement

The student can:

  • identify basic features of rule in absolute monarchy, direct democracy and representative democracy
  • describe basic concepts of citizenship under different types of rule
  • make judgements about citizenship under different types of rule.

Background notes

Absolute monarchy

Pharaohs ruled Egypt from about 3100-1100 BC. Succession was via the eldest surviving son. One woman, Hatshepsut, ruled as Pharaoh after claiming that her royal birthright allowed her to rule as a man. Believed to be related to the sun god, Ra, the Pharaoh had absolute power. He did not rule by mere whim, however. The Pharaoh's subjects relied upon him as a religious figure and intermediary to the gods. The people of Egypt ranged from the very wealthy to slaves. Viziers, somewhat like prime ministers, administered Egypt and were expected to act judiciously and honestly. The working men and women had certain rights, protected under Pharaoh's law, but no power to change laws or resist high taxation.

Direct democracy

Democracy in Ancient Athens was literally 'rule by the people'. All citizens were expected to attend the Assembly every nine days or so to vote on the laws by which Athens would be ruled. Should the minimum 6,000 not turn up to vote, citizens would be rounded up to attend the Assembly. In 508 BC, an aristocrat of Athens, Cleisthenes, divided the citizens of Athens and the surrounding area according to population into small communities, demes. He drew representatives from all over by lot to form the Council of 500 so as to break up the tribal allegiances and power of the old oligarchy (rule by a few). Citizenship was by no means extended to all. Only men, freeborn in Athens to Athenian parents, were citizens. Therefore, the majority of the population (women, 'foreigners' and slaves) had no say in government.

Representative democracy

Australia's representative parliamentary democracy (so called because all citizens over 18 vote to elect representatives) stems from Federation in 1901. In the Commonwealth Parliament there is one member in the House of Representatives from each of 150 electoral divisions over Australia. There are 76 Senators - 12 from each of the six States and two from each of the Territories.

Citizenship was introduced on 26 January 1949 (before which time Australians were considered British subjects).

Present criteria:

  • all people born in Australia before 1986
  • those born in Australia after 1986 must also have one parent who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident to qualify
  • by descent - if a person is born overseas and at least one parent is an Australian citizen
  • by adoption - occurs when an Australian citizen legally adopts a child in Australia when that child is a permanent resident
  • migrants to Australia can become citizens by grant. Most migrants become eligible to be granted citizenship by being a permanent resident in Australia for two years. Other requirements include study of citizenship, its responsibilities and its privileges; basic knowledge of English; good character; living in, or having close association with, Australia; payment of the citizenship fee; and pledging loyalty to a democratic Australia.

To read more about the ideas in this unit refer to Discovering Democracy - A Guide to Government and Law in Australia.

Links to other learning areas

Visual Arts
  • oral presentation
  • posters
  • design a tower
  • role-play
  • simulation

Back to 'Stories of the People and Rulers - At a glance'

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