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Focus question 4: Who rules in Australia?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Who rules here? (40 min) ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Who can be an Australian citizen? (25 min) ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: Random selection (30 min) ESL Activity 3
Activity 4: Choose representatives (10 min) ESL Activity 4
Activity 5: Vote for representatives (45 min) ESL Activity 5
Activity 6: Government in Australia (50 min) ESL Activity 6
Activity 7: Comparison (35 min) ESL Activity 7
Further activities ESL Further activity

Handout 11

Activity 1: Who rules here? (40 min)

1a Ask students to choose a partner.

1b Students sit with their eyes closed to allow the teacher to hide clues (one per pair from Handout 11)
around the room as you read them the following passage:

Step back into that time tube. Years are whizzing by - 800, 1100, 1422, 1735 - You are hurtling through the ages at a hundred years a minute when CRASH! With your head still spinning, you stumble out of the time tube and gaze around. 'Where am I?' you ask, forgetting that aliens are supposed to say, 'Take me to your leader!' when they land on earth.

1c Ask each pair to find one clue, cut out from Handout 11.Handout 12

1d Display the OHT of Handout 12, revealing one box at a time.

1e Each pair of students finds the matching picture on Handout 12 for their clue.

1f Discuss:

  • Which country is this?
  • Who rules in this country? (Who is the leader?)

Activity 2: Who can be an Australian citizen? (25 min)

The right to vote gives all Australian citizens over 18 a say in the way Australia is ruled.

2a Recall the earlier discussion about laws and rights (Activity 1). Explain that in Australia we are expected to obey certain laws. In return, citizens have certain rights to protect them.

  • What laws do we read about in the clues?
  • What are some rights Australian citizens have according to the clues?

Recall the other times and places studied.

  • In which did the citizens have a say in ruling the country?
Draw on the experiences of students from migrant backgrounds who may have direct experience of taking Australian citizenship.

Revise the criteria for citizenship of Ancient Athens, before investigating Australian citizenship.

2b Write the following criteria on the board:

  • people born in Australia (who have at least one Australian parent)
  • people born overseas who have at least one Australian parent
  • people who are adopted in Australia by an Australian citizen
  • people who migrate from another country to live in Australia permanently can choose to become Australian citizens.

2c Read the list and explain to the class that to become Australian citizens, migrants generally have to be living in Australia, study citizenship, pay a fee, and promise to be loyal to Australia. Also explain any other points requiring clarification.
More information and student activities are provided on the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs website

2d As a class discuss:

  • Of the three places in this unit, which do you think gives the vote to the most people?
  • Which system do you think is the most fair? Why?

Activity 3: Random selection (30 min)

3a Divide the class into two groups: voters and non-voters to represent the numbers of people in Australia who can and cannot vote. Allocate the right to vote to about 60 per cent of students in the class, dividing them into four groups listed in the table below. Prepare a 'right to vote' card for each student listing three criteria from one of the four categories in the table.

Types of voters in Australia
Citizen Over 18 Born in Australia
Citizen Over 18 Born overseas to at least one Australian parent
Citizen Over 18 Adopted in Australia by an Australian citizen
Citizen Over 18 Born overseas but applied for and granted Australian citizenship

3b Divide the remaining 40 per cent of students who may not vote into three groups.

Non-voters living in Australia
Citizen Under 18 Born in Australia with at least one Australian parent
Permanent resident (could become a citizen after two years)   Migrated to Australia
Temporary resident (cannot become a citizen)   Living in Australia for a limited time
If students do not understand the ramifications, run the 'Direct democracy for a day' activity again with all voters from the table above participating.

3c Recall the direct democracy day where the class 'Assembly' voted on everything.

  • How many voters were there then?
  • How many voters are there in the class now?
  • If all the voters in the class were to have a say now, would the system work?

If students have understood the principles and practice of direct democracy, they should predict that more voters will make it harder for everyone to participate and have a direct say. Discuss what might be an easier/more manageable way of making decisions.

Activity 4: Choose representatives (10 min)

The ballot must be an odd number of representatives.

4a Recall that in Ancient Athens, they chose citizens to be on the Council of 500 by lot.

4b Choose three or five representatives of the class by lot, as they did in Ancient Athens, drawing students' names out of a hat.

4c Give the representatives a range of issues to decide for the class and send them to a 'talking place'.

4d The representatives return and deliver their decisions to the class.

The Ancient Athenians thought that the fairest way to choose representatives for their Council of 500 was by lot.

4e Points for class discussion:

  • What can the representatives report about the process? Was it easier/harder than having more than four people having a say?
  • Do the others agree with the decisions? Give reasons.
  • Do you think choosing representatives by lot is the fairest way? Why?
  • Is there another way to choose?

Activity 5: Vote for representatives (45 min)

The word 'ballot' comes from the French ballotte, meaning 'little ball'.

5a Choose a class issue for which all students have to elect three or five representatives to discuss and resolve the matter.

5b Nominate candidates.

5c Design a ballot paper.

5d Candidates address the class to deliver 'policy' ideas.

5e Students vote on ballot papers.

5f Representatives meet, discuss and vote on behalf of the class.

5g Representatives report their decisions to the class.

If you have a School Representative Council use it as a model of representative democracy.

5h Conduct a debriefing session.

  • List the pluses/minuses of this system for their class/for a nation.
  • Compare this process to electing representatives by lot.

5i Students should prepare a poster to illustrate the differences between voting and selection by lot. Encourage them to use text and illustrations under the following headings.

Choosing people by lot Choosing people by voting

Activity 6: Government in Australia (50 min)

6a Recall how the people voted in a direct democracy.Handout 13

6b Ask students: 'How does the citizen's vote count in Australia?'
Distribute and discuss Handout 13.

6c Divide the class into about four even teams.

Ancient Athens was a direct democracy. Australia is called a representative democracy.

6d Each team chooses a scribe and forms a group to answer the following questions:

  • In the way Australia is ruled, how do the voters have a say?
  • How do the people of Australia choose people to represent them in Parliament?
  • Who are Australia's voters? (Activities 1, 2 and 3 above)
  • What are the names of the Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament?
  • For how many years are the Members of the House of Representatives elected?
  • For how many years are the Senators elected?
  • How does the House of Representatives have a say in making Australia's laws?
    By convention, the governor-general always signs the Bills.
  • How does the Senate have a say in making laws?
  • Does the governor-general have a say in making laws?

6e At the end of the quiz, each group passes its answers to the teacher (or another group) for correction.

Parliament at workHandout 9

6f Ask students to complete Handout 9.

6g Students should use the database on the Parliament@Work website to find out information about:

  • the current Prime Minister of Australia
  • the Member of the House of Representatives for their area
  • the Senators for their State/Territory.

Handout 9Activity 7: Comparison (35 min)

7a As a class, discuss the answers on Handout 9.

7b Guide questions for comparing the three systems:

Australia still practises direct democracy through referendums and plebiscites. They are used to decide proposed changes to the Constitution or for some controversial decisions.

  • Do any systems give one person the final say in ruling? Which?
  • Do any systems give a few people a say in ruling? Which?
  • Which systems use voting as a way of ruling?
  • What are the differences between the systems that use voting?
  • In which time and place do the most people get a say in ruling?
  • In which time and place do the fewest people get a say in ruling?
  • Which system seems to be the most fair to the most people?
    Explain why you think so.
  • Does the right to vote mean citizens can do whatever they like?

Further activities

  • Students could view a sitting of Parliament on television and list five things they
    noticed about the building or the people (colour, speaker, shape, topic etc).
  • For further discussion about Activity 6:

The Parliament at Work CD ROM provides a tour through Parliament House as part of the 'We Remember' unit.

  1. Parliament meets at regular times.
  2. Most people in Parliament belong to a political party. Some parties you may have heard of include the Democrats, Greens, Labor, Liberal, National and One Nation.
  3. Some people in Parliament are called 'Independents' because they choose not to belong to any party.
  4. The political party with the most Members in the House of Representatives becomes the Government.
  5. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister.
  6. The Prime Minister and a group of senior ministers form the Cabinet.
  7. The Cabinet plans how the country is ruled.
  8. So, do voters really get to have a say in ruling Australia?
  9. In which House of the Commonwealth Parliament would you find the Prime Minister?

ESL activities

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