Unit at a glance
This unit of work:
- covers two of the three key questions of the year 6 civics and citizenship curriculum
- runs for approximately 15 hours, but can be modified to fit with individual classroom requirements and time constraints
- includes informal assessment items, two formal assessment items (with marking rubric) and differentiation options for activities and assessment
- contains background information for teachers, a list of resources and worksheets
- is divided into three sections, in which students:
- explore the key institutions of Australia's democratic system of government
- explore the roles and responsibilities of the three levels of government
- experience how federal laws are passed through Parliament.
How this unit meets curriculum requirements
Civics and citizenship curriculum
Year-level description: key questions
- What are the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government in Australia?
- How are laws developed in Australia?
Civics and citizenship knowledge and understanding
Government and democracy
The key institutions of Australia's democratic system of government based on the Westminster system, including the monarchy, parliaments, and courts (ACHCK035)
The roles and responsibilities of the three levels of government, including shared roles and responsibilities within Australia's federal system (ACHCK036)
- Note: Bold text = aspects of the curriculum covered by this unit
Laws and citizens
How state/territory and federal laws are initiated and passed through parliament (ACHCK037)
Civics and citizenship skills
Questioning and research
Develop questions and gather a range of information to investigate the society in which they live (ACHCS040)
Problem solving and decision making
Work in groups to identify issues and develop possible solutions and a plan for action using decision-making processes (ACHCS044)
Communication and reflection
Present civics and citizenship ideas and viewpoints for a particular purpose using civics and citizenship terms and concepts (ACHCS045)
- Note: Bold text = aspects of the curriculum covered by this unit
By the end of Year 6, students explain the purpose of key institutions and levels of government in Australia's democracy. They describe the role of parliaments in creating law. Students explain what it means to be an Australian citizen and how people can participate as global citizens.
When researching, students develop questions and gather and analyse information from different sources to investigate the society in which they live. When planning for action, they identify different points of view and solutions to an issue. Students develop and present their ideas and viewpoints using appropriate texts and civics and citizenship terms and concepts. They identify the ways they can participate as citizens in the school.
English curriculum (content descriptions)
Interacting with others
Participate in and contribute to discussions, clarifying and interrogating ideas, developing and supporting arguments, sharing and evaluating information, experiences and opinions (ACELY1709)
Use interaction skills, varying conventions of spoken interactions such as voice volume, tone, pitch and pace, according to group size, formality of interaction and needs and expertise of the audience (ACELY1816)
Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements for defined audiences and purposes, making appropriate choices for modality and emphasis (ACELY1710)
History curriculum (content descriptions)
Historical knowledge and understanding
Australia as a nation
Key figures and events that led to Australia's Federation, including British and American influences on Australia's system of law and government. (ACHHK113)
Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website on 20/12/15. (curriculum version 7.5)
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Note: this unit of work does not cover the key question of 'What does it mean to be an Australian citizen?' However, the content of citizenship naturally follows on from this unit. For example, subsequent activities could include researching Australian citizenship and creating a narrative about how to make a difference as a global citizen.
Alternatively, here is a unit of work about global citizenship (from the Civics and Citizenship Education website).
Before you begin
Background information for teachers
- Get Parliament (see resources required below)
- PEO Fact Sheets
- PEO role-play lesson plans 'Law-making: House of Representatives' and 'Law-making: Senate'.
- PEO videos 'Role-play the Parliament: House of Representatives' and 'Role-play the Parliament: Senate'. (You may choose to show these videos to the class before your own role-plays.)
- Get Parliament and corresponding activity sheets.
- Printed worksheets and assessment sheets.
- Interactive whiteboard to watch PEO videos.
- Computers for students to conduct research.
Extra resource: An alternative to parts of Section 3 is Parliament of Wizards. This resource contains activities for teachers and students to create a wizard world, complete with its own parliament. In this world, the students become wizards and face the challenge of representing and making decisions on behalf of their wizard citizens.
Before you run your class role-plays, see the ‘make it yourself’ box in the Law-making: House of Representatives and Law-making: Senate role-play lesson plan toolkits. You may wish to create your own Mace, Black Rod and gowns for the role-plays.
Assessment and links to achievement standards
Assessment task 1 – Individual research project
Students explain the purpose of key institutions and levels of government in Australia's democracy.
Assessment task 2 – Group work project
- develop questions and gather and analyse information from different sources to investigate the society in which they live
- identify different points of view and solutions to an issue
- develop and present their ideas and viewpoints using appropriate texts and civics terms and concepts.
Informal assessment specifically targeting achievement standards
Role-play participation and reflection
Students describe the role of parliaments in creating law.
(English Curriculum) Students make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions, using a variety of strategies for effect.
Lessons for this unit have been divided into sections to provide flexibility for individual classroom needs. Each section suggests approximate running times.
Section 1 – What is the Australian system of government?
(approximately three lessons)
- Tasks 1–3 = one lesson
- Tasks 4–7 = one lesson
- Tasks 8–10 = one lesson
What are the key institutions of Australia's system of government?
- Give students the Concept map to complete for the first time, including Date 1 (this will be revisited at the end of the unit to show student progress).
- Hand out Worksheet 1. Brainstorm in pairs and then as a class before giving definitions:
What does 'system of government' mean?
A system of government is a system of rule in a state or country.
What is democracy?
A democracy is a system of government in which the people have a say about how they are governed.
What is Australia's system of government?
Australia is both a representative democracy and a constitutional monarchy. 1
What other countries influenced Australia's system of government?
Both the British Westminster system and the United States (US) federal model have influenced the Australian system of government. As a result, Australia's system is sometimes known as 'Washminster', reflecting features of both the British and US systems. 2
- Optional activity – If you would like your class to explore the concept of democracy further, play the Australian Electoral Commission's Democracy concept game with the class. This can be found in Activity 1 at www.education.aec.gov.au/democracy-rules/files/topic1.pdf
In the Australian Parliament, the government refers to the party, or coalition of parties, with the support of the majority of members in the House of Representatives.
A representative democracy is a system in which the people vote for delegates to represent their interests in a parliament. In Australia, members of parliament are elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives to represent the Australian people and make laws on their behalf.
A constitutional monarchy is a system in which a king or queen is the head of state, but must act in accordance with a constitution. In Australia, the powers of the Queen have been delegated to her representative, the Governor-General.
In 1215, King John of England and the barons signed the Magna Carta, or ‘Great Charter'. It limited the king's power, detailed the rights of the barons in the feudal system and described the rule of law in society. The Magna Carta has been seen as an important step in the development of democracy and the British Parliament, known as the Westminster system.
Australia, like Britain, is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is Australia's head of state and acts in accordance with our Constitution. In the Westminster tradition, the government is formed by the political party or parties with the support of the majority in the lower house of the Parliament (in Australia, the House of Representatives).
Parts of Australia's federal system of government are based on the US model, with the power to govern shared between the national and state governments. Like the US, Australia has a written constitution, which describes many of the rules for how Australia is governed. The names of the two chambers in the Australian Parliament – the Senate and the House of Representatives – came from the US Congress.
What is Parliament?
- Using the Fact Sheet – Separation of Powers: Parliament, Executive and Judiciary, show students the table and diagram of the separation of powers and briefly explain its purpose. Ask students to copy the table and diagram in their workbooks, to illustrate the separation of powers. Show students the Kidsview interactive 'Playing Fair'.
- As a class, watch the video What is Parliament?
- Show students a diagram of the composition of the Australian Parliament and ask them to draw a similar representation of this in their books.
- Using the Fact Sheet – Governor-General, explain to students the Governor-General's role in representing the Queen in Australia.
- Ask students to think of at least five questions about Parliament House in Canberra. Depending on students' familiarity with Parliament House, these questions could range from 'what does it look like?' or 'what is it for?' to 'what work is done in the two chambers?'
- Give students time to research the answers to these questions. Ask students to partner up to share what they have learned about Parliament House. This information could be collated and displayed in the classroom with the heading 'what we know about Parliament House'. 3
- Take the class on a virtual tour of Parliament House.
Students can research using these links:
Section 2 – What are the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government in Australia?
(approximately four to six lessons, including assessment)
- Tasks 1–4 = one lesson
- Tasks 5–6 = one to two lessons
- Tasks 7–8 = two to three lessons
What are the different levels of government responsible for?
- Brainstorm in small groups: 'What services are needed to run a country?' Discuss the answers with the whole class.
- As a class, watch the video 'Three Levels of Government'.
- Go through Get Parliament: Three levels of law-making with the class.
- Hand out Worksheet 2. Students can use information from the video, Get Parliament or from the Fact Sheet – Three Levels of Law-Making, to complete the table.
- Hand out Worksheet 3. Conduct a class discussion about which roles and responsibilities might be shared by different levels of government. Students can use this information and the completed Worksheet 2 to individually complete the Venn diagram. Allow students time to complete the 2nd section of the worksheet. 4
Note: this worksheet has three differentiated options, gradually increasing in difficulty from A to C.
- Using Get Parliament: Three levels of law-making and the corresponding activity sheet, select activities for students to complete. Choose these before the class begins as some activities require computer access, further resources or longer time frames.
For more information, see the Closer Look Governing Australia: three levels of law-making.
Who represents me?
- Show students which levels of government they are represented by (for example, the Australian Parliament, the Victorian Parliament and the Southern Grampians Shire Council).
- Hand out and explain Assessment 1. This covers parts of Sections 1 and 2. Students can be given two to three hours to complete the assessment, using the content of the previous lessons and further research. 5
The key institutions referred to in this assessment task are the Australian Parliament, your state/territory parliament and your local council.
Give students relevant links from this list to begin research:
- Three levels of government
- Australian, state and territory parliaments
- Australia, state, territory and local governments
- Parliament of New South Wales
- Parliament of Victoria
- Parliament of Queensland
- Parliament of Western Australia
- Parliament of South Australia
- Parliament of Tasmania
- ACT Legislative Assembly
- Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
Section 3 – How are laws made?
(approximately seven to eight lessons)
- Tasks 1–2 = two lessons
- Tasks 3–5 = one lesson
- Tasks 6–7 = three to four lessons
- Tasks 8–9 = one lesson
How are federal laws initiated and passed through Parliament?
- As a class, watch the video 'Making a Law'.
- Organise the class into small groups of three to four. Hand out and explain Assessment 2.
- When finished, (democratically) choose one of the groups' bills to debate. 6
- As a class, watch the videos 'The House of Representatives' and 'The Senate'.
- Discuss the passage of a bill through the Parliament with the class, using this diagram.
- Run role-plays to debate and vote on the class bill in the House of Representatives and Senate (using the House of Representatives lesson plan, followed by the Senate lesson plan). If time permits, the class could amend the bill in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
- Ask students to reflect on the role-plays. Discuss as a whole class and then ask students to draw a flow chart of the passage of a bill in their workbooks. A copy of the usual path of a bill can be found in Get Parliament or here.
- Ask students to write two to three paragraphs to reflect on the role-play, including how well the role-play went and their own participation. What worked or didn't work? Why or why not?
- Ask students to complete the Concept map, including Date 2.
An alternative to points 3–8 of Section 3 is Parliament of Wizards. This resource contains activities for teachers and students to create a wizard world, complete with its own parliament. In this world, the students become wizards and face the challenge of representing and making decisions on behalf of their wizard citizens.