First speech: House of Representatives
Newly-elected members of the House give a first speech in which they outline issues that are important to them and what they hope to achieve in Parliament. This lesson involves a role-play that helps students understand the purpose of the first speech and the role members play in representing their community.
About the first speech
During their first speech, members usually speak about their reasons for becoming a member of parliament. As well as outlining their concerns and the difference they hope to make, members will often thank their supporters or mention people who have inspired them to enter public life. It is also a chance to raise issues affecting the people in their electorate.
The Speaker usually informs the House that a member is about to make a first speech. It is a convention that a first speech is heard without interruption. In return, the member should not be too provocative or criticise other members. Following the speech the new member is congratulated by other members of the House.
Writing your first speech
Ask the students to imagine they are newly-elected members of the House and to prepare their first speech. The speech should be about two to three minutes long. In their speech, students could describe:
- why they wanted to become a member of the House
- what they hope to achieve as a member of the House
- issues (local, national or global) that they are concerned about and any action that could be taken to fix these problems.
Getting into role
- Divide the class into government, opposition, minor parties and Independents.
- Select a Speaker – this is a non-debating role and is generally someone from the government who can exercise authority in the room.
- Select a member to speak first.
Note: After an election it is only the newly-elected members who make a first speech. You may wish to run the role-play over several days to allow everyone to participate. Give the Speaker a list of the students who are to speak in each session of your Parliament.
Starting the role-play
- The Speaker announces the member’s first speech and asks the member to speak.
- The member makes their speech.
- Repeat the steps above for the next speech.
Mr/Madam Speaker: Order! Before I call the Member for _________ (use the first name of the student who is standing), I remind members that this is his/her first speech. I ask that he/she be heard without interruption. I call the Member for _________.
Member for _________: Thank you Mr/Madam Speaker…
Repeat for the next speeches.
What is the purpose of a first speech?
The first speech allows members of the House to outline their visions and hopes, to thank those who have helped them get elected, acknowledge people who have inspired them and speak about the needs of their electorate. It becomes a public record that other parliamentarians, the public and the media may refer to in the future.
Why is a first speech heard without interruption?
This is a gesture of respect to welcome a new member. It is also recognition of their achievement in being elected to Parliament and the importance of representing the people of Australia.
How do you think members of the House would feel making their first speech?
Members might be nervous speaking for the first time in Parliament, but also proud to be representing their electorate.
How would a member achieve the aims they outlined in their first speech?
They could convince their team to take a particular course of action. If they were in government they could try to get their team to introduce a bill (proposed law) about the issue.
House of Representatives – Seating plan for the classroom
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First speech: House of Representatives
A member speaking in the House of Representatives
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