First speech: Senate
Newly-elected senators 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 senators play in representing their state/territory.
About the first speech
During their first speech senators usually speak about their reasons for becoming a senator. As well as outlining their concerns and the difference they hope to make, senators will often thank their supporters or mention people who have inspired them to enter public life. It is also a chance to raise issues that are affecting the people in their state/territory.
The President usually informs the Senate that a senator is about to make a first speech. It is a convention that a first speech is heard without interruption. In return, the senator should not be too provocative or criticise other senators. Following the speech the new senator is congratulated by other senators.
Writing your first speech
Ask the students to imagine they are newly-elected senators 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 senator
- what they hope to achieve as a senator
- 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 President – this is a non-debating role and is generally someone from the government who can exercise authority in the room.
- Select a senator to speak first.
Note: Newly-elected senators make a first speech on or after 1 July following an election. You may wish to run the role-play over several days to allow everyone to participate. Give the President a list of the students who are to speak in each session of your Parliament.
Starting the role-play
- The President announces it is the senator’s first speech and asks the senator to speak.
- The senator makes their speech.
- Repeat the steps above for the next speech
Mr/Madam President: Order! Before I call Senator ________ (use the first name of the student who is standing), I remind senators that this is his/her first speech. I ask that he/she be heard without interruption. I call Senator ________ .
Senator ________ : Thank you Mr/Madam President…
Repeat for the next speeches.
What is the purpose of a first speech?
The first speech allows senators 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 state or territory. 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 senator. 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 senators would feel making their first speech?
Senators might be nervous speaking for the first time in Parliament, but also proud to be representing their state or territory.
How would a senator 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.
Senate – Seating plan for the classroom
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First speech: Senate
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