Unit at a glance
This unit of work:
- covers two of the three inquiry questions of the Year 6 civics and citizenship curriculum
- runs for approximately 16 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: inquiry questions
- What are the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government in Australia?
- How are laws developed in Australia?
Knowledge and understanding
The key institutions of Australia's democratic system of government and how it is based on the Westminster system (ACHASSK143)
The roles and responsibilities of Australia's three levels of government (ACHASSK144)
The responsibilities of electors and representatives in Australia's democracy (ACHASSK145)
Where ideas for new laws can come from and how they become law (ACHASSK146)
- Note: Bold text = aspects of the curriculum covered by this unit
Inquiry and skills
Develop appropriate questions to guide an inquiry about people, events, developments, places, systems and challenges (ACHASSI122)
Locate and collect relevant information and data from primary and secondary sources (ACHASSI123)
Evaluating and reflecting
Work in groups to generate responses to issues and challenges (ACHASSI130)
Reflect on learning to propose personal and/or collective action in response to an issue or challenge, and predict the probable effects (ACHASSI132)
Present ideas, findings, viewpoints and conclusions in a range of texts and modes that incorporate source materials, digital and non-digital representations and discipline-specific terms and conventions (ACHASSI133)
- Note: Bold text = aspects of the curriculum covered by this unit
By the end of Year 6, students explain the significance of an event/development, an individual and/or group. They identify and describe continuities and changes for different groups in the past and present. They describe the causes and effects of change on society. They compare the experiences of different people in the past. Students describe, compare and explain the diverse characteristics of different places in different locations from local to global scales. They describe how people, places, communities and environments are diverse and globally interconnected and identify the effects of these interconnections over time. Students explain the importance of people, institutions and processes to Australia’s democracy and legal system. They describe the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizens and the obligations they may have as global citizens. Students recognise why choices about the allocation of resources involve trade-offs. They explain why it is important to be informed when making consumer and financial decisions. They identify the purpose of business and recognise the different ways that businesses choose to provide goods and services. They explain different views on how to respond to an issue or challenge.
Students develop appropriate questions to frame an investigation. They locate and collect useful data and information from primary and secondary sources. They examine sources to determine their origin and purpose and to identify different perspectives in the past and present. They interpret data to identify, describe and compare distributions, patterns and trends, and to infer relationships, and evaluate evidence to draw conclusions. Students sequence information about events, the lives of individuals and selected phenomena in chronological order and represent time by creating timelines. They organise and represent data in a range of formats, including large- and small-scale maps, using appropriate conventions. They collaboratively generate alternative responses to an issue, use criteria to make decisions and identify the advantages and disadvantages of preferring one decision over others. They reflect on their learning to propose action in response to an issue or challenge and describe the probable effects of their proposal. They present ideas, findings, viewpoints and conclusions in a range of communication forms that incorporate source materials, mapping, graphing, communication conventions and discipline-specific terms.
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, events and ideas that led to Australia's Federation and Constitution. (ACHASSK134)
Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website on 01/01/17. (curriculum version 8.3)
Note: All material identified by "AC" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia (CC BY NC SA) licence. For all material licensed under this creative commons licence, you are free to:
- Share – copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format; and
- Adapt – remix, transform, and build upon the material, under the following terms:
- Attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
- Non-Commercial – You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
- ShareAlike – If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
Note: this unit of work does not cover the inquiry 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.
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.
Note: due to changes made to achievement standards, assessment tasks have been written to meet content descriptions)
Assessment and links to content descriptions
Assessment task 1 – Individual research project
- explain the key institutions of Australia's democratic system of government
- examine the roles and responsibilities of Australia’s three levels of government
- describe the responsibilities of representatives in Australia’s democracy.
Assessment task 2 – Group work project
- develop appropriate questions and collect relevant information
- generate a response to an issue
- present their ideas and viewpoints using discipline-specific terms and conventions.
Informal assessment specifically targeting content descriptions
Role-play participation and reflection
Students describe where ideas for new laws can come from and how they become law.
(English Curriculum) Students:
- participate in and contribute to discussions, clarifying and interrogating ideas, developing and supporting arguments, sharing and evaluating information, experiences and opinions
- 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.
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 Topic 1: Activity 1 at www.education.aec.gov.au/democracy-rules
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 Australia's three levels of government?
(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 eight to nine lessons)
- Tasks 1–2 = one lesson
- Tasks 3–5 = three lessons
- Tasks 6–7 = three to four lessons
- Tasks 8–9 = one lesson
Where can ideas for new laws come from and how do they become law?
- Go through the PEO’s Fact Sheet – Bills and Laws and Fact Sheet – Ministers and Shadow Ministers with the class. Discuss where bills can originate, the role of executive government in developing bills and how the public service works with ministers to prepare new laws.
- As a class, watch the PEO's videos 'Making a Law' and 'Parliamentary Committees.
- 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
- 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.