Unit at a glance
This unit of work:
- covers the first key question of the Year 7 civics & citizenship curriculum ‘How is Australia’s system of democratic government shaped by the Constitution?’
- contains nine lessons
- includes informal assessment items, one formal assessment item (with marking rubric) and differentiation options for activities and assessment
- contains background information for teachers, a list of resources and worksheets.
How this unit meets curriculum requirements
Civics and citizenship curriculum
Year-level description: key question
How is Australia’s system of democratic government shaped by the Constitution?
Civics and citizenship knowledge and understanding
Government and democracy
The key features of government under the Australian Constitution with a focus on: the separation of powers, the roles of the Executive, the Houses of Parliament, and the division of powers (ACHCK048)
The process for constitutional change through a referendum (ACHCK049)
Civics and citizenship skills
- Note: Bold text = aspects of the curriculum covered by this unit
Questioning and research
Develop a range of questions to investigate Australia’s political and legal systems (ACHCS054)
Identify, gather and sort information and ideas from a range of sources (ACHCS055)
Analysis, synthesis and interpretation
Critically analyse information and ideas from a range of sources in relation to civics and citizenship topics and issues (ACHCS056)
Communication and reflection
Present evidence-based civics and citizenship arguments using subject-specific language (ACHCS059)
By the end of Year 7, students explain features of Australia’s Constitution, including the process for constitutional change. They explain how Australia’s legal system is based on the principle of justice. Students explain the diverse nature of Australian society and identify the importance of shared values in promoting a cohesive society.
When researching, students develop a range of questions and gather and analyse information from different sources to investigate Australia’s political and legal systems. They consider different points of view on civics and citizenship issues. When planning for action, students take into account multiple perspectives to develop solutions to an issue. Students develop and present arguments on civics and citizenship issues using appropriate texts, terms and concepts. They identify ways they can be active and informed citizens.
Interacting with others
Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements to promote a point of view or enable a new way of seeing (ACELY1720)
Use interaction skills when discussing and presenting ideas and information, selecting body language, voice qualities and other elements, (for example music and sound) to add interest and meaning (ACELY1804)
Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website on 01/01/17. (curriculum version 8.3)
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Before you begin
Background information for teachers
- A copy of the Constitution is required for this unit, either in hard copy or from www.aph.gov.au. Pocket copies of the Constitution are available for purchase from the PEO.
- Computers for students to conduct research and possibly present work.
- Printed worksheets and assessment sheets.
- Get Parliament and corresponding activity sheets. Note: For some lessons, teachers need to select activities from the relevant activity sheets. Choose these before the class begins as some require further resources, computer access or longer time frames.
Extra resource: Parliament in Pictures is a set of 10 posters with a classroom guide and is available for purchase. This resource relates directly to lessons 1-6 and would be particularly useful for teachers who would like further information about these topics.
Assessment and links to achievement standards
- explain key features of Australia’s Constitution
- develop a range of questions and gather and analyse information from different sources to investigate Australia’s political system
- develop and present arguments on civics issues using subject-specific language.
(English Curriculum) Students make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions, using language features to engage the audience.
- Lesson 1 – What is the Constitution?
- Lessons 2-3 – What are the key features of the Constitution?
- Lessons 4-6 – Group assessment task
- Lesson 7– Presentations of assessment
- Lesson 8 – What is a referendum?
- Lesson 9 – Debating a referendum issue
Lesson 1 – What is the Constitution?
- 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).
- Show students a copy of Australia’s Constitution and ask students to brainstorm in pairs:
- What do we know about the Constitution?
- Why do we have a Constitution?
- What does the Constitution do?
- When was our Constitution written?
- As a class, watch the videos Federation and The Constitution.
Before students watch the videos, write down the following focus questions for students to think about while they watch:
- Why did the people in Australian colonies want to join together to form a nation?
- Why was the Constitution written?
- What happened in 1901?
After watching the videos, ask students to discuss the answers to these questions in small groups and then as a whole class.
- Go through Get Parliament: Federation as a class. Choose one or two activities for students to complete from the corresponding activity sheet.
- Go through Get Parliament: The Australian Constitution as a class. Choose one or two activities for students to complete from the corresponding activity sheet. (Do not use activity 6 or 8 as they may be used later in this unit).
Lessons 2 to 3 – What are the key features of the Constitution?
- Distribute Worksheet 1 to the class. This worksheet will be completed in stages throughout the lesson.
Note: this worksheet has three differentiated options, gradually increasing in difficulty from A to C.
Explain that many key features of the Constitution detail how power should be shared in Australia and that the Constitution protects these power-sharing arrangements. Write the following headings on the board:
- Separation of powers
- Role of the Executive
- Roles of the houses of Parliament
- Division of powers (also known as levels of government). 1
- Separation of powers
Discuss the separation of powers under the Constitution using Fact Sheet – Separation of Powers: Parliament, Executive and Judiciary. Show students the Kidsview interactive ‘Playing Fair’. Ask students to complete the relevant section on page 1 of Worksheet 1.
- Role of the Executive
- Roles of the houses of Parliament
Watch the videos The House of Representatives and The Senate. Discuss the composition and roles of Parliament using the Fact Sheet – Parliament. Ask students to complete the relevant section on page 1 of Worksheet 1.
- Division of powers (levels of government)
Watch the video Three levels of government. Discuss the division of powers (levels of government) under the Constitution using Fact Sheet – Three Levels of Law-Making. Ask students to complete the relevant section on page 1 of Worksheet 1.
Using the Representative government and responsible government information sheet, discuss these concepts and how they underpin the Australian Constitution. Ask students to complete the relevant section on page 2 of Worksheet 1.
- Students can research the answers to the rest of Worksheet 1 using the Fact Sheet – Australian Constitution.
Lessons 4 to 6 – Group assessment task
- Lesson 4 = explain task, group research time
- Lesson 5 = group research time, group organisation time
- Lesson 6 = group organisation time
Divide the class into eight small groups of three to four students. Distribute and discuss assessment task and rubric, outlining expectations and presentation time limits.
Eight scenarios have been provided which relate to the four curriculum topics below.
- Scenarios 1 and 2:
a separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary
- Scenarios 3 and 4:
the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government
- Scenarios 5 and 6:
the roles of the houses of Parliament.
- Scenarios 7 and 8:
the role of the Executive.
Assign one scenario to each group. The group must identify which curriculum topic their scenario fits best with.
If there are fewer than eight groups, assign at least one scenario from each curriculum topic.
Lesson 7 – Presentations of assessment
Organise a schedule of presentations. Each presentation needs to include main points which can be noted down.
OPTIONAL: During each presentation, other students can complete Worksheet 2. Alternatively, teachers may choose for students to write the dot points in their workbooks.
Lesson 8 – What is a referendum?
- Explain to students what a referendum is and how it works. Discuss some past referendums and how these have changed the way Australia is governed.
Discuss the process of a referendum. 2
- Organise a debate of the 1999 referendum issue regarding making Australia a republic.
Introduce the topic by holding a brief class discussion about Australia being a constitutional monarchy, and the role of our Head of State (the Queen, represented by the Governor-General). Discuss the difference between a constitutional monarchy and a republic. 3
- Split the class into two groups to represent the two sides of the debate. Give groups time to write down dot points to support their argument. Students could do this in pairs or small groups. If groups are struggling to come up with ideas, they can be given time to research the topic or be given ideas from the additional information box. 4
As an alternative to this issue, the class can debate an idea for a different change to the Constitution. They might choose to add to, or subtract from, section 51 (federal Parliament’s law-making powers). For example, the class could add a power to make laws about pet control or take away the power to make laws about trade and commerce with other countries (section 51(i)).
Lesson 9 – Debating a referendum issue
- Hold the debate, with a student chairperson to run the meeting. The chairperson calls each person to speak, alternating sides to give time to both sides of the argument. 5
- After the debate, hold a class conversation about what took place. Ask students if they think this referendum would succeed today. Why/why not? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a Constitution that can only be amended by referendum.
- Ask students to add to the Concept map, including Date 2 to show how much they have learned.
States and territories (except the ACT) establish local councils, which are not mentioned in the Constitution.
Territories are the responsibility of the federal government and have been granted self-government through their own legislative assemblies (parliaments).
The formation of government is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution because at federation it was generally understood how this worked in the Westminster system.
For further information on the 1999 referendum, search ‘Fast facts: The 1999 Referendum’ on the The Civics and Citizenship Education website.
For further information on the differences and similarities between a constitutional monarchy and a republic, see Closer Look – Parliament vs Congress
Ideas for each side of the debate
|We would have an Australian as Head of State||Keep the status quo – Australia is fine as it is, so we don’t need any changes|
|Australia would become entirely independent||It may cost a lot to introduce change|
|Many Australians are from non-English backgrounds, so the link to England isn’t as strong as it once was||Major changes may produce unknown results without clear benefits|
|We should be looking to our future, not just our history||Our current system has served Australia well for over a century and has made our country strong|
The public information campaign for the 1999 referendum can be found on the AEC website.