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Civics and Citizenship education - Australia

Key Ideas of the Humanities subject and the sub-strand of Civics and Citizenship of the Australian Curriculum

  • Who we are, who came before us, and traditions and values that have shaped societies.
  • How societies and economies operate and how they are changing over time
  • The ways people, places, ideas and events are perceived and connected
  • How people exercise their responsibilities, participate in society and make informed decisions
Australian Curriculum F-10 HASS Key ideas - Subject sub-strand illustrations

(Australian Curriculum 2017)


What are the messages for Civics and Citizenship education? 


Over many years politicians, research studies and commentators have decried the lack of solid civics and citizenship education in Australian schools. Now with the advent of the ACARA curriculum, there is a responsibility on teachers of this subject to produce more positive civic results. This is a heavy responsibility for what is often seen as a minor subject that is to be taught for a maximum of 20 hours per year. The hidden curriculum of all schools has carried the burden of citizenship training over the years through promoting rules, school values, leadership, student councils and service learning, but now is the time to bring the enacted and hidden curriculum together through whole-school planning that includes the theoretical and conceptual understandings about the workings of our democracy. The status of this subject needs to be raised until it becomes a core focus of school life. 


Some messages for teachers are

  •  to ensure that students from the earliest years understand and use the concepts of democracy, the rule of law and the common good to the fullest extent, supported by values such as rights accompanied by responsibilities. We need to rustle up the arguments for democracy against other forms of government. (This will include overlaps with History as well as contemporary examples.) 
  •  to have ready those arguments to counter the question of how democratic the system of compulsory voting is, to emphasise that rights always come with responsibilities, and use examples from elsewhere to show how every vote counts. (Mathematics will be helpful here). 
  •  to be prepared to argue the case for and against the long-term benefits of social media campaigns against the slow grind of lobbying politicians. (This may involve insights from ICT, English and Media studies). 
  •  to explicitly teach critical thinking strategies in order to counter the move to a culture where abusive words and actions have replaced civil debate, and fake news is accepted as truth. (English and Media studies are important helpers here, but also note the advice mentioned in https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/3-things-detect-fake-news?mc_cid=28295bdd83&mc_eid=c540de534d
  •  to allow young people to think of creative ways to make our system work better, whilst reminding them of the compromises that may need to be involved. However, firstly and most importantly, they need to understand the political system and its checks and balances, and the protections of our legal system. Then, they may be interested in ideas like "deliberative democracy" (http://democracyrenewal.edu.au/what-deliberative-democracy)



This diagram was part of a presentation by QCAA at last year's SCEAA conference in Brisbane and was developed by one of our members, Caroline Hollis. Caroline's explanation follows:

Planning a Civics and Citizenship inquiry-based teaching and learning program

This diagram provides an overview for planning an inquiry-based teaching and learning program for Civics and Citizenship that aligns curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment. This diagram identifies the relationship between the contexts for learning and the specific key values and dispositions that inform planning decisions in each year level of the Civic and Citizenship curriculum.


Use the key questions for inquiry

Each year level includes key questions that provide a framework for developing students’ Civics and Citizenship knowledge, understanding and skills of inquiry.

This shows the key inquiry questions in Year 3 and 4 provide a starting point for students to pose their own questions about the society in which they live.

Embed key values and dispositions in learning experiences

The knowledge, understandings and skills of Civics and Citizenship are underpinned by values and dispositions that are the foundation of Australia’s parliamentary liberal democracy and responsible civic action.

It is important to consider how these values and dispositions are embedded in learning experiences when planning for Civics and Citizenship.

The key values are embedded in the Civics and Citizenship Knowledge and Understanding strand. These values are the foundation of liberal and parliamentary representative government such as: freedom of expression, government by the people, equality, the rule of law, fair and effective representation, responsibility, accountability and common good.

When planning a sequence of teaching and learning, students should be provided with opportunities for group work to enable them to be active and informed citizens. This is a consideration for planning a teaching, learning and assessment program in Civics and Citizenship. 


Provide opportunities for active participation in civics and citizenship activities

Students’ interest in and enjoyment of civics and citizenship can be enhanced through active participation in school and community activities, for example, student governance, community service programs, parliamentary education programs, and the work of non-government organisations (including at the regional and international level).

Participation of citizens takes place at many levels – within the home/family, classes, within schools, within workplaces, within communities, within our nation and internationally.


Consider the scale of contexts of civics and citizenship issues

Civics and Citizenship explores ways in which students can actively shape their lives, value their belonging in a diverse and dynamic society, and positively contribute locally, nationally, regionally and globally. Contexts for contemporary civics and citizenship issues in Year 3 are at the school and local community level. In Year 4 the context moves to the community level with a focus on the purpose of local government and the services it provides. Contexts for contemporary civics and citizenship issues in Year 5 and 6 are at the school, local community and national level. In Year 6 contexts for learning include the state level with a focus on state government and state/territory laws. Contexts for contemporary civics and citizenship issues in Year 7  are at the  local community and national level. In Year 8 the contexts moves from the national, to the world regional and global level. Contexts for contemporary civics and citizenship issues in Year 9 and 10  are at the  national, world regional and global level.

The scale of contexts for civics and citizenship issues shifts in focus across Years 3-10 and should be considered when planning and selecting resources. 

More Civics  and Citizenship Resources

The federal Parliamentary Education Office has developed some excellent materials for Civics and Citizenship teachers. Their materials are necessarily about the structure and function of government and the making of laws. Teaching Civics and Citizenship - a Classroom Guide is available as a downloadable pdf document. (You can also receive a free copy by applying online). "All of the activities in this booklet are aligned to the critical and creative thinking and ethical understanding general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum. Each activity is also linked to the Civics and Citizenship curriculum, and you’ll find the relevant content descriptors listed with the instructions. These activities use role-play, negotiation and problem solving to engage students in learning. These techniques help students comprehend complex tasks and ideas, and develop their skills in critical and creative thinking and ethical understanding. They also provide a safe accessible way to understand democratic ideas and political process". There is an early discussion about democracy and then the document suggests three different discussion strategies and four ways of making decisions. Find it at https://www.peo.gov.au/products/1/257/teaching-civics-and-citizenship.html.


Another federal institution based in Canberra is the Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD): See further discussion of the concept of democracy at https://www.moadoph.gov.au/democracy/. A current exhibition at the Museum is called Democracy. Are you in? , which "explores increasing levels of dissatisfaction, and decreasing levels of trust in our politicians and democratic institutions. Worldwide, there are now more regimes than there are democracies. Australia’s is one of the best in the world but we can’t be complacent – imagine life without it." There is an online segment to the exhibition, with articles for teachers and older students as background reading. A MOAD exhibition called Behind the Lines 2018 will be open at the Queensland State Library from August 10th to October 27th 2019, featuring the best political cartoons from last year. "Section 44 claiming more heads than the Queen of Hearts, Barnaby’s dramas and, of course, the federal leadership spill that gave us another new prime minister. So… don’t be late for this important date! Come along to grin, smirk or grimace at the masterful musings of our nation’s political cartoonists". https://www.moadoph.gov.au/exhibitions/behind-the-lines-2018/

Guide to Democracy: https://guidetodemocracy.ecq.qld.gov.au/. Guide to Democracy is a program on the website of the Electoral Commission of Queensland. It "encourages Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) students in primary and secondary schools to consider community-based issues important to them. It looks at how students can make positive change in their school or local community and how they, as active and informed citizens, can take part in our democracy. .... Students examine Australian citizenship and reflect on the rights and responsibilities that being a citizen entails. They also explore the obligations that people may have as global citizens". Having decided on an issue, researched its background, and worked out a plan for dealing with the issue, students are then led into voting on an outcome. They learn how to run their own election. 

Australian Citizenship Day 17th September 

Australian Citizenship Day—17 September: Australian Citizenship Day is an opportunity for all Australian citizens, whether by birth or by choice, to reflect on the meaning and importance of their citizenship. The day is used as an opportunity to think about what unites all Australians to take pride in Australia's democratic values and to celebrate the role citizens play in shaping the nation. Local government councils are encouraged to hold special citizenship ceremonies and affirmation ceremonies on or around this day. Schools, organisations and community groups are also encouraged to organise special events and activities. Many schools in Australia build on the theory learnt by students in their civics and citizenship education classes by holding celebrations on Australian Citizenship Day. For example, by holding a school assembly where students speak about what it means to them to be Australian, hosting an Australian citizenship affirmation ceremony or partnering with local councils to attend, or host, an Australian citizenship ceremony. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection offers a free Citizenship affirmation kit for those who register their event. https://archive.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/citi/curr/even/australian-citizenship-day

Relevant Website Links

Member suggestions for our website and Teacher Resource Pages are always welcome  and can be posted in our  Members' Forum

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