Australian elections differ in some ways from those in other countries, so it is important that all students understand our system. Question them about their knowledge of elections and perhaps run a small election within your classroom. Ask your students what they understand about elections.
Depending on the year level, you can vary the level of the input, but at any level it is possible to focus on understanding of the main concepts such as democracy, franchise, compulsory voting, ballot, polling booth, preferential and first-past-the post voting, scrutineer. Definitions can be found on https://www.aec.gov.au/footer/glossary.htm#division. Have students take part in a voting activity.
The Australian Electoral Commission ( https://education.aec.gov.au/getvoting/content/step-one.html) and the Electoral Commission of Queensland (https://guidetodemocracy.ecq.qld.gov.au/vote/ ) have activities that ask students to form parties, prepare campaigns, vote, and scrutinise the vote-counting, but teachers may wish to do only part of this. See the ballot paper generator at https://getvoting.aec.gov.au/ballotpaper.
Australian elections have many features unique to our country:
From a blog on the website of the Museum of Australian Democracy are some thoughts on International Democracy Day, 15 September 2020, from the Museum’s Director: https://www.moadoph.gov.au/blog/international-democracy-day/. Possibly the most distinctive Australian democratic value is compulsory voting.
1. Australia has a world-leading democracy
If democracy were a sport, Australia would be Olympic champions. We are one of only a handful of democracies around the world who can claim:
We should be really proud of this.
2. We’re in good hands with our future generations
Late in 2019 we interviewed 900 young people on their views on democracy, and our findings challenge the idea that young people are apathetic. In fact, they show that future voters are themselves champions of democracy, with 67% supporting democracy as the best option for Australia, and only 2 percent saying otherwise. Two thirds have an expressed interest in politics.
3. We can’t take democracy for granted.
History shows us that democracies can fail. Growing up in apartheid South Africa, in a family that escaped pogroms and persecution in Europe, I’ve seen media used for both bad and good, as a tool of control and to hold those in power to account. So it falls to all of us to be vigilant, to recognise manipulation, to uphold an independent judiciary and a free press, and to stand up for our democratic values.
The word ‘democracy’ has its origins in the Greek language. It combines two shorter words: ‘demos’ meaning whole citizen living within a particular city-state and ‘kratos’ meaning power or rule.
It is generally agreed that liberal democracies are based on four main principles: