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- Insite Newsletter June 2012
The seventeenth National Schools Constitutional Convention was held at Old Parliament House in Canberra in March. This annual event aims to increase young Australians’ knowledge about the Australian Constitution and the role it plays in our democracy.
The topic for 2012 was ‘Australian Federalism: A question of balance’. Convention delegates investigated the division of powers between the states and Commonwealth and were asked to address the question ‘Should there be a change to include water and health as Commonwealth powers?’
Delegates considered the division of powers in other federalist jurisdictions, the division of powers in the Australian constitution and the arguments for and against transferring responsibility for water and health from the states to the Commonwealth. They then considered the means by which constitutional change is given effect under Section 128 of the Australian Constitution and participated in a mock referendum on the issue of where the responsibility for water and health should be located.
The communiqué [PDF] summarising the events and resolutions and images from the event are available on the Civics and Citizenship website.
Teaching and learning activities aligned to the Australian Curriculum
The teaching and learning activities available on the civics and citizenship website are now aligned to the History and English learning areas and the general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum
The activities are for Primary and Secondary students and cover many aspects of civics and citizenship education, including the democratic process, Australia’s federation, key social movements in Australia’s history, such as the Freedom Rides and the campaign for the eight hour working day, and human rights.
The recent election in Greece has resulted in a hung parliament and there is great uncertainty as to which party or parties can form government. The country’s future as a member of the eurozone is even in question. The elections were triggered by the resignation of former Prime Minister George Papandreou in November 2011 amidst looming economic collapse and public discontent. This election was largely fought on the issue of austerity measures proposed as part of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund’s bailout package, worth USD171billion. A total of 32 parties stood and most can be grouped into those “for” the conditions of the bailout package and those “against”. The bailout package is the second offered to Greece to alleviate the country’s debt.
Greece is a parliamentary republic. The President, currently Dr Karolos Papoulias, has no powers to initiate legislation but does appoint the Prime Minister, usually the leader of the party with the most seats in parliament. The Greek parliament is elected under the system of reinforced proportional representation. This system demands that parties must achieve at least 3% of the total national vote in order to have a member to be elected to parliament. To form government, a party must win at least 151 of the 300 seats and the party that wins the most seats is awarded an additional 50 seats. If one single party does gain the required number of seats, the party with the most votes must seek to form a coalition with other parties within three days. If this is not achieved the President then invites the party with the second highest number of seats to seek a coalition, and so on. If a coalition cannot be formed then the President may call another election.
What will happen in Greece will have profound effects not only on Greece but also on the European Union and beyond. As well as looking at the Greek election process and following the story of Greece’s political and economic crises, teachers and their students may also like to study the origins and evolution of the European Union. Useful sites include:
- The official EU homepage outlines the history and function of the union. There is also a section for teachers and for students, which include a number of classroom resources and activities.
- The BBC has a series of useful Q&A articles that outline why the outcome of the Greek election are so important, how the debt crisis came about and what the austerity measures involve.
East Timor–Elections and the 10-year anniversary of independence
On 20 May East Timor celebrated its tenth anniversary of independence. It was achieved after the overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted to end 25 years of Indonesian rule in August 1999. Following the ballot, violence broke out and a United Nations peacekeeping mission administered the country until formal independence was declared in 2002.
In the midst of the independence celebrations, the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections were also taking place. The initial rounds of elections saw the defeat of the incumbent President, Jose Ramos-Horta; a significant figure in East Timor’s recent history.
East Timor follows a two-round system for electing its President. Both rounds took place in March and April respectively and former military chief Taur Matan Ruak was sworn in as President on 20 May.
East Timor’s parliamentary elections will be held in July 2012, when the 88 members of the National Assembly will go to the polls. Then the President will appoint the Prime Minister, who is chosen by the political party that wins the election. The position is currently held by Xanana Gusmão, who was instrumental in the 24-year struggle for independence in East Timor. He was the newly independent country’s first president.
The impending political change and ongoing development challenges may be demanding for East Timor. However, the elections demonstrated the progress East Timor has made towards stability and prosperity and indicate that 2012 will indeed be a year of significance and celebration. The elections were the first to be managed by East Timorese authorities and no instances of violence were reported. Furthermore, the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste is to withdraw by the end of 2012.
As Australia’s closest neighbour, the experiences of East Timor are important for Australia’s national interests and those of the Asia-Pacific region. Australia has played a significant role in supporting East Timor’s transition to independence over the past decade and teachers and students may like to explore East Timor’s political progress and events throughout 2012, as well as its achievements over the past decade and Australia’s role in them.
- As well as East Timor’s elections, a number of elections will be held in the Asia-Pacific region this year. To find out where and when, visit the USAID election guide.
- The Global Education East Timor country profile provides a background to the country.
- The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste
- Australian Electoral Commission has a number of resources about elections and electoral process.
- The Civics and Citizenship Education site has a number of resources on voting and elections for primary and secondary students.
William James Mildenhall (1891–1962) was the official photographer of the Federal Capital Commission from 1926 to 1935. During this time he photographed the construction of the Provisional Parliament House and Canberra’s development as the nation’s capital. Discovering Mildenhall’s Camera: Photographs from the birth of our capital is an online exhibition of 7700 images. Visitors are encouraged to comment on the photographs, share their memories and stories of the locations, buildings and events documented, and also provide re-photograph images to compare ‘then and now’.
It is hoped that these contributions will create a lasting knowledge about the Mildenhall Collection in anticipation of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations in 2013.
Artist Penny Byrne has transformed porcelain figurines into artworks that convey her views on social justice, the environment, war and politics. Her exhibition, Political Porcelain, gives an interesting, and sometimes amusing, take on some key issues in contemporary Australia. The exhibition is on display as part of the permanent Living Democracy exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra.
Home front wartime Sydney 1939-45
Museum of Sydney’s Home front: wartime Sydney 1939–45 explores the experiences of Sydneysiders during the Second World War. While the war was largely being fought far from Australia’s shores, it had a profound effect on those who remained at home. Through paintings, photographs, films, objects and personal memorabilia, this exhibition looks at the loneliness, fear, grief and excitement of life in Sydney during the Second World War.
Museum of Sydney
Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney, NSW 2000
Until 9 September 2012
The State Library of Queensland's Floodlines shares memories of Queensland’s floods, both contemporary and historical. Floodlines includes exhibitions of photos and recorded memories of the 1893 floods in Brisbane and the floods in 2010-11 and invites people to submit their photos to create a flood and cyclone mosaic. A number of events will also be held, including talks and tours by the exhibition curator, garden workshops to flood-proof your garden and a conservation clinic offering advice on how to care for your flood-damaged possessions.
Floodlines is taking place at the State Library of Queensland's John Oxley Library from April to August 19 2012. Photos from the 1893 and 2010–11 floods, video and audio presentations, and educational resources are also available online.
The Civics Tasmanian Electoral Commission’s Electoral Education Gateway is a resource for both primary and secondary classrooms. It looks at the various aspects of democracy in Tasmania, from key historical figures to government buildings, voting, and active citizenship.
The resource features photo galleries, video, audio, links and a dedicated teachers’ section. It aims to:
- provide students with a broad grounding in the principles of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen
- facilitate opportunities for hands-on experiences of democracy
- instil longer-term understanding and connection to the democratic process.
Global Education Website
Global Education enables young people to participate in shaping a better, shared future for the world. The newly redeveloped Global Education website provides teachers with resources about a range of global issues, such as human rights and the environment, which include case studies, country profiles and teaching activities. A professional learning module is also available, introducing teachers to the concepts, perspectives and processes of global education.
Centenary of compulsory enrolment
This year, 2012, is the centenary of compulsory voting in Australia. The Australian Electoral Commission has published a fact sheet [PDF] about voting in Australia.