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The People Rule: Introductory activities 1

Student handout 1: Representation and democratic values

Focus questions

What are democratic values?
How could you relate them to the school environment?
What are some of the challenges of implementing democratic values?

Background

Australia is a democracy – a form of government in which power belongs to the people. The people, through the electoral system, elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf. Thus Australia is called a representative democracy. A representative democracy depends on:

  • Majority rule, where the government is formed by the party or coalition of parties that have a majority of seats in the Lower House of Parliament (also called the people's house). Parties gain seats in the parliament by gaining a majority of the votes.
  • Respect for minorities, where the opinions of minorities are taken into account by government.
  • Political equality of all citizens, which means that all citizens in a democracy have equal rights. Each citizen's vote is worth the same as that of every other citizen. Each citizen is equal before the law.
  • Accountable government, where the decisions made by governments must be justified to the people. The government is accountable to the parliament and through the parliament to the people. This happens through our elected representatives in parliament. If the citizens disagree with the decisions of the government, they are able to vote them out at the next election.
  • Individual freedoms, which means that all citizens in a democracy have certain rights including freedom of speech and opinion, and freedom of association or the right to gather together for political purposes.

Student activity

Discuss in groups the best way of setting up a truly representative Student Representative Council (SRC) or other school governing body, which reflects the democratic values outlined above. For example:

  • How would you ensure that the SRC represents all the students in the school?
  • Should all students have an equal say in choosing the SRC representatives?
  • How would you ensure that all students have an equal say?
  • What kind of voting system would you use?
  • How do you ensure that the voters are able to make an informed choice about who to vote for on the SRC?
  • How does the SRC make decisions?
  • How are decisions implemented?
  • How should the SRC communicate its decisions and views to the student population?
  • What happens if significant numbers of students disagree with the decisions of the SRC?
  • What are some of the difficulties and challenges of representative democracy at school?

Next handout

Overview | Notes for teachers | Introductory activities 1 | Introductory activities 2 | Topic 1.1 | Topic 1.2 | Topic 1.3 | Topic 1.4 | Topic 1.5 | Topic 2 | Topic 3 | Topic 4 | Extension activities

Student Handout