“Our school is located in the federal electorate of Whitlam, or Throsby as it has been known since 1984, covers 1,331 sq.km in the southern Illawarra and NSW southern highlands. Along the coast it takes in all of the suburbs to the south and west of Lake Illawarra in the Wollongong and Shellharbour local government areas, including Warilla, Albion Park and Dapto. The electorate also extends up the Illawarra Highway through Macquarie Pass to take in Robertson, Moss Vale, Berrima, Bowral and Mittagong.” SOURCE
Our Nurturing Democracy Civics and Citizenship program provides practical experience with the nature of living in a democracy. Students elect their own representative by secret ballot and a team of students assist with counting using preferential voting. The Student Representative Council (SRC) act as polling officials. Students attend forums with federal politicians to propose ideas and have also influenced the local council by attending meetings with ideas to improve the local facilities. Increasingly students are participating in forums to support their personal agendas about progressive social change.
On the 24th June, the SRC conducted our third candidate’s forum prior to a state or federal election as an important part of our Nurturing Democracy program to provide opportunities for students to practically engage with learning about civics and citizenship. Five of the six candidates, contesting the federal seat of Whitlam on the 2nd July, participated:
Tom HUNT (The Greens)
Jan MANDELSON (The Nationals)
Wayne HARTMAN (Non-Custodial Parents Party)
Stephen JONES (Australian Labor Party)
Susan PINUTI (Christian Democratic Party)
The process, based on a Danish model, is as follows:
1. The moderator explains the goals and process to the audience while introducing the panel
2. Each candidate has a maximum of 3-minutes to outline his or her vision for the electorate of Whitlam
3. Each candidate has 1-minute to make a point and ask another candidate a question.
4. There is a 1-minute response time for each question
5. The moderator calls for questions from the audience to candidates
6. Response time is 1-minute
7. The candidates make a 1-minute closing statement
8. The students then mingle with the candidates at a BBQ to ask more questions
9. Students debrief with peers, staff and family in the lead-up to the federal election on July 2nd where some of our 18 year olds are voting for the first time.
Questions from the students included:
BEN: What do you believe is the single most important issue in this election campaign for the people voting in Whitlam? Why?
TAYLOR: If elected HOW would your party protect both our local environment and World Heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef?
EMILY: What other policy areas does the Non-custodial Parents Party feel strongly about besides the issue suggested in your party’s name?
LANCE: How will your party further the knowledge and education of students to contribute to the promotion of a smart and innovative Australia?
ALLY: This question is for all candidates and I would like a YES or NO answer rather than a 1-minute response. Do you support same-sex marriage?
ADELINA: This question is for all candidates and I would like a YES or NO answer rather than a 1-minute response. Do you support the current government’s tough policies towards refugees seeking asylum in Australia?
LUKE:This question is for all candidates and I would like a YES or NO answer rather than a 1-minute response. Does your party support the full implementation of Gonski funding for education?
TIANA: This question is for all candidates and I would like a YES or NO answer rather than a 1-minute response. Do you support Australia becoming a Republic?
SOORAJ: Climate change is mostly being influenced by human activities, what are your plans to reduce this?
TIM: With the rapid increase of car usage over the past 5 decades and the dramatically increasing negligence of our rail infrastructure, what do you plan to do to help both the public and heritage rail sectors?
PATRICK: How does the National Party differ from it coalition partner, the Liberal Party?
PAIGE: Which of the candidates do you support most in Whitlam? Can you rank them from most to least in agreement?
The YES or NO questions are quite effective in highlighting the practical implications of ideological differences in policy areas that the students can easily grasp. When the candidate says NO or YES to an area they are passionate about it helps with formulating their own political positions.
Students were interviewed by the local newspaper and ABC radio about their experience of the forum. At our candidate BBQ students discussed a range of issues raised in the forum with their friends. There was also good informal discussion with the candidates.
Taylor, our school captain, did a great job MC-ing the event and the SRC did well to organise everything so successfully.
Dapto High encourages students to reflect on the nature of living in a democracy as part of civics and citizenship education at the school. Good schools have good student leaders by providing plenty of opportunities for developing leadership skills.
For the last three years our Student Representative Council (SRC) has been elected by the students. The process is run very formally by the current SRC with resources supplied by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The students practically learn about how elections work including preferential voting in this process. There are many candidates who stand for the 24 positions available.
The SRC are leading another initiative in the ‘Nurturing Democracy’ program later in the term by hosting a forum for all candidates contesting the seat of Whitlam. This will be the third time such a panel has occurred prior to a federal or state election and is an invaluable opportunity for students to ask questions about policy of the candidates.
Thanks to the team of Year Advisors who support the students. Special thank to the SRC Collaborators – Ms Jones and Mr Trist – who make the day work and Ms Robbins-Harvey who does much of the administrative and statistical work counting votes with a team of mathematicians.
Good luck to all the candidates. The principal will announce the new SRC team in coming weeks, along with captains and prefects.
The Student Representative Council for 2015-16 has been democratically elected. The system is modeled on our federal processes and voters must number every box. This is only the second time the school has held an election in this way.
Thanks to the current SRC – led by Ms Jones, Mr Trist and Ms Harvey – who were the officials and counted the votes. The students did a professional job again and there was a good maths lesson or two conducted while counting the votes and working out the preferences. For some of the current SRC this is the second time they have been the officials which made the polling run smoothly.
The students, from Year 7-11, are also to be congratulated for the way they conducted themselves during the process. It is an authentic experience of voting, almost identical to what will be experienced when they turn 18 and vote in federal elections. The students learn a great deal about democratic processes as they not only stand for election and vote but also run the process and count the votes.
Congratulations to the following students who have been democratically elected by their peers:
Captains: Taylor Glover and Sean Hood
Vice Captains: Ben White and Shania Fogg
Prefects: Lance Loach; Connor Faughlin; Beau Davis; Shaun Hitchcock; Haydn Lebon; Taylor Aylett; Madeline Daffara; Rhianna Tynan; Anastacia Rowles; Chloe Fenton
Year 10: Paige Jones; Tanniah Kwan; Jordan Brocklesby; and Sooraj Raja
Year 9: Bridget Hennah and Luke Pirangi
Year 8: Jake Attwell and Holly Cross
Year 7: Madison Brown and Patrick O’Connor
The parents, carers and grandparents of the students elected will be invited to the SRC induction ceremony at the school on Thursday, 23rd July at 8.30am.