Local communities & democracy

How do students learn about democracy? Engaging with the people and processes, ideas and the realities of democratic systems, in an authentic manner, has to be at least as important as historical or theoretical knowledge.

Our school genuinely wants students to learn about civil society and our democratic governance, wherever possible, by having real experience of our systems. Wollongong City Council hosted our strategic executive meeting last week and from this both the Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and Councillor Vicki Curran agreed to assist our students learn about the processes of local government.

Today the Student Representative Council (SRC) for 2013 was inducted, badges pinned on chests by proud parents. Cr. Curran, who represents Ward 3, where our school is situated, was invited to address the whole school assembly and later conducted a workshop where students discussed issues of importance to them and how they could successfully initiate change. The students were particularly excited about participating at the next council meeting and are currently preparing their submissions about sporting facilities, public transport and local infrastructure needs that were workshopped today. Students will formalise their ideas next week at a SRC meeting before submitting via the councillor.

Next month, Mayor Bradbery will conduct a workshop at the school assisting students with effective communication strategies and understanding local government. He will outline a vision for the future of our local area. Later the very same day our students will have items on the local council meeting agenda and address the council. This is a wonderful opportunity to have the mayor, who is an excellent communicator, really assist students with their presentation skills.


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

You may remember previous posts from Denmark observing the impressive student engagement in a flourishing Danish civil society or from earlier this year, when our local federal member of parliament conducted leadership workshops with our Student Representative Council (SRC). It feels like our strategy, to have students engage authentically with democracy, is really starting to build steam. The kids are enthusiastic  their parents are impressed with the opportunities but most importantly, EVERYONE AGREES that Australian society needs all of us to grow our democracy and that schools have an important role connecting students to their society in a very real way.

Our school is determined to help students experience democratic processes in an authentic manner at a local, state and federal level. What’s your school doing to help nurture student understanding of democracy?

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Darcy,

    I agree that it is more beneficial for students to EXPERIENCE democratic processes than it is for them to read or be talked to about them…
    Interested to know what consideration was given to diversity when choosing your schools’s student representative body.
    I am really interested in the importance of students learning how to effectively interact with people from diverse backgrounds – I think this is a skill of growing importance, if people are to effectively participate in a democratic society that is increasingly-multicultural…

    Cheers,
    Warwick

    • Darcy Moore:

      Hi Warwick,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. To answer your question, about ‘diversity’, we have a number of student portfolios and nominations for these specific areas. For example, there is a student representative from our autism unit and also an overseas student member on the council. We also have students with responsibilities for Aboriginal students, visual/performing arts and sport.

      To be honest, the process of selecting the SRC is not completely ‘democratic’ and the principal works with Year Advisors and executive teachers to ensure a diverse and positive council is endorsed. This is an irony we are well aware of and moving towards a completely democratic system of polling is a goal now that we have really a very effective SRC group with a culture of activism about the school.

      I should also mention that for the last two years the SRC present to all the teachers on the last day of school ‘7 ideas’ they have for the next year. This has proven to be very effective.

      I hope this helps, Warwick. :)

  2. Wow sounds like a very considered and positive process for the students involved and your school.
    Really like how next year’s Council has already been elected, in readiness for the next school year – I think this would send the message to the school community that the SRC program is valuable and important, not an ‘afterthought’ that people think they better cobble something together for in March or so…
    Well done.

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