Yirara College, NT

The School

Yirara College is a coeducational, Years 7 to 10, Indigenous residential school. Located in Alice Springs, the school provides vocational and educational development programs to Indigenous youth. All the students who attend the college come from the surrounding remote communities. The school has a strong religious emphasis and is part of the Finke River Mission Inc, which operates under the auspices of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

Download Case study (Word document).


Contact details

Address: PMB 51 Alice Springs Northern Territory 0878
Tel: (08) 8950 5644
Fax: (08) 8950 5666
Website: http://www.yirara.nt.edu.au

Alice Springs is in central Australia. It is the 'capital of the outback' and the gateway to the Western MacDonnell Ranges, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Kings Canyon. The Arrernte peoples are the original inhabitants of the land around Alice Springs; they have lived in the area for the past 40,000 years. Alice Springs has a population of more than 27,000 and receives many thousands of visitors annually. Tourism is the town's major enterprise; however, the region also supports a large cattle industry.

Further information about Alice Springs can be found at: http://www.alicesprings.net.au

Program overview

The Year 7 unit 'Making Choices and Decisions' is a five-week unit incorporated into the general Social Education Units. The aim of the program is to provide an understanding of how rules and laws operate in our daily lives and within society. The unit requires two forty-minute lessons each week. An Indigenous tutor provides teaching and learning support in the classroom, and all the students in the class have English as their second language. The unit addresses the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework Draft 1.4, EsseNTial Learnings: Studies of Society and Environment Area in the Social Systems and Structures strand.

The program uses the following Discovering Democracy materials:

  • Discovering Democracy Middle Primary Units, 'Rules and Laws', pages 37–54    
  • Australian Readers Discovering Democracy Middle Primary Collection, 'I Have a Right' pages 40–41.


Teacher Diana Hutchins with her class

Teacher Diana Hutchins with her class

Program objectives (purposes)

'Making Choices and Decisions' was chosen by the individual teacher to support the Christian principles of the school. The Indigenous students come from various communities of outback Australia with differing family traditions and customs. The students live in residential accommodation for the school year. Often the students arrive as a group to support each other in their living, social and educational experiences.

The intention of the unit is twofold: it partly reflects the need to set behavioural boundaries at the beginning of the school year and to establish a code of behaviour within the school's expectations. The students are expected to participate in all aspects of the school's educational program. Further, it provides a framework for students to integrate the issues in the unit into Indigenous communities, and in the broader Australian community. The unit correlates directly with the College's overall purpose and mission statement:

'Yirara College, a culturally diverse community, strives to develop living skills, world views and Christian faith, enabling people to respect and live out their spiritual and cultural identities.'

Picture of Yirara College Emblem
Picture of Yirara College Emblem

The unit was designed to address the syllabus inquiry questions in the Discovering Democracy Middle Primary Unit 'Rules and Laws' and the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework Draft 1.4, EsseNTial Learnings: Studies of Society and Environment Area in the Social Systems and Structures strand. It was felt that students needed to develop an understanding of why rules and laws are necessary in everyday life, at school, in playing sport, within families and in the broader community.


The students

'Making Choices and Decisions' was developed for Year 7 students. The unit had one class of 20 students, whose ages ranged from 12 to 15 years. Students' literacy levels varied within the early primary years. All the students come from remote Indigenous communities. All have an extensive knowledge of their traditional rules and culture. The students also have an understanding of rules that apply to sport, and most come from Christian families where many bible stories are relayed and shared.

Students undertaking this unit would not have completed any previous formal education on the themes of 'rules and laws'. The students' skills and knowledge from their individual communities, general knowledge and prior learning experiences in formal education would have been sufficient to undertake this unit of work.

Picture of Yirara College students; Carlos, Cherise and Donald

Curriculum learning outcomes

The unit 'Rules and Laws' addresses the Social Systems and Structures strand as specified in the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework Draft 1.4, EsseNTial Learnings: Studies of Society and Environment Learning Area.


Soc 1.4 Social Justice

Learners within Band 1 explore and explain how individual and group behaviours can impact on and affect the rights of others.


This means that learners within Band 1 can complete the following:

  • dramatise and discuss what happens when individuals' and groups' rights are denied (Cr 1) (In 4) (Con 3) link – (Arts: Skills and Processes)
  • identify and discuss the roles of a perpetrator and victim through storytelling, eg bullying (Con 3) links – (Literacy) (Health and Physical Education: Personal Development and Relationships)
  • explore and discuss implicit messages in texts which examine the denial of social justice (Con 3) link – (Literacy: Life Skills)
  • identify the issues within a scenario and take a stance when presenting a practical point-of-view (Con 3) (In 3) links – (Literacy: Life Skills)

Addresses the needs of the following learning types:

Cr 1   Creative Learner 1
A persevering and resourceful INNOVATOR who uses imagination, vision and a variety of resources for self-expression, enjoyment and interpretation of concepts, ideas and strategies.
In 3Inner Learner 3
A self-directed and reflective THINKER who makes decisions and takes actions based on personal values and principles that reflect empathy and integrity.
In 4Inner Learner 4
A self-directed and reflective THINKER who assesses their well-being and takes action for healthy living.
Con 3Constructive Learner 3
A thoughtful PRODUCER and CONTRIBUTOR who participates in efforts to value diversity and social responsibility through active and informed involvement in chosen areas within their family and community.

Student outcomes

When a student has completed the unit 'Making Choices and Decisions' they will be able to achieve the following:

  • Identify the rules in their own family, class and school.
  • Identify the differences between rules and laws and the consequences which arise when rules and laws are broken.
  • Establish rules for the classroom which are meaningful to them and accepted by them.
  • Identify everyday rules which enable people to cooperate and to become good citizens.
  • Learn that they have rights which need to be protected and responsibilities to others to ensure that other people's rights are also protected.
  • Learn that being a good citizen involves showing compassion and care for others within their community.
Students participating in a classroom activity
Students participating in a classroom activity

Program outline 'Making Choices and Decisions'

Note: Activities from Discovering Democracy Middle Primary Units provide a source of ideas that can be adapted by the classroom teacher.

Assessment tasks

The assessment activities as described in the Discovering Democracy Middle Primary Assessment Resources were not used in this program because they involved group discussion and written responses to questions. Although group discussion was encouraged, students would have found it difficult to complete this form of assessment. Instead, students were assessed using the 'Consequences tree' handout because it demonstrated diagrammatically the students' understanding of rules and laws and because limited writing was involved.

The other assessment tasks involved drawing pictures to represent ideas. All the students in the class have English as their second language. Although their literacy levels were low, their understanding of the concepts was easily expressed pictorially. As a result, Discovering Democracy Middle Primary Units Handouts 3 and 4 on pages 53 and 54 were beneficial in evaluating assessment.

Handout 3 enabled students with limited reading ability to make complex decisions about the application of rules and laws in everyday situations. Handout 4 required some reading ability but again the writing involved was limited and the students in the class were able to complete this task without having to form difficult sentences.

Students playing 'Guess my rules' game
Students playing 'Guess my rules' game

Curriculum resources

The following curriculum resources were used:

1.Title: Maybe Tomorrow
Author: Boori (Monty Prior)
Publisher: Penguin, Australia
Year of publication: 1998
Format: Novel

2. Title: Early Readers' Bible – The Ten Commandments and The Good Samaritan
Editor: V Gilbert Beers
Publisher: Questar Publishers Inc, Sisters, Oregon
Year of publication: 1991
Format: Book

3. Title: Australian Society and Environment Book 1
Author: Wendy Harris and Roslyn Kay
Publisher: Learning Solutions, Carlton, Vic
Year of publication: 1995
Format: Book

4. Title: RIC Social Studies Level 3
Author: Donna Cocking
Publisher: RIC Publications Pty Ltd, Australia
Year of publication: 1998
Format: Book


As a result of the program, students were able to:

  • identify the need for rules and laws for their own individual benefit and for the functioning of society
  • identify the consequences of their own behaviour and how it impacts on others
  • learn that compassion, cooperation and responsibility are necessary for their own happiness and the welfare of the community in which they live.

The Discovering Democracy materials allowed information to be pictorially demonstrated. This was advantageous, as the content could be adapted to suit the needs of ESL students.

Diverse learning styles were catered for. Through the 'Guess my rules' game in the basketball stadium, students could participate in a physical activity, which contributed to their learning. By using physical activity as a means of learning, this game addressed one of Gardner's Seven Intelligences, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Verbal-linguistic intelligence was catered for through discussion and written work. The pictorial aspects of the unit satisfied visual-spatial intelligence and the 'Consequences tree' related to a logical-mathematical activity.

Students learnt how to reflect on an individual's action and see how individual behaviours can affect people in a group.

The formulation of class rules was a meaningful activity which gave the students a sense of ownership of the rules. As a result, the tasks that students completed were valued. There was also a sense of motivation for students to take pride in their work and to reflect on their efforts in the light of each other's work.

Classroom Teacher and Curriculum Developer Diana Hutchins
Classroom Teacher and Curriculum Developer
Diana Hutchins

Obstacles to be overcome

The class at times found it difficult to contribute to discussion and to take part in activities. A strategy to overcome this problem was to separate the class into two groups. The 'Guess my rules' game in lesson 3 was taken by another teacher for a maths activity. The two groups consisted of same sex groupings. This encouraged more participation and at the same time allowed for a smaller group to be more active in a physical activity.

An Aboriginal tutor assisted in all the lessons and worked one-to-one with students, speaking at times independently to students on issues relating to differing Indigenous concerns of values and respect.

Although group work was difficult for the students at this level considering the diversity of Indigenous cultures in the class, a smaller group could have engaged the students further and perhaps encouraged personal reflection on individual responsibility within the group. A collaborative project at the end of the unit could have been a practical way of reinforcing the need for cooperation and responsibility. A model or mural could have been an appropriate activity.


Curriculum Corporation would like to acknowledge the contributions of Diana Hutchins, the class teacher and curriculum designer of the 'Making Choices and Decisions', Yirara College for their cooperation throughout the project and, most importantly, the students in Diana Hutchins' class.