St Mary's College, Broome

The school

St Mary's College is a K–12 Catholic school situated in Broome, Western Australia. The college caters for the diverse educational, spiritual and cultural needs of its students and provides both vocational and tertiary entrance courses. The college has a strong Christian emphasis which is reflected in the Religious Education and Pastoral Care programs.

St Mary's College

Contact details

PO Box 100, Broome, Western Australia 6725
Tel: (08) 9192 1035
Fax: (08) 9192 1795

Broome is situated in the Kimberley, in far-northern Western Australia. It is one of the fastest growing regions of Western Australia and this growth may be attributed to economic development in agriculture, fishing, mining and tourism. Over the past century the pearling industry, with its need for divers and service workers, produced the multicultural blend for which Broome is now known. Though not always peaceful, and certainly not without periods of deep racism, European, Aboriginal, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Indian, Arabian and Filipino divers, lugger crews and industry workers all established themselves in Broome and built a cosmopolitan community out of the mangrove and red sand. (St Mary's Staff Handbook)

The three Indigenous groups who are the traditional owners of the land in this area are Yawuru, Jugun and Ngumbarl.

Program overview

The Year 8 unit 'Indigenous Australia: Law, Governance and Participation' is an eight-week unit incorporated into the general Society and Environment units. Students learn about the complex systems of social organisation within Indigenous societies that existed prior to European contact. Law and governance are examined and a comparative study between the two societies is developed. The participation of significant Indigenous people features in this unit. The study also identifies the experiences of other, less well-known groups of Indigenous people whose struggles to be recognised as Australian citizens forged the way for changes to European Australian law.

The program uses the following Discovering Democracy materials:

  • Discovering Democracy Lower Secondary Units: 'Should the People Rule?', 'Law', 'Men and Women in Political Life';
  • Discovering Democracy Middle Secondary Units: 'Human Rights';
  • Stories of Democracy CD-ROM.

Details of the program are included in the Teacher Plan, which includes:

  • Timeframe and resources
  • Teaching strategies and learning opportunities
  • Overarching and learning area outcomes
  • Values and cross-curriculum links
  • Assessment and monitoring
  • Progress map: Band outcome
  • Reflections and response.

Program objectives

'Indigenous Australia: Law, Governance and Participation' was chosen by the individual teacher/coordinator to support Aboriginal perspectives across the curriculum. The previous Australian History unit was more focused on significant European Australian events. The intention of the program is to increase awareness and understanding of the traditional Indigenous perspective as it relates to governance and law. Secondly, the program attempts to highlight significant participation by Indigenous leaders in the non-Indigenous government and legal structure.

St Mary's College emblem

The unit was designed to address the core values implied in Value 4 of the Curriculum Framework: Social and Civic Responsibility. As well, the course design outlines the learning area outcomes addressed in Society and Environment, English and the Arts.

The students

'Indigenous Australia: Law, Governance and Participation' was developed for Year 8 students. The unit had two classes of 22 students, whose ages ranged from 12–13 years. Students' literacy levels varied within the early adolescent range. The class is culturally diverse with 50% of students with an Indigenous background.

Students undertaking this unit had knowledge of non-Indigenous government and legal processes having completed the Discovering Democracy unit in Term 1 of this year. Many Indigenous students in the class brought a keen understanding of the nature of 'kinship' to discussion about this aspect of social organisation within traditional Indigenous societies.

St Mary's College flags


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

  • identify the features of traditional Indigenous societies, with particular reference to law and governance;
  • identify the impact of European invasion on the legal structures of Indigenous society;
  • identify significant events in the Indigenous struggle for human rights;
  • identify significant people whose work has advanced the rights of Indigenous Australians.

The Discovering Democracy materials complemented the study and provided excellent background information and easy-to-follow suggested activities.

Diverse learning styles were catered for especially in relation to the assessment tasks of the program. For instance, the requirement to design a museum display about Eddie Mabo included both a formal written component as well as an A3 sketch of the display.


Word Documents

  • St Mary's College, WAThe Year 8 unit Indigenous Australia: Law, Governance and Participation is an eight-week unit incorporated into the general Society and Environment units. File:1404kb doc.
  • St Mary's College Teacher PlanSt Mary's College Teacher Plan File:89kb doc.