The people rule @


Australia is a representative democracy. Citizens do not exercise power directly but elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf.

This unit of work is designed to familiarise middle secondary students with the nature of our representative democracy. Students consider the values of our democracy and the nature of representative government in Australia, and use information on their own electorates and the people who represent them at Federal, State or Territory and local levels.

The key resource for these teaching and learning activities is Parliament @ Work (, an interactive database with a powerful search facility which contains a range of information on Federal, State and Territory electorates, parliamentarians and election results. Students will search, sort and analyse information from this resource, use the information from the site on parties and parliaments, and use the links to a range of sites, including the Australian Electoral Commission, political parties and local governments.

Focus questions

  • Why do we have representative government rather than direct democracy?
  • What values underpin our representative government?
  • What are the roles, powers and responsibilities of the Federal, State or Territory and local governments in Australia?
  • What are the key characteristics of our electoral system and to what extent do they support democratic values?
  • What role do political parties play in the formation of democratic parliaments?
  • How do electoral geography and the characteristics of electorates affect the political interests of voters?
  • How representative of Australians are our elected representatives?
  • How well are democratic values upheld by the electoral system?

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