Why We Should Explore Compulsory Voting in Our Classrooms

One of the striking parts of election day coverage in Australia is seeing people interrupt their regular Saturday activities to vote. Images of voters in swimmers and towels, sporting uniforms or wedding outfits is not uncommon. It’s one of the side effects of compulsory voting which Senator Herbert Payne probably didn’t consider when he proposed it back in 1924.

So, with compulsory voting just part of life in Australia - why should we worry about exploring it in the classroom. And if you’re teaching outside of Australia, is it a topic which should even come up?

 
Why should we explore compulsory voting in the classroom, what role does it have in Australian history and how could students learn about it from other countries? A government and civics education blog post from Galarious Goods
 

The 1922 Australian election saw a dramatic drop in voter participation - a drop which continued a trend which had occurred over a number of elections since Federation in 1901. This concerned a number of government representatives including Senator Herbert Payne who proposed a private member’s bill to make voting compulsory. Since the passing of the bill, participation in Australian federal elections hasn’t fallen below 90%.

This is a fascinating moment to put into the context of history. World War One had been both a devastating and defining moment for the young nation, with the loss and injury of many, a long way from home. Senator Payne and his supporters were concerned that low participation rates at elections would lead to a deterioration of democracy and the laws which were being made.

If the country hadn’t been so young - still working out how to go forward after only 20 years since Federation; if Australia hadn’t just been through World War One where they were called on to work together for an ideal a long way away from their day to day lives - it’s possible that compulsory voting may not have been embraced.

This is not a moment in history which we often look on in Australian classrooms. We don’t spend a lot of time on electoral history - with the exception of a few referendums. But it’s interesting to contemplate what might have happened if Senator Payne and his colleagues had not passed compulsory voting. How might that have changed future elections? And how might that have changed Australian history?

 
Why should we explore compulsory voting in the classroom, what role does it have in Australian history and how could students learn about it from other countries? A government and civics education blog post from Galarious Goods
 

While compulsory voting is widely supported in Australia, it’s very rare for a democratic country to have, maintain and enforce compulsory voting. For many in countries with voluntary voting, being compelled to vote appears unfair - even undemocratic.

Exploring the benefits and drawbacks of compulsory voting is an excellent classroom activity. Students can look at how compulsory voting encourages governments to set up systems which make it possible for everyone to vote (especially important when you have remote areas like in Australia) and explore some of the systems in place in Australia. Students can debate whether everyone should get a say in elections - whether they’re informed or interested or not. And students can explore some of the reasons people put forward against compulsory voting and debate whether they are robust arguments or not.

What about students and classrooms outside Australia? Exploring the Australian system of compulsory voting gives students a different idea of what voting can look like - this can be expanded with students looking at other kinds of voting around the world and how they contribute to different types of democracies. Older students may also like to explore why compulsory voting works in Australia and what conditions would be required for it to be successful in other countries.

 
Why should we explore compulsory voting in the classroom, what role does it have in Australian history and how could students learn about it from other countries? A government and civics education blog post from Galarious Goods
 

Compulsory voting sounds like a bit of a dry subject on the surface. But a little digging can turn it into a fascinating history or government lesson - the perfect way to stretch your students a little. Have you taught it in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below.

Links to support teaching about compulsory voting

What Was New in May 2017?

A new month! New things! New resources! But first let's take a look back at May.

 
What was new in May 2017 at Galarious Goods? A look at new resources, blog posts and behind the scenes
 

May was the month I delved deep into Australian political and electoral systems to produce some Year 6 resources. I started by looking at the three levels of government in Australia - local, state and federal - and their responsibilities. Because all that can be a little fuzzy (roads is just one area where everyone gets involved!) I also looked at how the three levels of government work together. (I loved putting case studies together for this. I feel very informed about the amazing Murray-Darling Basin now!). There are also assessment and word wall and poster resources to support the mini-units or you can get them all in one bundle.

This was followed up with resources covering the responsibilities of voters and elected representatives in Australia, which is a real mouthful, but at the key of our democratic responsibilities. I was especially interested in the potential conflicts between serving a political party, serving a local area and serving a state or Australia - that's a lot of balancing to do! Again, these are available with word wall and posters and assessment pieces and as a complete bundle.

Finally, I released a Nim's Island Sample Pack freebie. This is a great way to have a look at the Nim's Island novel study resources for free.

 
 

I've also been busy blogging. I started off the month collaborating with some other great teacher-authors to produce a blog post about the TeachersPayTeachers sales. I dug deeper into ideas around getting involved by looking at five inspirational young people who've set out to make a change in the world. I also looked at some of the places where students can find information to help them get involved. Finally I introduced Nim's Island as a novel study resource and had a look at some of the ways it can be used in the classroom.

Behind the Scenes

 It's getting cold in Queensland! Well, cold on the Queensland scale! We've been enjoying the beautiful blue skies with trips to see family, park visits and plans to adventure to the city in the coming school holidays. 

I've been working hard on updating some of my old resources, beginning with my Ruins of Gorlan novel study resources. I'm so, so excited about this - my Instagram feed has been getting some sneak peeks. There'll be updated pages, new task cards and totally new activities. The price will go up when the updated resources are released, so it's worth grabbing it now - you'll get the current version at the current price and be able to download the new version when it's released.

 
 

While I've been doing this, I've been looking at other possible novel studies. Do you have any requests? Leave a comment and it might become a real thing!

 
 

Four Ways Students Can Find More Information And Get Involved

Collecting information is an essential part of getting involved with issues which we care about. It's important to look around us to see where and how our students can get information which will help them get involved in creating a better world.

 
Four Ways Students Can Find More Information and Get Involved
 

1. The Media

There are often criticisms about the media and how events are reported. However, the media - both small and large - is often essential in bringing our attention to what is happening in our communities. When our students look at the news they can see what politicians, officials and other residents are doing around them and they can search for ways they can step up or get involved to make a difference.

Students can also use the media to share their knowledge, responses and actions - they can write letters to the editor or even contact local media with their own news stories.


2. Organisations and Advocacy Groups

Almost every time we uncover an issue we're passionate about, there's already a group of committed individuals working on the same goal. These organisations often include a lot of information on their websites or they may have local representatives who are happy to be contacted. 

As well as information about the issue, organisations and groups may have ideas about how students can get involved. They might be fundraising for a particular outcome or contacting political representatives to suggest a change or improvement in the community. Students can also be inspired by looking at what those organisations and groups have done in the past.


3. Interviewing Others

If students are looking to make a difference in their own community, they should begin by looking at what their own community wants the most. They can uncover this information by interviewing local residents, including people their own age, their parents and other adults. They can also talk to political representatives about what they'd like to see in their local community. 

Once they have collected information, they can sort it to see what ideas are most popular. It's important then to decide which of the popular ideas are viable - it might be nice to have more koalas in the local area, but if you don't live in a koala zone, it's not the most practical of ideas!


4. Learning More About Civics and Political Processes

If students are really looking to make a difference in the world around them, it is worthwhile to learn more about civics and political processes. It's important to know who your representatives are, what they are responsible for and what they are able to do to help you. It's also good to know about different ways of contacting representatives and other public figures, as well as other steps you can take as an involved citizen.

As well as researching the political process, you may like to ask one of your local representatives to come and talk to students about the political process. They would be more likely to be able to give the 'behind the scenes' look at how laws are created and how decisions about public money are made. They can also offer more information about how citizens can work with representatives to make a difference in the community.


The more knowledge our students have the better prepared they are to make a real difference - now and into the future!

Looking to get your students involved today? Check out the Getting Involved Lesson Bundle, now available at the Galarious Goods shop. This eight lesson bundle covers reflection, research, sharing information and taking action and includes bonus presentation files!

 
 

Five Times Young People Got Involved and Took Action!

If we look at the world around us, there are some great real-life examples of young people getting involved with causes and issues which matter to them. We can explore these examples with our students - using them to help our students make their own positive mark on the world!

 
Five Times Young People Got Involved and Took Actions
 

1. The New York Newsboys Strike of 1899

In 1899, young boys - often orphans and runaways - used to sell newspapers on the streets of New York. They were required to buy these papers in advance, then hope that they sold enough to cover the costs. In 1899, two newspaper publishers were selling their papers to the newsboys for such a high price that it was nearly impossible to make money.

In July 1899, a large number of newsboys decided to go on strike and not to sell the papers of those two publishers. They used public demonstration and appeals to the public to disrupt newspaper sales. Finally the publishers agreed to buy back unsold papers, which meant the newsboys weren't out of pocket at the end of the day, and the strike ended. 

The newsboys were credited with inspiring other strikes in other parts of the United States.


2. Ruby Bridges

In the 1950s, schools in the southern United States were segregated, with white students and African-American students attending different schools. When the courts insisted that the schools be desegregated, New Orleans schools set a test to decide which African-American children would be allowed to attend 'white' schools. At 6 years old, Ruby Bridges was one of the few students who passed the exam and became the only African-American student enrolled in her local school. 

For her safety, Ruby was escorted to school by federal marshals, but she was still required to walk past protesters yelling at her. She was also the only student in her class, as parents refused to allow their children to be in class with her. Despite the insults which were yelled at her, Ruby continued to attend the school, following the advice of her mother to be strong.

Ruby's example allowed more schools to become desegregated across the United States and was a big part of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.


3. Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, in a region which was increasingly coming under Taliban control as she was growing up. In 2008, at the age of 11, she gave a speech asking why the Taliban was taking away her right to education. In 2009 she began keeping a blog for the BBC, talking about the right to education for girls and women, as the Taliban continued to close girls schools in the region.

As Malala continued to speak out against the Taliban in Pakistan, they began to see her as a threat. In 2012, when she was 15, a gun man boarded her school bus and shot her. She was given medical treatment in Pakistan before being transported to the United Kingdom for further care. She was able to recover there and has been able to return back to school and to continue her advocacy for education for all girls and women.

Through the Malala Fund, she has been able to bring more attention to educational choices for girls, including opening a school for refugee girls near the Syrian border. 


4. Little Miss Flint

In 2014, officials decided to use the local river to provide water to the people of Flint, Michigan in the United States hoping to save money. Unfortunately, the officials didn't require safety regulations to be met and the water was contaminated with lead - a contamination which is particularly dangerous for children.

In 2016, 9 year old Mari Copeny decided to write to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, hoping to lift the spirits of her fellow Flint residents and to bring more attention to the lack of safe drinking water in Flint. Since then, Mari has met with President Obama as well as other politicians, and continues to point out through social media and speeches that water safety for children and other residents in her town still needs to be addressed. 


5. Campbell Remess

Campbell Remess really wanted to buy Christmas presents for the children at his local hospital. When his mother said that wasn't possible, he set out to learn how to sew and started making teddy bears to give away. 

At 12, Campbell had been making bears for three years and had pushed himself to make a bear everyday. He's also been involved in organising fundraisers for local charities. His hard work has encouraged other people to donate to his cause - providing him with the fabric and materials he needs to make his bears.


These stories of young people taking action allow our students to see some of the different ways they can take action - whether it's standing up for what's right, speaking out when something is wrong, looking for ways to take care of others or being strong in the face of adversity. They give our students examples to reflect on and inspiration to make the world a better and kinder place.

Looking for more ways to help your students to take action? Check out the Getting Involved Lesson Bundle at the Galarious Goods shop. This bundle includes eight lessons covering reflection, research, sharing information and taking action.

 
 

Get Students Involved to Make a Better World

There's been a notable increase with all sorts of activism in the past year, with a lot of people getting more involved in issues which matter to them. For many, it's one way of creating a better world - a world we'll be proud to pass on to those who come after us. But how can we get our students involved in making a better world? What can children do?

 
Get Students Involved to Make A Better World. Looking at ways students can get involved with the world around them to create change in the world. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. Learn about Local Issues

A great way for students to become more involved is to learn about what is happening in their local community. Are there local groups working to make improvements? Are there decisions being made by local government which will improve the community? Or are decisions being made which should be challenged? 

Students might begin this look at local issues by looking at their school. What do students love about their school? What improvements would they like to see? What are some of the ways students can create a happier, more productive learning space? How can they work to create a community which is supportive of everyone learning and working within in? 

2. Learn about Global Issues

Students may already have an interest in wider issues such as the environment, world peace, poverty, access to education and equality. These can seem like massive, overwhelming issues, but they can also be broken down into more manageable ideas which have real actions. 

One of the best ways to learn more about global issues is to look at the organisations which are already engaged in working on those issues. Often those organisations have research publications or links to more information on their websites. They might also have ways for students to get involved or inspiration for students to plan their own involvement.

3. Changing Personal Behaviour

Sometimes the easiest way for students to get involved in issues is to change their own behaviour. Students can brainstorm a range of different ways they can make small changes to improve the world, then pledge to make those changes in their life. They might even like to organise record keeping sheets, develop products or posters to help them make those changes or expand the challenge to other members of their school community or local community.

 
Get Students Involved to Make A Better World. Looking at ways students can get involved with the world around them to create change in the world. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

4. Communicating

When students have identified and learned more about local or global issues which matter to them, they can engage by sharing that information with others. They might wish to write to their government representatives, write letters to their local newspapers or create websites or printed materials to share what they know. 

This way of getting involved with issues is great for integrating with writing and reading lessons. Students can examine ways that other people have shared information and experiment with different types of writing.

5. Organising Events

Events are a great way of bringing attention to a particular issue. Students could hold a special assembly or dress up day at school, run a booth at a local market or run lunch time or after school activities. The events could be about raising awareness - like making students aware of bullying and the language they use at school - or could be fundraising events. 


It can be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed at the big challenges in the world, but there are so many ways for students to be more involved as citizens looking to make a better world.