Tuesday 28 May 2019

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Civics and Citizenship Education


Mr FINCH  (Rosevears) - Mr President, I think the member for Elwick has had a sneak preview of my speech because today I want to talk about the subject he is on about, although not specifically about New Town High School.  Our democratic system is weaker than it should be because of a widespread ignorance of the electoral and parliamentary processes.  This has not been helped by the way politics is portrayed in the media and even less so because of a glaring gap in the way most education syllabuses around Australia are enforced.

Entering adulthood without an understanding of our political system is seldom corrected.  People lose interest in how politics works and are unlikely to take the time to learn.

The time to give Australians an understanding about the role of parliament is at school.  I commend the work done by our education officers, one of whom is here now - Aurelie Charenton and Kimbra McCormack, who do a splendid job.

When researching for this speech, I asked about the numbers of visitors who toured Parliament House over the past 12 months.  Students visiting on a sitting day to watch the debate - 1191; and students sitting on a non-sitting day, either to tour or do the House of Assembly role-play - 3478.  In total almost 4700 students visited.  That figure does not include the Tasmanian Youth Parliament or students reached during the school outreach program.  That is a wealth of connection to younger people.  Our education officers are to be congratulated.

Hugh Magnus is in the Chamber today.  We all received an email from Hugh and his comments on the disturbing situation, as he views it.  To refresh members' memories of his email, I quote -

Today I am writing to you on behalf of students Tasmania-wide, to address a major problem in our education system. 

Recently, it has come to my attention that there is another subject listed in the Australian Curriculum that we are not taught at school, mainly Civics and Citizenship. 

Civics and Citizenship is the subject that deals with educating us about how our country is run.  This includes how laws are made and passed, how people are elected to parliament, the role of the High Court, the responsibilities of the Parliament of Australia, and the functions of different systems of government.

The decision by the Department of Education to not make Civics and Citizenship a compulsory subject for years 9 and 10 is so extraordinarily problematic; one wonders what government in its right mind would do such a thing?  To take away the next generation's understanding of how our country works shows a serious lack of responsibility on your part.  The 2016 National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship shows that almost two out three grade 10 students don't have the basic knowledge to be informed and capable citizens of our country.  With politics being ever more important, a lack of understanding is a colossal problem. 

This is resulting in a new generation of ignorant people who couldn't tell you what the terms 'House of Representatives' and or 'Senate' mean, let alone the roles of a Legislative Council or a Cabinet.  Already this being shown:  the political apathy and ignorance at my school -

At Woodbridge District High, I might point out -

and many others that I've visited is overwhelming; people just aren't learning about the importance of voting and making sure they know what's going on with the running of our country.

I call on you, for the sake of the next generation, to please make sure Civics and Citizenship be enforced for students in years 9 and 10 at all schools in the state, to ensure the next generation has a strong sense of political literacy.

I hear you, Hugh Magnus.  Thank you very much for your email and for highlighting this to our parliament; I thank you for your contact.  I am confident all members of this House would like to see a much higher degree of the understanding of our political processes.