Tuesday 26 November
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Civics and Citizenship - Understanding Politics
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I move -
That the Legislative Council -
- Notes that civics and citizenship is a part of the national curriculum that measures students’ understanding of Australia’s historic and current governance systems and practices, as well as Australian identity and culture.
- Recognises that results from the 2016 National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship showed that only 30 per cent of Tasmanian year 10 students achieved a proficient standard.
- Recognises that civics and citizenship is a vital part of increasing understanding of politics and helps to equip young adults with necessary skills to have their say.
- Acknowledges that over 50 per cent of year 6 and year 10 students in the National Assessment Program sample believe that discussing politics is an important citizenship activity.
- Commends the important work of Tasmanian schools, the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, the House of Assembly Education Office and the broader community in delivering civics and citizenship education.
- Encourages all Tasmanians, including young people, to take an interest in civics and citizenship and engage with the Parliament.
During this elongated debate, I have made quite a lot of changes to what I was going to present. I hope I get it in perspective and correct for, particularly, our spectator, Hugh Magnus, who is in the Chamber today and the prompter of us, and subsequently me, to go down the line of a notice of motion to talk about civics and citizenship as part of the national curriculum. It is in all our interests to encourage better understanding of the political process and the great enthusiasm in our communities for participation and debate. To achieve that, it is necessary to start in schools, in making sure that civics and citizenship is part of the national curriculum.
The curriculum measures students' understanding of Australia's historic and current governance systems and practices, as well as Australian identity and culture. However, as this motion points out, results from the 2016 National Assessment Program showed only 30 per cent of Tasmanian year 10 students achieved a proficient standard.
Much needs to be done and that is why I have put forward this motion. In respect of paragraph (1), I would like to go to civics and citizenship in Australian schools. There is a long history of government investment in measures to improve understanding of civics and citizenship in Australia. The importance of civics and citizenship education in schools is recognised by all Australian governments, as demonstrated by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians in 2008.
The declaration includes that one of the primary goals of education is for all young Australians to become active and informed citizens who, among other things -
- have an understanding of Australia’s system of government
- are committed to national values of democracy, equity and justice, and participate in Australia’s civic life
The Melbourne declaration drove the inclusion of civics and citizenship as part of the Australian Curriculum. Initially, it was to be a learning area in its own right. However, following a review of the Australian curriculum in 2014, it was incorporated into humanities and social sciences.
Paragraph (2) - the 2016 results I mentioned were concerning, particularly for year 10 students. The then minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, stated the results were woeful and should be of serious concern. He pledged to take the issue to the COAG Education Council to develop a joint strategy for improving student performance. It is not evident if that has occurred. Year 6 students in Tasmania performed slightly below the national average. Year 10 students in Tasmania were among the lowest performers.
Paragraph (3) - there has been a large volume of academic research into civics and citizenship over the past few decades as successive governments have attempted to make improvements in this area. Recent research shows that the delivery of civic and citizenship education in Australian schools is failing to adequately prepare young people to participate in democracy. For example, in late 2017 researchers from Monash University spoke to recent school leavers aged 18 and 19 about their preparedness to participate in the Australian political process. The findings indicated that while young Australians are interested in politics, many do not have a good understanding of how the political system works and believe they did not learn enough in school to prepare them to vote. The students who participated in the study suggested that civics and citizenship education should be extended to year 12 so it is being provided closer to the voting age. It should be seen more as a life skill rather than an academic subject.
Other researchers argue that the Australian Curriculum is repeating the mistakes of the past when it comes to civic and citizenship education. The authors of a 2018 article called 'Civics and citizenship education: What have we learned and what does it mean for the future of Australian democracy?' contest that previous government initiatives have failed to develop active citizens. They cite the results from an annual Lowy Institute poll to demonstrate why levels of civic engagement in Australia are concerning. The latest poll, conducted in 2019, found that 65 per cent of respondents and 55 per cent of those in the 18 to 29 age group agreed that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government. The gap between older and younger Australians on importance of democracy is narrowing compared to previous polls. However, it is still concerning that 30 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds polled said that in some circumstances a non-democratic government can be preferable.
Australia is also facing decreasing voter turnout and an increase in informal voting. While the authors of the article support the introduction of a national civic and citizenship curriculum as a means of improving civic engagement among young people, they argue that the Australian Curriculum overlooks diverse citizenship cultures and fails to recognise student agency in the becoming an active citizen process. One of the primary suggestions for improving civics and citizenship education is to enable students to learn more through active participation in their own communities. This sentiment is shared by other critics of the Australian Curriculum civics and citizenship.
Commentators have also noted that teachers may not have the necessary knowledge and training to teach civics and citizenship due to a lack of experience from their own schooling. They emphasise the importance of ongoing professional development and support to deliver the curriculum appropriately.
Mr Valentine - Are you putting your hand up after May?
Mr FINCH - To do what?
Mr Valentine - To do civics and citizenship.
Mr FINCH - You think I might change my mind. I think I have a job to do, yes, you might be right. We will see what happens.
Paragraph (4) -
Acknowledges that over 50 per cent of the year 6 and year 10 students in the National Assessment Program sample believe that discussing politics is an important citizenship activity.
Since 2013, significant decreases in performances were observed for year 10 students in both metropolitan and provincial areas. At the national level in 2016, 38 per cent of year 10 students achieved at or above the proficient standard compared to 44 per cent in 2013 and 49 per cent in 2010.
The 2016 result for year 10 students was, in fact, the lowest on record. There was an increase in positive attitudes among students towards participation as active citizens, but approximately half of all students viewed discussing politics as an important citizenship behaviour - 55 per cent in year 6 and 51 per cent in year 10. These findings show a significant improvement for year 10 students when compared with the 2010 and 2013 results. However, discussing politics was ranked as the least important citizenship behaviour overall behind several others, such as taking part in activities to protect the environment and learning about Australia's history.
Voting in elections was viewed as very or quite important by 85 per cent of year 6 students and 84 per cent of year 10 students. Around half of all year 6 students and 41 per cent of year 10 students reported they had participated in excursions to parliaments, local governments or law courts. The percentage of year 10 students in Tasmania achieving at or above the proficient standard was statistically lower than in 2010, with 30 per cent of students achieving at or above the proficient standard in 2016 compared to 39 per cent in 2010. Female year 10 students in Tasmania have statistically significantly higher mean scores than male students.
Paragraph (5) - Tasmania follows the curriculum for civics and citizenship - that is, humanities and social sciences in prep to year 6 and civics and citizenship in years 7 and 8. Civics and citizenship as a standalone subject is optional after year 8. The Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. Jeremy Rockliff, indicated in the House of Assembly on the 4 June 2019, that there are no plans to make civics and citizenship compulsory for years 9 and 10 in Tasmanian schools. Some elements of civics and citizenship education may be covered in the compulsory history subject in year 10, for example, through the required study of human rights and the environment movement, which is an elective.
I might go on to point out the Tasmanian Electoral Commission provides education resources on civics and citizenship through the TEC Education Gateway as part of its legislated role to provide electoral awareness and education. The gateway contains collated information relevant to Tasmania and the goals of that project are to develop Tasmania-specific resources for teachers that will provide students with broad grounding in the principles of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen. Also, to facilitate opportunities for hands-on experience of democracy and instil long-term understanding and connection to the democratic process.
The House of Assembly Education Office coordinates school tours of Parliament House and outreach visits. In May 2019, I made a speech about respect of civics and citizenship education in Tasmania - I will refer to the notes I made during that speech because they were quite magnificent. What I meant to say was that the figures I was provided by the education officers were magnificent. I asked how many students had toured Parliament House over the past 12 months.
We had 1191 students visit on a sitting day to watch the debate and 3478 students visiting on a non-sitting day, either to tour or do the House of Assembly role-play. In total, almost 4700 students visited.
The figure does not include the Tasmanian Youth Parliament or students reached during the schools outreach program. That is a wealth of connection to younger people. Our education officers are to be congratulated.
Ms Forrest - The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians - CWP - gets young women into the parliament. That is another thing that is done.
Mr FINCH - Yes. There are opportunities. One hopes there are increasing opportunities for people to have that connection to parliament.
Ms Forrest - This year we had young women from Rosebery and Smithton. They came a long way to get here.
Mr FINCH - Yes. As I point out whenever I have guests here or invite people here, 'This is your Parliament. This is your House.' People should understand who we are, what we do, what this place represents and what it is all about. They should take some ownership of this glorious Parliament House in which we are privileged to work. They should see it as part of being a Tasmanian. This is their Parliament House.
I had a lot of material about what is going on in other states in civics and citizenship. I have already touched on what the minister for Education has said about that. I have covered most of the points I wanted to make except (6) -
Encourages all Tasmanians, including young people, to take an interest in civics and citizenship and engage with the Parliament.
That is what we should be doing and what we try to do. I am a promoter of conducting ourselves properly in this new world of being live-streamed. I hope young people want to get a taste of this parliament and see what is going on. When we are presenting, we should be presenting in a good, fulsome way that encourages young people to say, 'Crikey, what a good thing'.
Ms Forrest - They probably think, 'I can do a better job than him'.
Mr FINCH - You pointed at me when you said that.
Ms Forrest - No, that was in general.
Mr FINCH - 'I would like to have a go at that. I think I could do that'. We would like to encourage the feeling within young people that there may be an opportunity in their future to embrace what we do here in parliament in trying to influence the quality of our life and what is good about Tasmania -
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.
That is what I said in my special interest speech - we need to engage young people in our community, to get them at that very young age, to inspire them. They are unlikely to take the time to learn if they move through the system and they have scant understanding of what democracy and the system is all about. The important work is being done. I point out again: only 30 per cent of Tasmanian year 10 students achieved a proficient standard in previous tests. We need to do all we can to encourage our young Tasmanians to be interested in what we do. I would like members to support the motion. I believe as Tasmanians, we need to go further and need to take every opportunity to foster that interest in the political process. I am trusting members will support the motion.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I thank the member for Rosevears for bringing this motion on. It is an important issue and something we do not always give a lot of thought to. It has helped to focus the attention, also to acknowledge Hugh Magnus is in the Chamber - he encouraged the member for Rosevears to put this up for debate. It is such an important matter.
It is disturbing, as the member for Rosevears mentioned, that students in Tasmania do not do very well in terms of their studies in civics and citizenship, even though it is part of the national curriculum. We assume everyone hears and understands it, but it appears that is not the case. We all have an obligation, when we are out and about in our electorates, to take the opportunities that present themselves - as I am sure all of us do - to talk to young people and groups of students.
From my perspective, the first time I ever set foot in this place was as an elected member. I had never been to Parliament House. I had been to Canberra on a school trip, the old Parliament House back then. It was still the Parliament House. To me, this was a really completely foreign place. I had never even been here. To step into the place, coming through the front door as an elected member for the very first time, was a very rare occurrence.
Mr Willie - And daunting, probably.
Ms FORREST - Yes, it was a little bit and I hope it is a rare occurrence. The problem is for people from the north-west and west coast, it is a long, long way away. There are some people who have not been to Hobart. I will add, there are some people from Hobart who have not been to the west coast. For some of the young people up there, it is beyond the capacity of their families to bring them down here with travel costs, the transport, the time away and perhaps the greater desire to even visit Hobart. People from up my way are fearful of the traffic. If they had driven last evening, they would have been fearful of the traffic. It was dreadful going up the Brooker Highway. I do not know what was going on, but I heard it was pretty bad everywhere.
I can understand why people become a bit stressed about this, when you are not really sure where you are going and you have three or four lanes of traffic, it is pretty scary. They are little things that prevent direct access to this place for young people.
Speaking in broad terms, the member for Rosevears covered the detail of the motion. There are many things we can do to engage young people. Again, it is at times a small and usually a highly motivated group - those who engage with Youth Parliament, the young women who are selected to the Stepping Up program run through the CWP.
It is a big ask for some of the schools a long way from here. We do see them coming in. It is really great to see them, right from the little tots in grades 1 and 2 - which we have had - through to obviously the young people in years 11 and 12, and even university. Particularly in our more remote areas, which many of us represent, we need to be the people who go to them, to visit the schools and talk to the school children.
Whenever I go to Zeehan Primary School, I know I have to go through the minister's office and the minister always says yes. He is very good and I really appreciate it. Usually a text message is all I need to do, to let him know where I am going. At Zeehan Primary one day, a grade 4, 5 and 6 class was really interested in talking to me and asking what I did. I talked to them about that. These are the points of engagement we can have if we make the most of those opportunities. When I had coffee recently with a friend of mine with a little four‑year-old, who is not at school yet - she might be at kindergarten, but she was on a day off - she is the most hilarious little girl, she is beautiful, and she was asking me about what I did. I was telling her and I said, 'Would you like a business card?' She did. She wanted a business card. I gave her the business card and she thought it was just so beautiful, she took it home and put it in her jewellery box, her mother told me. She wants to do what I do when she grows up. I said, 'That is excellent. I am looking for a succession plan.'
Even those little touch points like that make us, as politicians, real people and make parliament and parliamentarians accessible. We all have a very important obligation in promoting civics and citizenship in that way and engagement with the parliament.
I do take on board the member for Rosevears' comments about how we behave in this place. I am sure you have all heard around the electorates that 'All we see is that carry-on in question time' - and that is the carry-on in the other place in question time, not here - and the same with the federal parliament. Unfortunately, it is the theatre of the parliament, and that is what the media report. If people just watch the news to get that, rather than tuning into a debate, that is what they will see. But I am personally staggered by the number of people who actually watch parliament now that we have the live feed. You get emails from people who have said, 'I didn't like what you said then' or 'I did like what you said there' or whatever. An amazing number of people tune in.
That helps take parliament to the people. If I am talking about a particular matter, about a school or something like that, I can let the school know and they can tune in at that time on a five‑minute speech or a special interest matter speech and that sort of thing. There are ways we can take the parliament to the people as well as bringing the people into the parliament. I encourage all of us to think about the ways we can do that and then to take each of those opportunities.
I highly commend our parliamentary educators. I know they are sitting in the back of the Chamber and that they put an enormous amount of effort into the conference held last week here for parliamentary educators right around the country. I know that was fabulous because I heard feedback from a number of the participants. Some of them I had met at the ASPG conference in Canberra and the CWP conference in South Australia just recently. They play such an important role. We are very lucky in this parliament to have the ones we have, in the enthusiasm and vigour with which the program is presented and the work they do behind the scenes to set these things up - like the Youth Parliament, like the Stepping Up event for young women and other events that occur. I commend them and thank them for their efforts in that. It is appreciated and it does not go unnoticed.
Mr President, I am encouraged by the response I get in talking to young people about civics and citizenship, and about parliament and engagement with the parliament. In my mind, this feeds a lot into the previous motion we just debated from the member for Elwick about youth unemployment and the need for a youth task force. It is very important to hear the voices of youth. I am actively seeking to engage with the already established youth organisations run by the councils in my electorate because that is another way of tapping into those young people, hearing their views, bringing their views to the parliament and perhaps facilitating an opportunity for them to participate in parliament in whatever way they can.
Many years ago, when the former member for Rumney, Lin Thorp, was the minister for Education, we tried for a long time to get funding allocated for a new gymnasium and an upgrade at Smithton High School. It had been built in 1962 and it had not changed since then. I would not have got undressed in the change rooms, I can tell you. They were freezing and horrible. Anyway, I met with the school executive council, the students. They put a very good case forward and I suggested they come down to parliament and meet the minister, so they did. I hosted them here. One of their teachers and the SEC coordinator came with them. They came down; I attended the meeting with the minister with them and we had a meal together in the Parliament Dining Room, and they stayed overnight. I think they went back the next day after having some tours around the parliament and watching some of the parliamentary proceedings. One or two years later, funding was put into the budget. I am not saying that always happens, but for them it showed this is how it can work - you can participate and engage. A wonderful young man. Connor Bramich who was one of the co-presidents in grade 10 at that time made the point to the minister and me earlier, that this would not benefit him, it would benefit the students following him and the broader community and that was why he was doing it. What a fantastic young man - and the other students all made similar comments along those lines.
If we can facilitate these ways of engaging with young people ourselves as parliamentarians, teaching them about civics and citizenship and parliamentary process and what we do, we will hopefully have a great line of people to take over our seats. That is what we need; we need people with new ideas, fresh ideas, to follow behind us and be ready to come up into those ranks at a later time.
I thank the member for Rosevears for bringing the motion forward and giving us this opportunity to speak about this really important matter.
Ms WEBB (Nelson) - Mr President, I start by stating my support and also thanking the member for Rosevears and his team for bringing forward a positive motion for us to discuss today.
The motion raises several significant points, but perhaps most importantly, it recognises the role the study of civics and citizenship plays in our society - a very positive role. Our curriculum should encompass a breadth of subjects that provide a really rich educational opportunity and accommodate a range of talents, interests and capabilities among children and young people in our schools.
While it is, of course, quite essentially important to focus on the three Rs, the curriculum should also include other areas that provide enrichment like arts, technology or indeed civics and citizenship. Placing civics and citizenship within the national curriculum is a real recognition of the benefits a full and rich education can provide, and it is capable of producing citizens who can participate fully in their community. As the motion states, providing civics education 'helps to equip young people with necessary skills to have their say'.
Civics has much more of a role to play than merely educating students on the parliamentary system or the mechanics on how to vote. On a broader scale, it helps us maintain a strong democracy. On an individual level, civics can also be a real spark for students to become engaged and passionate about politics and advocacy. I support the comments made by the member for Murchison on the need or value of having people develop a real interest and passion in pursuing politics, having a whole range of people from our community coming to public service and politics and the contribution that would make to the outcomes for our state if this were to happen.
Also, people engage in the political area not necessarily directly as politicians or would-be politicians, but as advocates, whether on issues areas or from the perspective of certain cohorts of the community, particular industries or all sorts of things. Advocacy and engagement in the political area are also important contributions to progressing public policy and progressing political discussion. Civics and citizenship competency and knowledge are things that can also equip people to be very effective in the area of advocacy. I see this as a real plus.
A programme like Youth Parliament is a real testament to what civics education and engagement can mean for our young people. My eldest daughter participated in Youth Parliament when she went through high school and found it to be a very valuable and enjoyable experience.
Ms Forrest - One of my sons did the same year as the Leader's son.
Ms WEBB - She was deputy premier, which I thought was quite impressive. I doubt she will go into politics but she did enjoy Youth Parliament. I was very happy, having already some exposure to Youth Parliament, to be involved this year as a newly minted member of this Chamber and to participate in Youth Parliament and observe the depth of engagement among the young people participating. There was real passion and verve when debating issues of importance, not issues of frivolity or issues relevant only to children. They participated in thoughtful debate about meaningful issues.
One aspect of Youth Parliament that impressed me was the range of students from a variety of schools. Many regions of the state were represented. Students came from a whole range of backgrounds. We should always to be improving our schools and the educational opportunities of our children. We have touched on this today. I am a passionate advocate for a strong public school system and I am grateful for the clause in this motion that recognises the role schools play in civics education. It was informative to read in the motion about the National Assessment Program and some of the results from that. They tell us that the majority of year 6 and year 10 students in Tasmania believe in the importance of discussing politics. With two students in my own household in year 5 and year 6, it is a compulsory subject in my household. They do not get to escape it so they will be contributing to that statistic.
Mr Willie - From memory at school they would be learning about Federation.
Ms WEBB - All kinds of things. One of my proudest moments was when my second daughter was in year 5 last year. We were heading off to vote in an election that occurred early last year. As we were heading towards the voting station she said to me, 'Now we are going to see a Robson Rotation on these ballot papers'. I just about fainted with pride. It is brilliant that students at that age are engaged and learning about the mechanics of politics, learning about the history of Federation and our system of government. I have experienced discussions with friends and associates who were never given the opportunity to learn about our system of government or the basis of our voting system. I have had to give a voting 101 lesson to many adults in my life. I do not tell them how to vote; I just talk them through the structure of our parliamentary system and the mechanics of how our voting system works. You are behind the eight ball if you get to adulthood and you have not had a chance to learn that. I support the idea that we make sure all children coming through our schooling system have the chance to learn that.
I noted in the National Assessment Program that concerning statistic from the 2016 assessment. I think the member for Rosevears referenced in the motion that only 30 per cent of Tasmanian year 10 students appear to have proficient standards in civics. That is a shame. There is a lot of opportunity for us to be doing better in that area. I wonder whether there has been some improvements or investment since 2016 at a federal or state level that would help to shift that figure. I think the same survey is conducted at intervals. Perhaps a more updated statistic will give us better news.
In closing, I wish to express my support for the motion and thank the member for Rosevears for providing us with an opportunity to discuss it today.
Mrs HISCUTT (Montgomery - Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council) - Mr President, first I acknowledge Hugh Magnus from Woodbridge School in the President's Reserve. I have received emails from Hugh before about civics and citizenship education, so it is good to see him here. I also thank the member for Rosevears for taking the opportunity for bringing this on and for Hugh to be able to be here to hear this -
Civics and citizenship education promotes students' participation in Australia's democracy by equipping them with the knowledge, skills, values and dispositions of active and informed citizenship. It entails knowledge and understanding of Australia's democratic heritage and traditions, its political and legal institutions and the shared values of freedom, tolerance, respect, responsibility and inclusion.
That is from Education Services Australia.
Civics and citizenship education is underpinned by Australian history and the history of other societies that have influenced that historical tradition. Civics and citizenship education also supports the development of skills, values and attitudes necessary for effective, informed and reflective participation in Australia's democracy.
Civics and citizenship is a subject within the Australian Curriculum learning area of Humanities and Social Sciences - HASS - for all students in years 3 to 8, and is an optional offering in years 9 and 10, as it is in other states and territories.
It is an expectation that all schools implement the civics and citizenship curriculum as a component of the Australian Curriculum version 8, Humanities and Social Sciences, as outlined by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Schools may adopt flexible approaches to curriculum implementation to suit their context and needs. This includes how civics and citizenship is offered in each school context.
Civics and citizenship was endorsed by ministers as a subject in September 2015. Schools may choose to teach civics and citizenship as a standalone subject in years 7 and 8, or equally they may choose to embed it within an integrated approach to learning. There is no requirement for it to be taught as a discrete subject. Schools use the Australian Curriculum learning areas and subjects to inform elective options offered in years 9 and 10. Schools may report on students' achievements in civics and citizenships as a discrete subject or as part of an overall report of HASS.
It is important to note that the introduction of the Australian Curriculum has been phased in and schools are continuing to work through the implementation of learning areas and adjust aspects such as timetabling to be able to accommodate all aspects of an expanded curriculum and the needs of their school communities. It requires time for the provision of professional learning for teachers and the development of teaching resources to ensure the provision of high-quality programs across all aspects of the Australian Curriculum.
The National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship - NAP-CC - assesses a representative sample of Australian year 6 and year 10 students in civics and citizenship every three years. In 2016, Tasmania's year 6 results were comparable with other Australian states. Year 6 results have remained stable for Tasmania and Australia, with results in 2016 comparable with results in all assessments since 2004.
A survey measured students' perceptions of citizenship and their attitudes towards civic-related issues and civic engagement. Survey results were reported nationally, but not by jurisdiction. The survey found in increase in already high levels of positive attitudes towards participation as active citizens, with students in 2016 tending to have higher levels of interest in civic issues, greater belief in the value of civic action and stronger expectations to engage in civic attitudes in the future, particularly when compared to 2010.
How is the department supporting the teaching of civics and citizenship? The department, through Curriculum Services, is currently working on additional teaching and learning materials to support the teaching of civics and citizenship, including blended learning resources designed to support equitable coverage of the Australian Curriculum across different school contexts.
There are also many existing resources to support teaching key concepts within civics and citizenships produced by the Australian Government for all schools. Professional learning is to be offered to all Department of Education schools in terms 3 and 4 in 2019, to support the teaching and assessment of all area of the humanities.
I notice our parliamentary educators here in the room. I would like to touch on Youth Parliament; I have been part of a mock parliament set up and I must admit I did enjoy that. The children involved enjoyed it also.
I congratulate the organisers of Youth Parliament. It is an important program organised by young Tasmanians for young Tasmanians in conjunction with the Young Men's Christian Association, the Tasmanian Government and parliamentary staff. We thank you all for your efforts in this important work you do.
The organisers of Youth Parliament are a not-for-profit group of volunteers under the age of 25, called the Tasmanian Youth Government Association Taskforce. Their primary aim is to educate young people about our system of government in an enjoyable, challenging and interactive way. Many of them have personal insights, having been youth parliamentarians themselves.
This initiative program has a proven track record of educating, engaging and empowering young Tasmanians. Our Government is pleased to support this initiative and continues to provide funding to support Youth Parliament in 2020. One of the most exciting elements of the program is seeing students evolve and grow over the week.
The Government certainly supports the motion.
While I have the Floor, I flag to members that we might have a dinner break between 6.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. for our scheduled function and resume at 7 o'clock to facilitate the remainder of private members' business.
Mr WILLIE (Elwick) - Mr President, I could not let a debate on education go past me, even though I was a bit preoccupied with preparing another notice of motion. I thank the member for Rosevears for bringing this motion on and also his interest. He has brought this to the parliament through several formats, including a special interest speech, and it is great that Hugh is also here. He is obviously engaged on the matter and it is great he has a voice here on the Floor. Collaboratively, it is a good thing.
I will offer a reasonably brief contribution unless I get sidetracked.
Point (1) -
Notes that civics and citizenship is a part of the national curriculum that measures students' understanding of Australia's historic and current governance systems and practices, as well as Australian identity and culture.
The important point here is that to measure something, you need to teach it. I am not so sure that is happening to the extent it could in all classrooms. You mentioned some teachers might not feel confident to teach civics and citizenship. I do not know whether more work can be done around professional learning. I have been invited back to schools since I was elected. I really enjoyed talking to them about civics and citizenship. If we are measuring it, and we have talked about it in this place during the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy debate, but formative assessment as an assessment for teaching is a really effective tool to then measure progress. You see where the students are and then some of the summative things can happen towards the end of a learning program.
Mr Finch - The Leader suggested there was a thrust by the Department of Education to provide resources and professional development for the teaching staff.
Mr WILLIE - Yes. The Professional Learning Institute does a good job, but with 195 schools it is hard to get across every classroom. A quality civics and citizenship program is recognised as being an effective source in understanding and engaging effectively in politics. Civics and citizenship provide opportunities for young Australians to consider: Where did I come from? What does it mean to be Australian? How can I as an Australian use my voice and make a difference to my community?
The curriculum is designed to act as an enabling tool for young people to gain knowledge and confidence to understand and value Australian democracy and to encourage community engagement and contribution. Unlike the member for Murchison, I was fortunate to visit parliament many times as a schoolteacher, before I was elected. I used to thoroughly enjoy organising excursions to parliament for education. The parliamentary staff were always excellent, working with schools, building understanding, building capacity in our young people.
I also used to take them to Town Hall and the Council Chambers as part of that excursion, which was always a good way to talk about the different levels of government. In the broader population, many people do not understand the three tiers of government and their different roles and responsibilities. Young people can participate in a whole lot of other civic engagements in schools. I used to teach the Student Representative Council and loved doing that with a whole range of grades. Kids would give up their lunchtimes and we would discuss different projects we could get involved in within the community or building cultural things within the school or events. It was a really good process to go through with the kids. We did all sorts of wonderful things. We raised money for Guide Dogs Tasmania and had Dexter the guide dog visit. We engaged with a whole range of different community initiatives. This was a really good outlet for young people.
Paragraph (2) recognises the results from the 2016 National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship that showed only 30 per cent of Tasmanian year 10 students achieved a proficient standard. That is worrying. All Australians should feel empowered and understand the government systems and practices that exist to serve their best interests. Yet as point (2) highlights, the 2016 National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship showed less than 50 per cent of year 10 students across the country were proficient - it is worrying, but I am also not surprised.
We have all sorts of engagements with adults who would not be proficient and all sorts of conversations that reveal those -
Mr Finch - Shortcomings.
Mr WILLIE - Yes, shortcomings; thank you. If we want to gain the best for our students, and indeed the best future for our state, we need to reflect seriously on these results. Tasmania is home to almost 113 000 children and young people, about one-fifth of our population. As the future of our state, young people should understand the systems of government and democracy, and the education system should be better at preparing young people to engage.
Some other members have talked about engagement. It can take many forms - reflecting on the digital world in which we live, my discussions with young people have highlighted to me that the traditional methods of civic engagement are changing and young people are at the forefront of this change.
In place of writing a letter, or phoning through to Mornings on ABC, it is more common to see status updates and online awareness campaigns. As other members who have a social media presence would know, and will probably agree with me, much of the contact through my online page comes from students and young people, whether posting publicly or direct messaging about different issues and their thoughts. I welcome and try to respond in a timely manner and engage with young people in our important role, not only as parliamentarians, but in educating the populace and being ambassadors for the Westminster system we are fortunate enough to be custodians of.
In particular, the Tasmanian Parliament website has been identified as an obvious outlet for civic engagement, but in its current format, it is irrelevant to young people. In today's digital world it makes sense that we develop the Parliament of Tasmania website to allow for an informative and inspiring resource to activate the young people of our state and help them build an understanding of government systems. On this, Mr President, as you know, because I have included you in the correspondence, I was fortunate enough to attend a Commissioner for Children and Young People forum a couple of years ago, I think now, with Mr Jaensch. We engaged with the ambassadors at the time - I think there were nearly 50 of them - and had a broad discussion about all sorts of issues. One of the things they raised with Mr Jaensch and me was access to parliamentarians, wanting to learn more, and also the parliamentary website.
I took that away and wanted to provide the young people with a tangible outcome. I wrote to the Speaker in the other place, saying that this had happened and this was something I was interested in, and whether she could help me lobby for an allocation of funds to develop the website. Unfortunately, we were not successful in the last budget period, but it is not something I am letting go. I have already written to the Speaker and the Treasurer this year, hoping they will consider that. I think it could be a wonderful resource that could be accessed by young people. It could be a great teaching resource in schools.
It is not only unfriendly to young people at the moment, it is not very friendly for users who are of adult age or parliamentarians. It is quite antiquated in the way it operates and how we access information on it. It is well overdue to do that. If we could have a focus for young people, that would be a great outcome. I thank the young people for raising that with me at that forum.
There are plenty of examples of great state parliament websites or just parliamentary websites. The Victorian Parliament, for example, has a user-friendly education zone with activities that progress through the ages of learning. Then, as the most recent commissioner for children pointed out to me, the New Zealand parliamentary website is outstanding. It is called 'Our House is your house'. You can visit that and learn through sections targeted towards students and teachers. That is the sort of resource we should be fighting for here, to develop understanding in the community. Young people will engage through those digital platforms if we make them available. Currently it is not available.
On point (3), we know that young people - I will not read it out, it will get boring - hold strong and passionate views about our country, as reflected in such issues as marriage equality and the climate school strikes. Youth enrolment is at an all-time high, with an estimated 88.8 per cent of eligible 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled to vote at this year's federal election. Other members might correct me if I am wrong, but I think the plebiscite on marriage equality meant that many young people enrolled to vote so that they could have a say in that plebiscite. That resulted in more voters being enrolled at the subsequent federal election.
As we all know, you cannot vote with certainty for a particular person or party without understanding the workings of the government system. During the most recent federal election I stood at my old primary school from about 6.00 a.m. - that is Glenorchy Primary School - until the close of the booth, shadowing our federal member, the member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie. We had some great banter all day about who people should vote for.
Mr Dean - You obviously did not do too well.
Mr WILLIE - No, actually, at the end of the day I heard him on the phone saying 'Last time I was on this booth I had a free hit. Josh Willie has been shadowing me all day and I think my vote is going to go down'. It went down 10 per cent, so I take that as a win.
Through the course of that day I had many conversations with people who demonstrated apathy but might have wanted to understand more. However, they did not understand the system or which party stood for what. They were making their choice as they were walking into the booth, which is their right to do. I think that level of engagement is concerning. As parliamentarians we should be trying to address that. I know we do not help ourselves sometimes with the games that go on, not so much in this place but maybe the other place and outside this building. It was a deeply concerning day for me, not because Labor lost the federal election but the conversations I had about how many people were not sure of who they were going to vote for or why and were making s split-second decision. The difficulty today is connecting the line between the importance of citizenship activity and the politics relating to that issue, teaching young people about the current political environment and the implication of policies. In previous generations the actions and outcomes of government were probably easier to define. An example of that is decisions to join wars.
In Victoria the government is working to improve understanding. On advice from the government's own student representative council, Education minister James Merlino has instructed an overhaul of the civics and citizenship curriculum, so there is a tangible outcome for young people. I met James recently and he was very generous with his time. He is quite a charismatic person and a well-respected education minister in Victoria. I have spent time in schools and people spoke very highly of him and his level of engagement and knowledge of upskilling, although not coming from an education background. Students there have identified particular needs and will help to create new course materials, including proposed digital and video resources. These would be great on our website. Unfortunately that is lacking. Reflecting the digital age the student council referenced online sources in determining what exactly should be taught as part of the civics and citizenship curriculum.
I will move to point (4). While the National Assessment Program reflected a general lack of understanding of Australia's democratic process, this does not reflect the interest on the importance of politics. The member for Nelson was buoyed by this. I am too. The report also showed that young people believed discussing politics is an important activity. A young person's view matters. We should be putting their ideas at the centre of decision-making processes on issues that affect them, whether it be in the parliament, their local community or their school. Since coming into parliament, I have made it a priority to stay connected with young people, to actively seek out opportunities to engage, to listen and offer advice when asked. It sounds simple, but helping a young person engage in a discussion can start with just one question on an issue relatable to that person. What are the things that impact their everyday lives? It has been a privilege in this role to engage with young people at the beginning of their engagement. A former student came to me the other day with concerns about the rodeo at the Showground. We wrote to the minister together. It is a privilege to facilitate conversations, support young people in voicing their views and seeking information. The letter we wrote was not political, it was about seeking information from the minster and entering into a discussion. It is great that a young person wanted to do that.
I will move to the next point, which is commencing the important work of Tasmanian schools, the Tasmanian Electoral Commission and the House of Assembly Education Office in the broader community in delivering civics and citizenship education. Today, there are certainly many outlets for young people of Tasmania to participate and engage actively in civics-related activities. In schools, there are more opportunities today for student involvement and some schools can make a priority of this. For example, in my electorate New Town High School has a strong focus on civics and citizenship and in preparing students to be active community leaders with opportunities to actively participate in civics action.
As members may recall, I hosted representatives of New Town High School Student Council to parliament earlier this year.
Mr Dean - It is a brilliant school.
Mr WILLIE - You would be on the honour board, member for Windermere.
Mr Valentine - Scratched on the back of it.
Mr WILLIE - Those students were responsible for identifying community courses for students' civic engagement as well as key student topics of focus for the year. I was really pleased they chose a topic that involved learning more about civics and the workings of government systems, hence their visit here. Outside schools, the traditional civics and citizenship opportunities still remain, and many members would have local Rotarian groups, and Lions Clubs indeed, reflecting on interesting aspects of community engagement.
My local Lions Club, the Glenorchy City Lions, has once again established the Leo Club, made up of members between the ages of 12 and 30 years old. If you going to get involved in an organisation at that young age, this is a really good thing for your own personal growth, to get into the communities see what is happening and contribute. I am always very impressed with young people who have that mindset because it is quite worldly and well-rounded at such a young age.
Local government is also providing civics and citizenship education, such as in the Glenorchy Youth Task Force, whose members have also visited this House. There is a bit of a theme here - being a former teacher, I enjoy hosting younger generations here and teaching them about the parliament, and leading community engagement for the northern suburbs of Hobart. Members are enthusiastic about giving back to the community and have a real confidence in discussing their political views and ideas for the future of our state. When you talk to young people, they have a lot of really important views. I can understand their frustration sometimes that parliament is not discussing the important issues they want to discuss.
Other members have thanked our education officers here and commended them on their work; they are very enthusiastic and passionate and do a marvellous job presenting the history of Tasmanians' parliament and how democracy functions in Tasmania. Through their resources, they are highly informative, entertaining and create real interest for young Tasmanians and citizens of all ages.
I take this opportunity to pass on my thanks to Kimbra McCormack and her staff for organising parliament visits - 100 per cent of the time my office receives positive feedback and a genuine desire for people to come back again and learn more. That in itself is great feedback for Kimbra and the staff at parliament that what they are doing is making a difference.
Youth Parliament is one of my favourite parts of the year, where members are invited to participate in the debates. I always take that opportunity up; it is a great experience for young people - and how brave of them at that age. When I was a young teenager, I probably would never have seen myself standing in this place or being able to participate in lively public debates like those kids do. Great leadership is shown in those debates. I think some of them will probably end up here at some stage.
I will move on to point (6) to try to wrap this up.
Societies as a whole are generally more interested and active in expressing their values with young people, particularly giving them the right to be heard. As we have seen at recent elections, young people are becoming more issues-based rather than aligning with political parties, and that is a real challenge to the major parties. At the same time, I think it is also a lack of understanding of the party system and collective decision-making, and the roles of opposition and government.
I often get people asking why Labor Party policies have not been implemented. They do not understand that you need a majority in the lower House to be able to implement a lot of policies. They do not understand the principles of collective decision-making and that you do have a voice in that Party Room. Those discussions can be very robust at times, as we know.
It is a real challenge for the major parties that young people are becoming more issues‑based and becoming engaged around those issues, but not necessarily engaging with broader political movements. It is something I encourage. Any engagement is good. It is good that young people are passionate and aspiring to a better and fairer future. We need to make sure we are encouraging that in an inclusive way for young people to engage with the Tasmanian Parliament.
That is my contribution. I feel a bit rushed, member for Rosevears. I have been a bit preoccupied within another motion, but I am happy to contribute those offerings. Thank you for bringing this motion on. No doubt you will continue to engage with the parliament on this issue for half of next year.
Mr DEAN (Windermere) - Mr President, I will be quite brief on this. I thank the member for Rosevears for bringing this forward as well. It is very topical out there and a lot of people talk about civics, citizenship and politics. It is good to bring it in to have the matter debated.
I suppose politics is not a subject that appeals to all, but then not too many school subjects appeal to all students in any event, of all the other subjects. There should be an opportunity for this to be a part of the curriculum, and I understand it is, from what the Leader was saying, and from what I know as well. It would be interesting to know the number of schools that take it up and provide this course and how long it is provided for as well. Maybe I will put that question on notice if I cannot get the answer to it, to see how much it is being considered.
I have been involved in politics for quite some time - in local government and in a state position. It is interesting. We talk about young people. A lot of young people know very little about it. A lot of older people know very little or even less about politics, civics and citizenship.
I went to a function here recently run by an official body. I will not mention the body because I do not want to embarrass anybody. On my nameplate - and the nameplates were done very well, I might add - they had 'MLC', and underneath that, it had 'Member of local council'. I have been out of council for about 10 years, or something like that. I took it; I souvenired it. I have it at home. I said to my wife, who was with me at the time, 'I am going to souvenir that'. It is great.
People remember me - I can go down the street now, not as a politician, not as being involved in local government, but they remember me as a copper. That is what I get all the time. If I am walking around, even down here, it is, 'You used to be a copper'. I do not get anything about being in state parliament or politics or anything else at all. I do not even get from many that I was a previous mayor - none of that. It is, 'You were a copper'. If you want to get a bit of a profile and be known you need to be a police officer. That is the story.
I have three sons. Two of them were able to find their professions here in Tasmania following their schooling and university. The third one was not able to find a job in his profession in this state and he had to go to the mainland, where he has been ever since. His job has taken him around the world and goodness knows what else. As he keeps saying, he has always wanted to come back to Tasmania, but sadly and unfortunately, he will never be able to come back to Tasmania in the job he has. There is not a job here in that line, unless he moves out of the Royal Australian Air Force and into private enterprise, which they are always targeted to do in the area of aircraft. He is currently a chief engineer and responsible for the Joint Strike Fighter pilots - keeping the F35s in the air. He loves his profession. I can talk to him about politics because he also has the gift of the gab. I thought he might come back into politics here, and his comment was - 'Dad, they would need to double the salary - number one - and I need a life.' '
His current job was in Afghanistan, but back in Australia, unless there is an emergency or something happening, he knows when and where he is working. He can play his golf and do all those other things he wants to do. As a politician, you cannot do that or it makes it hard for you to do those things. It is interesting how some people see these things.
If you talk to young people today about the subject, they are so interested in technology. Technology has taken a lot of students, young people, away from other areas and subjects. Almost everyone you encounter on the street has a mobile phone to their ear or has their ears plugged up with other stuff, listening to something on some device they are carrying. It is unbelievable. You can imagine the air traffic there is with all of this technology, and those who do not have an interest in technology, have an interest in sport, unfortunately not in civics and citizenship and politics. That is the way of young people and the way they see things.
I was involved in Youth Parliament this year for the very first time and thoroughly enjoyed it - it was great, and it was good to have some input into it. The member for Mersey was also involved and has been for a number of years. It was great to be there with these young people. I am not sure how they are selected or whether they volunteer to join. I imagine plenty of students want to be a part of that process. They are absolutely enthusiastic and every time a point came up every hand would go up and somebody wanted to ask a question.
Mr Valentine - Depending on the answer they would say, 'Shame, shame!'
Mr DEAN - Yes. There was no doubt they did a very good job and it was really great to be part of and give something back to them. At the end, most of us had an opportunity to talk to them about politics and they listened intently.
Mr Gaffney - It is interesting where they call out 'Shame' and it must be from year to year when new students come along, and they have heard it the year before. I have never heard that in this parliament, maybe they have heard it in the House of Lords, but every year you hear, 'Shame, shame!'
Mr DEAN - They have to pick it up from somewhere. I am not sure whether it is in the federal arena. I have not heard it much in the federal area either so I am not sure where it comes from.
Mr Gaffney - Unless it is from Westminster. It is interesting.
Mr DEAN - Yes. For a while I had to pick out what they were saying. It was not 'Order, order'; it was 'Shame, shame!'
Mr Willie - It might come from the political party conferences.
Mr DEAN - Since that day, I have had a number of the students contact me to talk about different issues and things maybe they should be doing to get themselves established in the area we are talking about. We have some great young people out there. Tasmania is in good hands in the future provided we can keep them. Many of them return to Tasmania and pass on what they have learned on the mainland or overseas. Part of them moving forward is getting experience outside Tasmania. That is critical. I will be supporting the motion.
Mr VALENTINE (Hobart) - Mr President, I thank the member for Rosevears for bringing the motion forward. I have said before in this place that in my first year of high school, I hated French. I got 65 per cent; I passed. I pleaded with my parents not to make me do French because I thought I could do other things that might be more valuable. The only thing that was on offer was citizenship. Look where my path in life led.
I can remember visiting the Clarence City Council, but I cannot remember visiting this place. I am not sure they did that job that well. I think that is where they put all the people who really did not care. Clearly it is an important role we play. The lower House is a House of representatives, we sit here in judgment on legislation that affects the whole state. It is a real privilege to be able to do that. A lot of people do not understand what the role of the Houses are.
I do not know whether you get the queries I get. You have to explain to people it is the House of review. It is there to make sure that legislation is good and does not have unintended consequences. If it comes to us with a framework, you cannot move outside that framework. You might attempt to change or amend it within the framework of the bill, but you cannot decide that something is worth putting in place and put up an amendment that is totally left field. It is not like that.
Unfortunately people do not understand the way the Houses are set up and how they operate. When I was campaigning for this position, I had to pick something up from someone. The person was their mid-60s, maybe 70. They said, 'What are you doing these days?' I said, 'I am standing for the Legislative Council'. They said, 'The Legislative Council, that would be mayor such and such'. I said, 'No, no, it is not local government, it is state government'. 'State government', this person says, 'So that is with Kevin Rudd and company'. I said, 'No, this is the state government, that is the federal government'. This person had absolutely no idea.
Maybe they had never ever had the opportunity to sit down with somebody and have them explain it to them. There are people out there who do not understand, not just this system, but also local and federal government. They do not see how it all fits together. It is essential we try to improve that in our community. When our parliamentary education officers come through with a band of young people behind them, you hear them sitting patiently explaining what happens. I come upstairs, I see them all in the Chamber. Someone is sitting in your chair, Mr President. They are getting a feel for how the Chamber works - the education officers do a fantastic job. We do not want to embarrass them too much; they are already embarrassed enough. The parliamentary education officers are of amazing value. So many children are getting that opportunity, whether they be primary or secondary schoolkids who are coming through or whether they be adults from TasTAFE - all sorts of people come through this place and they get the opportunity to see how the Chamber works.
Mr Dean - That is interesting. As I understand it - and we spent a couple of weeks in the federal parliament recently - each school over there, and I am not sure how wide it is, is funded by the federal government to bring the schoolkids to Parliament House.
Mr VALENTINE - Okay.
Mr Dean - It is something I need to follow up to see how much is involved in that. They get special funding to take their students to Parliament House.
Mr VALENTINE - I have been to federal parliament a few times in different roles and you do see many schools going through - probably no different to this, maybe the volume is a lot more. Taking kids into that federal parliament is just amazing. It is quite amazing here, too, because they look in awe of it, but I think there is a distance between the general citizen and these Chambers and that is what needs to be broken down. As other members have alluded to, we need people to feel comfortable about this place and what its purpose is in the community. They need to feel a sense of ownership because that is what it is: the people's place, as you have pointed out, member for Rosevears.
Whatever we can do to encourage students to consider how they could be involved, I think is worthwhile. Youth Parliament has been mentioned and I have been involved in that a few times. I have to say it is fascinating listening to young people come forward with their ideas and debate - and they do it with such passion. I love it sitting in as the presiding officer, Mr President, just listening to young people espousing their ideas and thoughts on things, even if it is through that interjection of 'Shame, shame!', although I really do not know where that comes from. They get passionately involved and it is a real introduction for them to the political system.
Someone mentioned that we have cameras now and parliamentary proceedings are online; they are there for people to listen to in the comfort of their own lounge rooms or at their office desks - I hope the televised proceedings do not put them off their work.
It is important it starts with young people. There is also that issue with teaching - through conversation, teachers have such a lot to fit into their day when it comes to delivering curriculum. You get all sorts of aspects. How it happens is the important thing and how you get quality information in a short period of time, given the workload that teachers have. Our education officers give a thorough rundown as to how this space works. Is there a necessity for much of that information to be imparted before they come here? We might have to balance that up a bit because they are getting such good information here and they are captured in the moment.
Mr Dean - As somebody else mentioned, having the teachers within the schools able to deliver the subjects is an issue. I am not quite sure how much a teacher would learn about civics, citizenship and politics going through university. I do not think there is too much on it.
Mr VALENTINE - There might not be, but they can do it in subtle ways, such as they have to elect house captains, they have to elect sports leaders and these sorts of things. Maybe elements of the political system can be brought into this and explained as they are going through that process - 'This is what happens in state parliament' and - 'This is how we are going to deal with this today'. Do you know what I am trying to say?
I know time is short. I fully support the motion and think whatever we can do to reduce the distance people feel from this place - young people must think, 'I will never make that' and 'I would never get there'. We need them to understand they can. That is the important thing.
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I, too, thank the member for Rosevears for bringing this motion forward. We all know how little is known of the Legislative Council. I think many times the word 'council' throws people out. When I have been out in the streets - and I try to go out when it is not election time and just talk to people - they say, 'Yes, you are on Launceston Council'. Obviously, the word 'Launceston' and word 'council' - the legislative part is missed out. It is confusing for people. Particularly if the parents do not know, obviously, it makes it hard for the students. Sometimes, the students can teach the parents.
I have taken to going to schools kitted up with a couple of little books. The Clerk might remember the little books we had - those little glossy Legislative Council books. They are quite old, so I have done my own version and updated it a little bit, and gone to grade 5 and 6 classes and spoken to them about the Legislative Council. The questions they ask are really quite interesting. They are interested.
Only two weeks ago, when I was doing McHappy Day at McDonalds at South Launceston, one of the young girls from McDonalds said, 'Yes, I remember you - you came to my class and talked about the Legislative Council' when she was at Summerdale Primary School. It was really interesting they had paid some attention, because it was a couple of years since I had been to Summerdale, but she had remembered I was on the Legislative Council and had spoken to the class. It is important whether it be primary school or senior school - they certainly learn.
Often, as you say, we see young people come through this place. They come from a variety of different schools. They are always interested. You have a chat with them outside and they are excited. I do not know whether it might be possible, Mr President, to actually put something together for them again, because when we had several classes here from Youngtown Primary recently, I put together an updated version of my leaflets for them so when they went back to their classrooms, they actually had something to discuss and go through in their lessons.
I did do an updated list of who all the members were, where they were from, what the upper House was about, how it started, the bicameral system - pretty much along the lines of the outdated booklet we had. It is really useful to give to the students. It was only probably four pages double‑sided but we printed it for them. At least when they go back to school after having been here - I know they get bookmarks and some things - it is something they can actually take back to their lessons and continue with.
It might be something worth considering - and it does not have to be expensive. The ones we did were simply a little bit of colour and a few sheets to give them information to continue with. I certainly appreciate the member for Rosevears raising it, because it is really important they understand what we do. Many people think there is only a House of parliament and when something goes through the lower House - and how often have you seen it in the local newspaper, when it says 'a bill has passed'. We think, 'No, it has not; it has not been to us yet', but it has been through the lower House and people assumed it has become law. So many people forget the relevance and importance of the upper House. They should be learning about politics totally, and I take note of the member for Windermere about the fact the federal parliament provided funding to -
Mr Dean - I understand they do, to schools, for them to visit.
Ms ARMITAGE - There is a fair cost to it when you consider families having to find the funding for students to come down. Often they do not just come down for one day. They might come down for a couple of days and try to incorporate other areas. There is accommodation, bus fares - it is quite a cost. Some people might not think it is very much. For a family with two or three children and all the other costs associated with families, it certainly is. It is worth considering. The Leader might like to discuss with her party whether there is some way to make it easier for schools to bring their classes down. Year 5 and year 6 classes, not just the senior schools.
I have only gone to year 5 and year 6 classes when I have spoken to primary schools. The children at that age are really interested. I am not sure whether you would gain the same interest going to the high schools, but the year 5 and 6 classes are really delighted.
Mrs Hiscutt - Through you, Mr President, parliamentary educators do take parliament to the schools and set up mock parliaments in their schools. That is a way of getting to places that are not so close to Hobart.
Ms ARMITAGE - It is, but it is more exciting for them to come down to the -
Mrs Hiscutt - Yes, but they do the education programs. But yes, I can see that it is very exciting.
Ms ARMITAGE - I understand that, but it is just like being at school. Everyone likes to get an excursion, to get out and come to somewhere like this. We take it for granted. For many other people coming down here it is a real experience, particularly children. Some of the teachers and aides who come with them are just as excited as the children. I support the motion. I think it is a very good motion. I certainly hope it goes somewhere. Would you like me to adjourn?
Mrs Hiscutt - No.
Mr GAFFNEY (Mersey) - Mr President, I will only speak for a couple of minutes on this motion because it has been very well covered by everybody. Well done to the member for Rosevears for bringing it forward.
As far as I am aware, if students from this state go to Canberra to visit federal parliament, they get an allocation of about $150 if they visit three or four different sites. Students from Latrobe Primary School went last year. Every two years they take year 5 and 6 students across. They get some funding. That does not happen at the state level.
Every year, when students come here for the voluntary Youth Parliament, I always give $50 to every student to help them out financially. They travel. That is probably a good thing to do. They are really receptive. Sometimes it all depends on school staff to get the students organised. If a staff member is really involved, they will ask students to be involved. If you do not have a staff member who is into it, the students do not get that information.
Student readiness is a real issue in civics and citizenship. Some students are ready to have that conversation in years 5 and 6. Some are not ready to have a conversation about it until they get to years 9 or 10. The overcrowded curriculum is important. I send a letter out at the beginning of every year to every principal saying I am happy to speak about local government, local councils and state government. Of the 19 or 20 schools I will probably get two responses a year. They are always pleased when we do it but it is a matter of fitting it in the curriculum. I had a year in the United States as an exchange student. The school's leadership, civics and citizenship was a course all students in year 11 had to do.
In year 9, you had to do US geography; in year 10, you had to do US history; and in year 11, you had to do civics and citizenship. It was part of their graduation exercise. I found that a good way of working. Here we tend to start targeting students to get into career paths early on in our system. I am not quite sure that is a wise thing to do, but that is how it works.
We have some really good modules associated with parliament. When I go into the primary schools and high schools, there are several modules available for schools to access which talk about the design of parliament and how it works. I chuckled and you would appreciate the humour behind this I am sure, when they said, 'A student would sit in your chair and feel comfortable in it'. I actually had four primary school students sitting there one day and they all felt comfortable all at once. They thought that was quite good so they did have a bit of a chuckle. I said, 'Be careful, do not make too much noise or the President will walk in and you will be in trouble.'
As far as the shame, shame thing, I think it came from when I was downstairs one day and I said - 'Unfortunately, the member for Rosevears, Mr Finch, will not be able to be in the Chamber today to help out', and they all went 'Shame, shame!'
Civic and citizenship - the main pressure is on staff and with all the other tests or activities they are required to do and all the other KPIs, it becomes a little bit hard at times and that is not taking away that we should not have it. It should be done in a way they can do it properly and spend time on it. It is like any subject - some students really enjoy it but some students could not care two hoots about it, so how do you weigh that up?
It is managing that but no desire through ignorance about not having the opportunity is different to no desire because they do not know what it is about. We need to be able to provide them with an opportunity to understand that. Once again, I congratulate Kimbra and her team for what they do here. It is wonderful. I wish we all had that exposure and access to it when we were younger. It is a step in the right direction and with the idea it is now on television, they can go online, and they can have a look at parliament and it connects people a lot quicker.
Congratulations, once again, after 18 years you have done something really worthwhile.
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I thank you and Council members. To be honest with you, I did not expect such a fulsome response from members. I appreciate very much you have taken the trouble to give it some consideration. I want to thank Dr Bryan Stait in the Parliamentary Research Service and the person he handballed the assignment to, Kate Roberts, who is new to our Library and Research Services; she did a terrific job and had plenty of information.
I was going to suggest some advice be sent out to schools - a suggestion from maybe the minister's office, they might consider coming here. The wonderful Kimbra McCormack tells me at the beginning of every year, she sends out a notice to every school inviting them to come here so that is covered. With all the accolades Kimbra has received here today, Mr Baily might need to open the second door to allow her head to squeeze through, but it is certainly justified praise, Kimbra. Well done.
It was good to hear Neil Robson - the Robson Rotation. It was a fantastic thing somebody would have the interest - being part of Mensa, he had the sort of mind that would turn his attention to developing a simple process that is now so effective in our voting system. The diminishing percentage - 2016 was the only figure we had, but, of course, the point I made was the 2016 result for year 10 students was in fact the lowest on record since 2010-13 and 2013-16. It would be interesting to see what a 2019 assessment might reveal.
I did not mention one of the groups that provides this understanding of civics and citizenship. The Rotary Club of Hobart has an essay competition about civics and citizenship. The rotary club states the competition 'seeks to promote interest in and participation in the civic culture of Tasmania through a debate on the foundation principles of citizen engagement with our democracy'. Congratulations to the Rotary Club of Hobart. That is something that might be cemented or discussed in other rotary clubs in the state.
I was going to mention funding. The member for Mersey mentioned that you get support if you go to Canberra, which is understandable, but also the member for Launceston touched on the cost of actually bringing the students here. I am not sure of what the cost is - I have not checked that - but I imagine the schools trying to allocate the buses, the teachers, those sorts of things, from their budgets to allow students to come to Hobart. I am not sure what limitations or support the schools actually get, but let us hope that there is some sort of consideration that would help us achieve the situation where our young people are more exposed to our parliament.
I thank all members for their contributions and for supporting the motion.
Motion agreed to.