Topic 2: The role of interest groups in Australia

Focus questions
What are the aims of particular interest groups?
What are some of the strategies particular interest groups use to promote their causes?
How do interest groups influence governments?
Are they good for democracy?
How does a particular interest group operate?

Explain to students that they will be undertaking a research task on one or more interest groups and the issues that concern them. The websites of a sample of interest groups are provided but students should be encouraged to look at a local group that is active in the community or one identified by their community survey.

Websites contain a range of information, but also encourage students to write or email for information and conduct interviews where appropriate. Invite one or more members from a particular interest group to visit your class.

Students work in small groups for this task.

Part 1 - Research task: Interest groups in a democracy

Using Student handout 4, students work in groups to develop key questions that will focus their investigation. Depending on their interests some of the following questions may be appropriate:

  • What interest groups are concerned about this issue?
  • What are the key objectives of the group or groups?
  • How are the group or groups organised?
  • Who can become members of the group or groups?
  • Can school students join?
  • Are there opportunities to perform volunteer work associated with this group?
  • What is the range of issues dealt with?
  • How large is the group? Does it have branches in other parts of the State or Territory and in other parts of Australia? Are there links to other groups?
  • What the advantages of belonging to this group?
  • How does this group try to influence government about particular issues?
  • Do you think this group is good for democracy?

Discuss with students how their research project might be shared with the rest of the class or another appropriate audience. Some presentation possibilities include: multimedia presentations, posters, pamphlets, informative newspaper articles, oral presentations including debates, panel discussions, interviews, and taped 'radio' discussions.

You may wish to provide space for students to mount a display about their group which is built upon during the course of the research. Groups report briefly on their progress at the end of each lesson.

Part 2 - Evaluation and assessment

Provide students with assessment and evaluation information. The evaluation process may include teacher, student and audience (if appropriate) feedback. Students could develop an appropriate audience feedback form and teachers could use the following for student self-evaluation.

See Discovering Democracy through Research p 32 for an example of a student self-evaluation form.

The following assessment indicators could be used with relevant States and Territories syllabuses and frameworks.

  • Contribution to the preparation and organisation of tasks.
  • Use of appropriate information gathering techniques.
  • Organisation and clarity in presentation.
  • Presentation on an informed point of view which uses relevant evidence.
  • Ability to work with others and in groups.

For information on assessment of research tasks, refer to Discovering Democracy through Research, pp 3-4.

Interest group websites

The following is a sample of the types of organisations that students might research. Encourage students to use an Internet search engine such as Google to find information about interest groups which appeal to them.

Environment groups

Australian Conservation Foundation

Clean Up Australia

Friends of the Earth Australia

The Wilderness Society

Community and welfare services

Australian Red Cross

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (RSPCA Australia)

Salvation Army

Health and emergency services


Guide Dogs Association

St John Ambulance Australia

Fire and Emergency Services Authority of WA

New South Wales State Emergency Service

Queensland State Emergency Service and Volunteer Marine Rescue

State Emergency Service of South Australia

Tasmania State Emergency Service

Victoria State Emergency Service

Employment-related organisations

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Australian Council of Trade Unions

Australian Education Union

Australian Medical Association

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

Sports and recreation groups

Guides Australia

Scouts Australia

Surf Life Saving Australia

Service groups

Apex Australia

Lions Australia

Returned and Services League (RSL)

Overseas aid

Amnesty International Australia

Care Australia

World Vision Australia

Overview | Notes for teachers | Introductory activity | Topic 1 | Topic 2 | Topic 3 | Student handout 1 | Student handout 2 | Student handout 3 | Student handout 4 | Student handout 5