Why do we need laws?


Lower secondary

Curriculum Links

Links to the Australian Curriculum 


Students use a local problem to understand the need for making laws. A problem is defined and students generate interpretations of the problem and possible solutions. Using role-play, students participate in the process of consultation, representation, and selection to write a law.


Two sessions.


Local newspaper story or use example given.


  1. Presenting the problem:
    Use the example below or choose a topical article from your local newspaper:
    Pet Control Law

    A local resident described a developing horror in our own neighbourhood. The resident, who declined to be identified, said, 'We all like to live in a beautiful area where there are trees, birds and small native animals. But in this beauty there are killers lurking. Some pets are killing birds and native animals, and destroying parts of the fragile vegetation. Some of the killers are domestic pets which are not kept under control; some of them are pets which have escaped and are now feral - that is, running out of control. Something needs to be done! We need to limit the number of pets people can keep, and we need to be able to have powers to control those pets and their owners.'

    Ask students to define the problem, including as many different perspectives as possible.
  2. Finding a solution:
    Divide the class into small groups. Give students a list of people who might have a vested interest in the solution to the stated problem (eg RSPCA official, pet owner, rate payer, local council member, environmental activist, wildlife protection officer, etc). Have all students in each group choose a different individual from the list above and work out: their view about the issue, arguments or reasons to support their view, and their solution to the problem.

    Within the groups, have each person put forward his/her point of view and a solution to the problem. Have a recorder write down each different solution. After everyone has had a turn, have the group select three solutions to share with the class. Have them identify which of the solutions would require a law to make it work. Ask them to give reasons for their opinions about the need for the law or the solution. Also have them consider the practicalities of introducing the law or solution.

  3. Selecting a law:
    As a whole class, vote for the best solution from the combined lists. Eliminate the solution with the least number of votes. Continue this process until one solution remains. Ask the students if this solution would work without a law. Given that it is likely that a law will be needed, have them discuss why a law is needed.
  4. Developing a law:
    Have students work in small groups to draft a law for their chosen solution, making it as clear and simple as possible. Write the statements for the law on the board and ask the group whether each statement means the same thing. Have them clarify the wording to create one law for the problem. Put the law to a test. Ask students to generate 'What if?' situations. For example, what if a pet has been locked up, but escapes and kills some birds. Does the law punish the owner? Should it? Have the students test their law against different situations and make any modifications that are necessary.

Extension Activity

This activity helps students understand how and why laws are made. A follow-up might be an examination of what people do when they do not agree with laws. Students may also want to contact their local government to find out what issues are currently under debate or what has been done recently to respond to an issue.

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