Getting involved: Celebrating politically active Australians


Lower secondary

Curriculum links

Links to the Australian Curriculum 


This activity has been adapted from the Lower Secondary Discovering Democracy unit Men and Women in Political Life. This unit explores the concept of political activity and provides background about some important Australians who have contributed to civic life in Australia. An overview of this unit gives a list of focus questions and content for the unit.

Political activity

Politically active men and women helped shape today's Australia. Exploring their lives and work can provide an understanding of motivation, challenges faced, the nature of 'political activity', the difference between working inside and outside the parliamentary sphere and particular issues for women and Indigenous people.

Although many people who are politically active have become well known, being politically active is not the same as being famous (and vice versa). The unit has several activities for students to develop their own concepts of what political activity is and how some people have worked to make changes.

The following activity follows a sequence of work in the unit on what it means to be politically active. Students identify people who have been politically active and research some of the ways these Australians have been celebrated.

Remembering politically active people

Students may not realise it, but the names of politically active Australians are all around them. Their school or neighbourhood might be named after one of them. These politically active people are celebrated in many ways. Listed below are just a few of the ways we remember these people.

Schools and universitiesAlfred Deakin High School (ACT)
John Curtin Senior High School (WA)
Peter Lalor Secondary College (VIC)
Griffith University (QLD)
PlacesParkes (NSW)
Gawler (SA)
Stirling (WA)
Serviceton (VIC)
MonumentsDunmore Lang statue (Sydney)
John Flynn memorial (Alice Springs)
ElectoratesCalwell (VIC)
Tangney (WA)
Fisher (QLD)
Hughes (NSW)
Lyons (TAS)
Kingston (SA)
Fraser (ACT)
Streets, highways and waterwaysTonkin Highway (Perth)
William Slim Drive (Canberra)
Whitlam Square (Sydney)
Franklin River (TAS)
Darling River (NSW)
Stamps and moneyCaroline Chisholm (original $5 note, 1967)
Louisa Lawson (10c stamp, 1975)
Catherine Spence (10c stamp, 1975)
Enid Lyons and Dorothy Tangney (45c stamp, 1993)
Five war-time prime minister (45c stamps, 1994)

Ask students to describe as many of these people as possible. Have them identify why they were remembered as politically active people. Record these details on the board. Using this information, ask students how they would define the term 'political activity'. (The definition should include the idea that political activity occurs when people attempt to influence the way society is organised or governed or to stop other people from making changes.)

Local research

Using the group definition, have students find out which places or things in their local area (including State or Territory) are named after politically active Australians. Have them ask their parents or people in the community for information. Suggest that they also ask at the local shire or municipality. They also may locate statues or memorials to these people.

Have students make a list of the names of these people. Discuss them in class to see if the people have been commemorated for their political activity or for other reasons. Make a class list of local politically active people.

Have each student choose a person from the list to research. More information is available in the 'people' section of the Stories of Democracy CD-ROM and in the Biographies section of this website. Develop a resource list of books, CD-ROMs and Internet sites that have useful information.

Print the Biography File. Have students fill it in with information about the person they have chosen. Under 'Suggested Monument', have them write a short description of their chosen person that could be used as an inscription on a monument. For example:

Emma Maloney
Fought for women's rights
Friend to children and the poor
Joseph Rossetti
Mayor 1860–1930
He gave the city clean water
and preserved people's health.

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