Story of Our Rights and Freedoms - Changing the Australian Constitution

Story of Our Rights and Freedoms - Changing the Australian Constitution

Lesson 2 of 5 in this unit

  • Secondary
  • Year 7 - 8
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Civics and Citizenship
  • Social
  • Equality
  • Homelessness
  • Human Rights
  • Social Action
  • ...

Lesson summary

In this Finding Out lesson, students will learn about the process of making changes to the Australian Constitution. They will consider the importance of consultation when changes that have a far-reaching impact are made. Using the ‘Think-Pair-Share’ visible thinking routine, students will consider a scenario in which the hours of a school day are changed without consultation of stakeholders and relate their understanding to the Australian Constitution. In a sorting activity, students will learn about the process for constitutional change through referenda. They will read and understand Chapter VIII of the Constitution, which details constitutional change.

Learning intentions:

  • Students will understand the process involved in changing the Australian Constitution
  • Students will understand the motivation behind making changes to the Australian Constitution.

Lesson guides and printables

Lesson Plan
Student Worksheet
Teacher Content Info

Lesson details

Curriculum mapping

Australian curriculum content descriptions:

Year 7 Civics and Citizenship:

  • The process for constitutional change through a referendum (ACHCK049)
  • The key features of government under the Australian Constitution with a focus on: the separation of powers, the roles of the Executive, the Houses of Parliament, and the division of powers (ACHCK048
  • Identify, gather and sort information and ideas from a range of sources (ACHCS055
  • Develop a range of questions to investigate Australia’s political and legal systems (ACHCS054
  • Critically analyse information and ideas from a range of sources in relation to civics and citizenship topics and issues (ACHCS056

General capabilities: Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking 

Relevant parts of year 7 achievement standards: Students explain features of Australia’s Constitution, including the process for constitutional change. When researching, students develop a range of questions and gather and analyse information from different sources to investigate Australia’s political and legal systems. They consider different points of view on civics and citizenship issues. Students develop and present arguments on civics and citizenship issues using appropriate texts, terms and concepts. They identify ways they can be active and informed citizens.

Unit of work: Story of Our Rights and Freedoms – Year 7.

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – guide student discussion.

Resources required

  • Student Worksheet – one copy per student
  • Device capable of audio/visual presentation to present a website to the class
  • Closer Look: The Australian Constitution (produced by the Parliamentary Education Office), printed or accessed online via student devices
  • Referendum Process Cards (cut out and mixed up before the lesson; enough for groups of 3-4 to share)
  • ‘Referendum’ presentation
  • ‘Double Majority’ AEC poster


This lesson is designed to build students’ competencies in the following skills:

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Empathy

Additional info

Throughout the Story of Our Rights and Freedoms lessons, students will consider Civics and Citizenship concepts through a human rights lens. They will critically assess the Australian system of government and the effect that it has on our rights and freedoms.
There is no universally accepted definition of human rights, and our understanding is continually developing. Some definitions include:

  • The recognition and respect of peoples’ dignity
  • A set of moral and legal guidelines that promote and protect the recognition of our values, our identity and access to an adequate standard of living
  • The basic standards by which we can identify and measure inequality and fairness
  • Those rights associated with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

When we talk about human rights we usually refer to principles that have been agreed upon by countries throughout the world. These rights have been set down in international agreements and form part of international law. They can also be written into the domestic law of individual countries. Human rights cover virtually every area of human life and activity. These include:

  • Civil and political rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom from torture
  • Economic and social rights, such as the rights to health and education
  • Individual rights, including the right to a fair trial
  • Collective rights, or those rights that apply to groups of people, such as the right to a healthy environment or to live on one’s ancestral land.

The UDHR is an international document that recognises the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 and marks a key milestone in the history of human rights. The Magna Carta, though limited in who it protected, was an important precursor to the UDHR.

Click here to watch a video about the Magna Carta.

You can view the entire text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the other core international human rights treaties, on the United Nation’s website or by downloading RightsApp (free from the iTunes App store).

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