Story of Our Rights and Freedoms - Constitutional Referendum in Action

Story of Our Rights and Freedoms - Constitutional Referendum in Action

Lesson 3 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

This Finding Out lesson follows on from Story of Our Rights and Freedoms – Changing the Australian Constitution – Year 7 Civics. In a role play activity, students will gain a deeper understanding of the process of a constitutional referendum. They will learn about making changes to the Australian Constitution: from when a concern is raised by a citizen; to when a change to the Constitution is considered by both levels of federal parliament; to when the change is voted on in a referendum of Australian citizens. Students will work in groups to consider ‘yes’ and ‘no’ arguments for change to the Constitution, and then reflect on the connection between the process for constitutional change and human rights.

Essential questions:

  • How are changes to the Australian Constitution made?
  • Why would changes to the Australian Constitution be made?
  • What is the connection between changes to the Australian Constitution and access to human rights for all people living in Australia?

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
  • 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. 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: 90 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – lead students through a role play activity.

Resources required

  • Student Worksheet – one copy per student
  • Device capable of audio/visual presentation to present a website to the class
  • Referendum Role Play Running Sheet (one per student)
  • Blank ‘petition to change the constitution’, Yes/No Posters
  • Referendum Voting Slip, ‘Double Majority’ AEC Poster, ballot box


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

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • 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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