Democracy, democratic values, the Westminster system, justice, participation, rights and responsibilities.
Students continue to build on their understanding of the concepts of the Westminster system and democracy by examining the key features of Australia's democracy, and how it is shaped through the Australian Constitution and constitutional change.
- Critical thinking
- Questioning and researching
- Communicating and reflecting
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Australia is a federation of six States which, together with two self-governing Territories, have their own constitutions, parliaments, governments and laws. This Infosheet is about the national or central government, usually called the Federal Government or the Commonwealth Government. However, State and Territory governments are also based on the same principle of parliamentary government.
The word ‘democracy’ has its origins in the Greek language. It combines two shorter words: ‘demos’ meaning whole citizen living within a particular city-state and ‘kratos’ meaning power or rule.
The Parliament consists of two Houses (the House of Representatives and the Senate), and the Queen, represented in Australia by the Governor General.
Work of the Parliament
Parliament makes laws, authorises the Government to spend public money, scrutinises government activities, and is a forum for debate on national issues.
The Parliament of Australia consists of:
- The Queen represented by Australia's Governor-General
- The Australian Senate
- The Australian House of Representatives.
The Parliament of Australia (formally named the Parliament of the Commonwealth) is made up of a total of 226 people popularly elected to the Senate and House of Representatives to represent the interests of Australians and to 'make laws for the peace, order and good government of the nation' (section 51 Australian Constitution).
A list of links to various parts of the Constitution.
The Australian Constitution is the set of rules by which Australia is run. The first three chapters of the Constitution define three largely separate groups – the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary – and the roles they play in Australian governance. The power to make and manage federal law is divided between these three groups. This division is based on the principle of the 'separation of powers'.
The Australian Constitution can only be changed by referendum. There have been 44 referendums held since 1901 and only eight of these have been successful.
The Australian Constitution can be amended only with the approval of Australian electors. Therefore, any proposed alteration must be put to the vote of all electors at a referendum.
A list of proposed referendums, dates they ran and the success of each.
Australia's court system
The ‘legal system’ is a broad term that describes the laws we have, the process for making those laws, and the processes for making sure the laws are followed. Our legal system reflects how we, as Australians, behave and how we as a country expect people, organisations and governments to behave towards each other.
A court is a body formed to adjudicate on criminal charges and civil disputes and to determine the best path to justice. Courts are funded by governments and overseen by judges and magistrates. There are many different courts in Australia, both in State and Federal jurisdictions.
The relevance of the Rule of Law is demonstrated by applying set principles into practice.
The rule of law and human rights of all people are core tenet of our modern democracy and having access to justice, is an important part of protecting those rights.