Connecting Parliament Prize to your classroom
The Parliament Prize is an annual video competition that gives students an opportunity to talk about issues that are important to them. The competition is based on Members statements; a statement that any Member of Parliament can make on any issue or topic, sometimes referred to as a ‘matter of importance’. Each statement is 90 seconds long.
After the competition, MPs are provided an overview of some of the key topics that students spoke about in their entries, and sometimes MPs will ask for extra information about entries from their electorates. There are even a number of times where MPs have referred to the Parliament Prize and the issues students have raised while addressing parliament in their own Members statements.
Connecting a Parliament Prize entry to issues or topics that are relevant to the school’s state electorate is a really good way for students to gain understanding of levels of government and avenues for advocacy. Raising issues or topics relevant to the community and the electorate can also increase the likelihood of MPs engaging directly with the issue.
Using Members statements in the classroom
Exploring what Members statements are and using the format of a member statement in the classroom is a really good way for students to talk about topics and issues that interest them.
One way of exploring Members statements is to provide students, across the week or several lessons, with an opportunity to speak for 90 seconds on a ‘matter of importance’. In the chambers MPs must notify the Presiding Officers before the sitting day that they wish to speak and there is a limit (once a week) to how often an MP can speak. You may wish to negotiate similar rules with your students.
Some other possibilities for the classroom include:
- Analysing of a range of Members statements and examining:
- The range of perspectives represented in Members statements
- The different ways issues and topics are discussed
- How an individual MPs experiences may inform what they speak about and their perspective on a topic.
- Using the Harvard Project Zero thinking routines to help students explore the different perspectives in embers statements, such as:
- Circle of Viewpoints
- Same and different
- Values, Identities, Actions
Grades 5 & 6
Students could explore the representative nature of parliament, potential outcomes for contacting Members of Parliament, and how MPs represent their constituents. Students can also investigate how different issues or topics may be relevant to different levels of government, or how a different level of government may be responsible for different aspects of the issue and/or have a different stance on a policy
Years 7 & 10
Students can explore the different Standing Orders for each house (the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council). The standing orders include all the different types of speeches and debates that can happen in a sitting week, Members statements are a feature of both houses. Students can analyse how these speeches and debates contribute to the representative nature of Parliament. For instance, Members statements may refer to the work of individuals or organisations, or reference issues or topics individuals have raised with their MPs. Members statements also provide opportunities for individual Members of Parliament to raise concerns and topics of personal importance.
- The Standing Orders for the Legislative Assembly can be found here
- The Standing Orders for the Legislative Council can be found here
Learning outcomes of Parliament Prize
Developing an understanding parliament
Members statements also provide an opportunity for students to develop an understanding of:
- One of the ways Members of Parliament can speak on behalf of their constituents
- The different types of debates and speeches in Parliament
- How the Standing Orders (the rules of parliament) work
- The work Members of Parliament do out in their community
Developing research skills
Students also have opportunities to develop their research skills on an area of interest. Skill such as researching:
- Using a variety of search engines
- Deciding on search terms
- Critically thinking about the credibility of the website or source information
- Note-taking and selecting evidence
Developing writing skills
Members statements can be really good preparation for NAPLAN by either teaching or consolidation skills, such as:
- Synthesising their ideas
- Writing for and presenting to different audiences
- Use of persuasive and emotive language
- Structure and format of different genres
The Department of Education Literacy Teaching Toolkit has a number of resources to help develop students writing, including the Teaching-Learning Cycle that connects reading and writing.
Members statements are included in the daily Hansard record of parliament and can be used as model texts for students on Members statements. Hansard is progressively published, and members statements can be found by clicking on the relevant chamber and date and selecting “Members statements” from the menu on the right-hand side.
The curriculum links below detail how the Parliament Prize addresses the most relevant parts of the Victorian curriculum: Civics and Citizenship.
The level descriptions for the Victorian curriculum are based on the achievement standards and can be used to inform any assessment practices. The most relevant sections of the content descriptors have been extracted and included below.
Because Members statements can be used to develop a range of skills, the Parliament Prize will also be relevant to other curriculum areas such as VCE Legal Studies, Politics and Sociology, as well as Years 5 to 10 English and VCE: English Language.
Levels 5 & 6
By developing Members statements students identify various ways people can participate effectively in groups to achieve shared goals. They analyse contemporary issues and use evidence to support a point of view about civics and citizenship issues. They identify possible solutions to an issue as part of a plan for action.
Members statements are an opportunity for Members of Parliament to speak to parliament on matters of interest and importance to their communities. Using Members statements as part of the classroom addresses:
- The values, principles and institutions that underpin Australia’s democratic forms of government (VCCCG008).
- The roles and responsibilities of the three levels of government (VCCCG009).
- Identify different points of view on a contemporary issue relating to democracy and citizenship (VCCCC015).
Levels 7 & 8
Through investigating Members statements students identify features that enable active participation in the democratic process, and explore different points of view and the diverse nature of Victorian and Australian society. They analyse issues about the factors that contribute to people’s sense of belonging and identify ways they can be active and informed citizens, and take action, in different contexts.
- Describe the role of the houses of parliament, and the division of powers (VCCCG018).
- Explain how citizens can participate in Australia's democracy, including contact with their elected representatives, use of lobby groups, interest groups and direct action (VCCCG020).
Levels 9 & 10
Through exploring different ways Members of Parliament represent their constituents, including through members statements, students evaluate a range of factors that sustain democratic societies and analyse ways they can be active and informed citizens in different contexts, taking into account multiple perspectives and ambiguities.
- Discuss the role of political parties and independent representatives in Australia’s system of government (VCCCG028).
VCE Legal studies, Sociology and Politics
While there may not be sufficient time to include the Parliament Prize into your teaching program at the VCE level, the competition is an example of active participation and this can be connected to a number of Areas of Study. Students may be passionate about particular issues and wish to use Parliament Prize as a way of advocating for an issue or to raise awareness for a particular issue, topic or organisation.