Half of Australian high school students don't know they live in a democracy, survey finds
Since Australia is in fact a Constitutional Monarchy and the Royal family get constant coverage in the Australian press, this might not be quite as bad as it seems
HIGH school students will be taught the Australian system of government after a survey revealed more than half have no idea they live in a democracy - or even know what it means. This is despite students learning about our political structure at primary school in Year 6.
The AusCivics program, developed by the Constitution Education Fund Australia and endorsed by the federal and state governments, will be rolled out after the school holidays.
"The Australian Electoral Commission has found that half of young Australians don't know that they live in a democracy or what it actually means," the fund's executive director Kerry Jones said. "Children are taught in primary school but then half of them forget everything they've learned by the time they are 16."
The program has been developed by Ms Jones, a prominent monarchist, with author Thomas Keneally and former New South Wales premier Barrie Unsworth.
Ms Jones said she was disappointed to learn a conference for members of the radical Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba last weekend repeated its rejection of democracy, calling for Muslims to boycott elections and embrace Sharia law. "That's not the Australian way," she said.
Yet Ms Jones said it was not only radicals that threatened democracy. "There is a lack of engagement among Australians and this is putting our democracy under threat," she said.
"For the last election, 1.4 million Australians, mostly young people, didn't bother to enrol. More than 700,000 Australians voted informally."
The program includes a short film written by Keneally that encourages young Australians to be politically engaged. It features well-known Aussies including Ian Thorpe, Steve Waugh and Georgie Parker. Students will also be encouraged to see the award-winning film Broken Hill.
Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the government supported the program as a way to remind young people of the "value of living in a democratic and free country". "The Australian way of life includes fairness, tolerance, respect for parliamentary traditions, recognition of the importance of the right to vote and a willingness to be part of a community," he said.