The Victorian Government’s vision for civics, citizenship and multicultural education

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Unity through Diversity

The Victorian Government’s vision for civics, citizenship and multicultural education

Published by the Department of Education and Training


March 2014

Updated April 2015
© State of Victoria (Department of Education and Training) 2015
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The Victorian Government’s Vision

For all Victorian learning and development settings to equip children and young people with the knowledge and skills to participate in and contribute to our multicultural society as active and informed citizens - locally, nationally and internationally.


Citizenship and informed civic participation are the cornerstones of our successful, cohesive and prosperous multicultural society. We want our children and young people to understand their roles, rights and responsibilities as citizens, and to know how to contribute actively to civic life in their local, state, national and global communities.

Our children and young people must be empowered to be active citizens of their communities and our society. Citizenship emphasises the shared values of all Australians, regardless of background, and encourages their full participation in society. The future of our productivity, our diversity and our social cohesion depends on many things, including ensuring our young people participate in high- quality civics and citizenship education.

The way in which individuals understand and respond to cultural diversity shapes both individual lives and broader society, particularly given the increasingly global nature of modern life. Young people benefit from developing their intercultural understanding, and from understanding how – particularly in Victoria – cultural, religious, racial and linguistic diversity has helped to build a vibrant community and a strong economy.

 Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs 2008, Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, Melbourne.

Victoria’s future economic growth depends on our capacity to undertake business internationally so we must invest in creating a workforce with the language and cultural skills that enable Victorians to compete, innovate and succeed in the global marketplace. More than any previous generation, young Victorians interact with the wider world through technology, travel, study and work. We must equip our young people with the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive and interconnected world.

Civics and citizenship education, multicultural education and intercultural understanding are key aspects of Victorian and Australian education policies, curriculum frameworks for schools and early childhood settings. They are part of ensuring our children and young people are prepared for the future.

Existing policies and frameworks position Victoria to deliver excellence in both civics and citizenship education and multicultural education and to contribute to the Victorian Government’s commitment to make Victorian education even better and ensure our performance matches the best in the world

Our commitment to civics, citizenship and multicultural education is consistent with the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians1 which outlines to undertake business internationally so we must invest in creating a workforce with the language and cultural skills that enable Victorians to compete, innovate and succeed in a vision for education shared by all Australian states and territories.

The Melbourne Declaration “values the central role of education in building a democratic, equitable and just society – a society that is prosperous, cohesive and culturally diverse, and that values Australia’s Indigenous cultures as a key part of the nation’s history, present and future”. The educational goals include all young Australians becoming active and informed citizens, who act with integrity, appreciate and promote diversity, understand Australia’s civic structures and national values, and are responsible citizens.

The Melbourne Declaration guides the development of the Australian curriculum. The Foundation to Year 10 Australian curriculum includes both the cross-curriculum general capability Intercultural Understanding and the learning area Civics and citizenship. Within the Civics and Citizenship curriculum Citizenship, diversity and identity is one of three focus areas in the Knowledge and Understanding strand. AusVELS, the Victorian curriculum framework for Foundation to Year 10 students, adapts and incorporates the Australian Curriculum subject areas and general capabilities to meet our priorities and ensure our high standards are maintained.

AusVELS provides a structure for the development of skills, knowledge and understanding in civics, citizenship and multicultural education. However, our vision is one where civics, citizenship and multicultural education are embedded across the curriculum and beyond the walls of the classroom. Civics, citizenship and multicultural education are about, and for, all students. They must permeate all aspects of curriculum, pedagogy, school practices and policies.

The Victorian Government’s vision for civics, citizenship and multicultural education is complemented by the Government’s visions for languages education and English as an additional language (EAL). Languages education enhances student learning outcomes and facilitates effective participation in Victoria’s multicultural, multilingual and multi-faith society, along with the global community. EAL education ensures EAL learners develop proficiency in English and intercultural skills to allow them to engage fully in their education, the workplace and community life. To participate as active and informed local, national and international citizens, our children and young people must develop intercultural understanding, high-level English language skills, and competency in more than one language.


Our vision is that all learning and development settings provide Victorian children and young people with the knowledge and skills to contribute to our multicultural society as active and informed citizens - locally, nationally and internationally. Realising our vision will benefit learners, their families, their teachers and educators, schools and other education settings, and their communities, as well as providing broader economic and social benefits for Victoria.

There are many benefits when learning and development settings acknowledge and value learners’ experiences, and cultural and linguistic skills. Learner engagement increases; respect, resilience and self-worth are enhanced; and responsibility, citizenship and social inclusion is fostered.

Curriculum and pedagogy are both enriched by the inclusion of a broader range of perspectives, experiences and approaches. Learning can be contextualised, either by bringing the content to within learners’ experience, or by broadening learners’ experience beyond the early childhood setting, classroom, school, home and family.

Civics, citizenship and multicultural education provides opportunities for all learners’ views to be listened to, respected and valued in inclusive learning environments. Student representative councils and student participation in school councils are examples of learners exercising their voice to influence their education.

Civics, citizenship and multicultural education compels us to take responsibility for our actions, both as individuals and as members of a multicultural, multilingual and multi-faith community. It provides individuals with a sense of belonging and shared vision, and opens up opportunities for dialogue and partnerships with the broader local community and communities across the globe.


The strategies we put in place to achieve our vision will be guided by four key principles:

1. Participation and inclusion

Active citizenship and intercultural understanding are promoted and developed through policies and practices which promote equal rights and responsibilities; counter racism and promote mutual respect; and develop knowledge and understanding of cultural, linguistic and religious differences. Access to technology is equitable and enables participation with the broader community locally, nationally and globally. All learners, regardless of age, background or socio-economic status, are actively engaged in learning and development and community life, and develop the knowledge and skills to contribute to the broader community.

Learning and development settings ensure inclusive teaching and learning practices, recognise and value the backgrounds of all children, young people and their families; encourage participation in the life of their community; and promote an open and understanding attitude towards different cultures, religions and beliefs.

2. Quality learning environments

Quality learning environments value civics, citizenship and multicultural education and ensure children and young people have the knowledge, understanding and skills to participate in their local and global communities.

Learning and teaching acknowledges children and young people’s cultural, religious and linguistic background. Early childhood settings, schools and higher education and skills settings recognise these factors and use them to enhance the educational experiences of learners and their families.

3. Diversity of educational approaches

Learning and development settings provide diverse and flexible approaches to civics, citizenship and multicultural education, which reflect the cultural, religious and social make-up of their learners and community.

Multicultural education and teaching and learning about civics and citizenship extend beyond the documented curricula for Civics and Citizenship, English as an Additional Language, Languages and the general capability Intercultural Understanding. The learning extends to all areas of the curriculum and is evidenced in all policies, practices and pedagogies of school and early childhood settings.

4. Collaboration with the broader community

Families are the first and most important influence in a child’s life, shaping the attitudes and values that will support children and young people to maximise their education, experience and capacity to contribute to broader local and global communities.

Collaboration with learners, families, communities, local government and business is essential to effective civics, citizenship and multicultural education, and brings mutual benefits, maximises learner engagement and achievement, and builds more resilient communities.


Victoria is building on a successful foundation of civics, citizenship and multicultural education. Civics, citizenship and multicultural education is supported by Government policies in education, multicultural affairs and citizenship that value and reflect Victoria’s dynamic, culturally diverse, multilingual and multi-faith communities.

Victoria’s Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship policy Victoria’s Advantage – Unity, Diversity, Opportunity recognises that each Victorian plays a part in shaping the future of our State. By valuing and embracing our diversity, we can continue to realise the benefits of a cohesive and multicultural society.

Victoria’s diverse community is reflected in our learning and development settings. In 2013, 145,369 students in government schools (26.2%) identified as coming from language backgrounds other than English. Of these, 50,961 (35%) students were learning English as an Additional Language (EAL). Not only is our diversity one of our most valuable assets, it provides the opportunity for our early childhood settings, schools, educators and learners to develop the intercultural understanding and skills required to participate in our multicultural community.

As well as including civics and citizenship and multicultural perspectives across the curriculum, Victorian students, teachers and schools create and participate in a wide range of activities that align with our vision and principles. A sample of these activities is included below.

Student Representative Councils

Students develop knowledge and understanding of democratic processes in the classroom and through participation in Student Representative Councils (SRCs). SRCs provide students with the opportunity to actively engage, participate, lead and learn. SRCs enable student voices to be heard and students’ interests and concerns to be addressed. SRCs exist in schools across all sectors and regions of Victoria.

Victorian students have established their own democratic network of SRCs - the VicSRC. The VicSRC is a student-run organisation working to strengthen SRCs so that they can speak and act on behalf of secondary students in schools and throughout Victoria. The VicSRC is auspiced by the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) and receives funding from the Department of Education and Training.

Student leadership and student voice in schools are also encouraged through programs such as the VicSRC developed student-led professional learning sessions ‘Teach the Teacher’, which bring students and teachers together to discuss teaching and learning.

Student Conventions

The State Schools’ Constitutional Convention program also supports students’ civic learning and participation. Students participate in regional constitutional conventions where they become familiar with key documents that govern their lives, such as the Australian Constitution, and debate current political issues. Students who attend regional conventions have the opportunity to attend the annual State Convention at Parliament House in Melbourne and the annual National Convention in Canberra.

A State Junior School Council Congress is also conducted each year, for senior primary school students. Students conduct research in their schools around the Congress topic, before coming together at Parliament House to listen to speakers, present their ideas, develop and debate motions or bills and vote on issues of contemporary significance.

The Constitutional Convention program is supported by the Department of Education and Training, in conjunction with the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, Independent Schools Victoria, Social Education Victoria and the Victorian Parliament Education Office.

Premier’s Spirit of ANZAC Prize

More than 300 Year 9 and 10 students from government, Catholic and independent schools participate each year in The Premier’s Spirit of ANZAC Prize. The Prize promotes understanding of the service and sacrifices tendered by veterans in war and peace. Students submit an entry that explores the ANZAC spirit and Australian values, with winning students participating in an overseas study tour of sites where Australians have served in war, centred on Gallipoli or the Western Front.

Through these civics and citizenship activities, students engage with issues that impact on their lives as citizens in multicultural Victoria and Australia, and as citizens of the world. Questions such as ‘Is Australia a good global citizen?’ or ‘Going global: the opportunities and challenges of our online world’ allow students to explore ideas from the individual context to the global.

Sister school partnerships

As schools increasingly incorporate global and international perspectives within their curricula and teaching practices, there is growing interest in developing global partnerships. Sister school partnerships bring significant benefits to students, teachers and school communities.

Sister schools support the development of global perspectives and intercultural competence. Schools in Victoria have established strong networks and partnerships with schools across the globe. More than 350 Victorian government schools have sister school partnerships with schools in other countries including China, Indonesia, France, Germany, Japan and the United States.

Many schools organise regular visits to their sister schools. Students and teachers also engage with each other outside the visits using technology. Students work together on projects across the schools, speak in the language they are learning and build relationships. These relationships support international experiences and cultural exchanges that foster international understanding. Teachers collaborate on curriculum planning, pedagogical approaches and observation of classroom practices to share professional practice.

Anti-discrimination initiatives

The Department actively promotes diversity as an asset and encourages schools to eliminate discriminatory behaviour. Bully Stoppers, a series of tools and resources that empower school communities to prevent all forms of bullying, is one example. A specific section of Bully Stoppers examines racial and minority groups that experience bullying. Students, parents, teachers and principals can access Bully Stoppers online learning courses, fact sheets, lesson plans and vodcasts.

Schools can also access Courage to Care, an exhibition and education program run by B’nai B’rith and supported by the Department. Courage to Care examines issues of prejudice, racism and resistance though the history of the Holocaust. Students are encouraged to reflect on the choices they make when confronted by situations involving prejudice, whether that be racism or bullying behaviour.

Local school-based activities

Victorian schools are encouraged to develop activities and initiatives that develop and strengthen relationships with, and meet the needs, of their local communities. Schools and students develop and implement programs that encourage students to take active roles in determining and contributing to the culture of their school and community.

Lyndhurst Secondary College students, for example, formed a working group to address incidents of racial conflict within their school community. The resulting representative group, Multipride, runs lunchtime activities, participates in leadership programs and has developed partnerships with the Centre for Multicultural Youth and the Casey City Council.

Schools across Victoria hold ceremonies to celebrate cultural diversity and citizenship. School councils approve the form of these ceremonies to ensure they are inclusive of all students and consider the diversity of cultures and beliefs in the school community. Ceremonies can include singing the Australian National Anthem, acknowledging the symbolic importance of the Australian National Flag and other flags including the Australian Aboriginal Flag and Torres Strait Islander Flag, and student recitals of a declaration, such as the Australian Oath of Allegiance, or an oath devised by the school council expressing ideals of citizenship and celebrating cultural diversity.

Schools teach about and celebrate cultural diversity through activities including units of study exploring students’ cultural backgrounds; Harmony Day concerts; community members talking about their lives in other countries; and cultural activities such as art exhibitions and musical events. The Victorian Multicultural Commission’s

Community Grants Program provides grants for schools to run events like these during Cultural Diversity Week.

The Victorian Multicultural Commission also awards the Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence to individuals and organisations that have supported cultural diversity and promoted community harmony. One such example is Yarra Primary School which has developed a whole school cultural diversity program Unity Through Diversity which includes multicultural and global perspectives across the curriculum.

The program raises awareness of, and support for, the needs of migrants and refugees and develops the students’ sense of community. Students identify their own cultural heritage and are encouraged to ask questions and explore their beliefs. Students learn from visiting cultural artists and an annual “Yollywood” production promotes their newly developed talents to the wider community.

Early childhood development

The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) identifies five learning and development outcomes for all Victorian children aged 0-8. Two of these outcomes - ‘Children have a strong sense of identity’ and ‘Children are connected with and contribute to their world’ - link directly to the Civics and Citizenship area of Victoria’s AusVELS curriculum.

The VEYLDF also provides guidance for early childhood professionals through eight practice principles, supported by practice guides and evidence papers. The eight practice principles include ‘Equity and diversity’ which recognises that children’s personal, family and cultural histories shape their learning and development. This principle also ensures that early childhood services are places where professionals, children, families and community members share aspirations, engage in learning from and with each other, and experience a strong sense of belonging and acceptance. Similarly the principle ‘Respectful relationships and responsive engagement’ provides support for early childhood professionals to develop learning programs that acknowledge and build on children’s culture, strengths and knowledge and encourage children to understand, communicate and interact across cultures.

Intercultural understanding

As understanding of the skills children and young people need to function effectively in the 21st century has grown, schools have focused on developing the intercultural understanding of students. In 2011, the Department conducted the Intercultural Understanding Field Trial in 26 schools in partnership with the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University. The trial investigated the impact of teaching and learning practice for intercultural understanding on student outcomes.

Findings from the field trial revealed that intercultural understanding was built by developing staff capability; supporting positive interpersonal connections; and promoting intercultural understanding across the school so that it was not limited to specific subjects or ‘one-off’ curriculum units. These findings align with our vision and inform our actions to realise our vision.

The Department is currently a partner in an Australian Research Council project, Doing Diversity: Intercultural understanding in primary and secondary schools. This project aims to build understanding and appreciation of Australia’s social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and the ability to relate to and communicate across cultures. Doing Diversity complements and builds on the research and findings of the Intercultural Understanding Field Trial. The twelve Victorian schools involved in this 3 year study will become lighthouse schools for intercultural understanding.


Civics, citizenship and multicultural education needs to respond to constantly changing social dynamics and circumstances. Diversity in Australia continues to evolve as shown by the diversity of young peoples’ cultural and social circles; intercultural and interreligious families; globalisation and the associated increasing flow of ideas through technologies and social media. Many learners have culturally complex family backgrounds, and there is a high degree of social mobility within our society. This diversification positively challenges assumptions about cultures, sub- cultures and cultural stereotyping.

We need to ensure that our programs and policies for civics, citizenship and multicultural education keep pace with local and global thinking, technological developments and other changes young people in Victoria are experiencing.

Our vision, principles and actions provide the opportunity to ensure:

Participation and inclusion

learning and development settings model democratic and inclusive principles

learning and development settings are supported to identify and address racism, stereotyping, discrimination and other forms of prejudice

there are authentic opportunities for young people to be involved in decision-making at schools and other education settings and in the community.

Quality learning environments

multicultural education is not an ‘optional extra’ and is relevant to all learners

teachers and early childhood professionals have the capacity and confidence to engage with cultural diversity, address discriminatory behaviour and build learners’ civics and citizenship skills

learning and development providers are helped to identify best practice in civics, citizenship and multicultural education, and use this knowledge to promote and share that practice with other providers

tools are available and used by learning and development providers to monitor progress towards providing quality civics and citizenship and multicultural education, to understand what they are doing well and what needs to be improved.

Diversity of educational approaches

learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need to understand and fully participate in our multicultural, multilingual and multi-faith society, including an appreciation of key cultural aspects of our history, such as our indigenous history, migration stories and the ANZAC tradition

learning and development settings acknowledge learners’ and families’ cultural diversity to ensure that all learners are engaged in learning

civics, citizenship and intercultural understanding are embedded across the curriculum so that learners are provided with diverse perspectives that prepare them to participate in society.

Collaboration with the broader community

families and learners understand that civics, citizenship and multicultural education benefit children and young people in their lives outside the classroom

innovative partnerships between learning and development providers, researchers, learners, families, communities, and businesses are supported.

Actions we will take

We are committed to implementing a number of actions to ensure we realise our vision – For all Victorian learning and development settings to equip children and young people with the knowledge and skills to participate in and contribute to our multicultural society as active and informed citizens - locally, nationally and internationally.

These actions will align with our four principles: participation and inclusion; quality learning environments; diversity of approaches; and collaboration with the broader community. They will build on our strengths and harness the opportunities so that educators, learners and learning and development settings are supported to realise the vision. We have established a dedicated unit in the Department of Education and Training to provide this support.

These actions will take a common sense approach and will ensure that civics, citizenship and multicultural education is embedded across the curriculum and beyond the walls of the classroom.

Participation and inclusion

publish and promote guidelines to support schools and early childhood settings to ensure their policies, processes and practices are inclusive and respectful of cultural, linguistic and religious diversity

continue to support the regional, state and national Schools’ Constitutional Convention program, and other student forums and conventions that encourage active citizenship and global awareness, with a focus on ensuring that these activities are accessible to all students.

Quality learning environments

provide professional learning for leaders and educators to explore their own intercultural understandings and develop their capacities to interact and engage with culturally diverse learners, families and communities

promote resources to assist educators in addressing racist behaviour and promoting tolerance and understanding

identify and publish case studies of learning and development settings that have incorporated civics, citizenship and multicultural perspectives along with case studies of leading practice in student voice, civics, citizenship and multicultural education

support the development of programs and resources to promote multi-faith understanding

support the development of programs and resources to foster intercultural understanding

expand the Languages and Multicultural Education Resource Centre collection to include resources for bilingual and multicultural programs in early childhood settings, including playgroups supported by the Department.

Diversity of educational approaches

continue to support sister school partnerships and other initiatives that foster global citizenship

develop initiatives to support student volunteering in local, national and international contexts and programs that encourage civic participation through student action teams

support schools to develop strategic whole school approaches to civics, citizenship and multicultural education

collect baseline data to provide an overview of the civics, citizenship and intercultural capabilities of Victorian school students. This data will include the National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship, which provides national sample data for Year 6 and Year 10 students and was held for the fourth time in 2013

analyse baseline data and further data collected over time to determine how learners’ civics, citizenship and intercultural understanding progresses.

Collaboration with the broader community

support partnerships between learning and development settings, local governments and community organisations which provide authentic opportunities for students to participate in civics and citizenship activities and contribute to decision making at a community level

in partnership with the Australian Football League develop a program to encourage students to reflect on, and address, racism in sport, schools and our communities.

1 Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs 2008, Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, Melbourne.

Unity through Diversity

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