Democracy is essential to a healthy and just society, but what makes Australia democratic and how has Australian democracy evolved?
There are three types of power in our system of parliamentary democracy – legislative (the power to make laws), executive (the power to govern) and judicial (the power given to the High Court to interpret and apply the law of Australia). The Australian Constitution, introduced in 1901, provides the basis of Australia’s system of government.
These five short films explain how democracy works in Australia. Each film explores a political principle or ideal that defines our democracy and shapes the kind of society we live in.
To function effectively, a democracy needs to provide for the nation’s defence from external threats, enable its citizens to participate freely and equally in society, and ensure that their actions do not break the law. A healthy democracy also empowers its citizens by ensuring that they have access to basic services such as food, water, health care, education and social services. This film explores security and its significance in Australian democracy.
The ‘Westminster’ style of government, named after the British system in England, has strongly influenced the development of Australian democracy. This film examines the powerful idea that that the people should be governed by representatives who are elected to parliament in fair and free elections.
Justice is the principle of what is fair or right, as administered through the rule of law. The rule of law is a core ingredient for a healthy democracy. It means that everyone is equal before the law, and no one is above the law. In Australia, citizens are governed by laws that have been passed by their elected representatives in parliament. This film illustrates how Australia’s system of justice has evolved since colonisation.
Australians take many freedoms for granted – freedom of speech, freedom to join an organisation (providing it is legal) and to meet in public or private places. They are free to protest publicly, to move freely within or to and from Australia, and to follow any religion as long as its practice conforms to the law. This film examines the history of freedoms in Australian democracy, showing how they have been won, challenged and, at times, even curtailed.
The principle of equality is fundamental to Australian democracy. It embodies the idea that all individuals in a society have access to the same rights and freedoms. Australians generally consider themselves an inclusive and egalitarian society, where everyone is given ‘a fair go’ regardless of their background or circumstances. This film explores the principle of equality in Australian democracy, showing how different groups have struggled for equal rights and how it remains an ongoing issue for some.