Student Parliamentary Debate Program
Young people visit Parliament House to engage with the spirit of South Australia's government and experience the reality of the parliamentary decision making process.
The annual Parliament House Education Service "Open House" is an opportunity for youth from all over the State to learn about the importance of democracy in South Australia. Classes of students come into Parliament House to have a hands-on experience of the democratic process, under the same rules and procedures that our State's politicians use.
Every year students have the opportunity to role-play Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Officers in a one hour debate, developing their knowledge about the implications of democracy, the South Australian political system, the parliamentary law-making process, and the need to work collaboratively to allow shared decision making by a group.
A range of students have attended from metropolitan and rural, private and public, primary and high-schools. Students are prepared for the event by their teachers in the weeks before, learning about the South Australian parliamentary process and brainstorming the arguments for and against the topic to be debated.
With students taking the roles of Speaker, Serjeant-at-Arms, Premier and Leader of the Opposition, as well as Ministers and Members of Parliament, classes debated the merits of several bills under parliamentary conditions. Topics for debate included:
- The Lengthening of the School Day Bill
- Compulsory Issue of Mobile Phones for all School Students Bill
- Compulsory School Uniform on Excursions Bill
- OR WRITE YOUR OWN BILL USING A TEMPLATE
After the scripted section of the role-plays were completed, students were free to comment on any aspects of the proposed bill, and raise any issues they thought relevant to the issue. The young people present demonstrated a wide range of intelligent and thoughtful commentary, as topics were explored from every angle, and all implications considered.
Finally, each bill was put to the vote, with each student free to make a "conscience" vote, rather than being bound by "party political" constraints. The results obtained varied widely across schools, with some bills being passed by only a narrow margin.
Judging by the vigorous debate and their reluctance to leave the Parliamentary Chambers, all the students who attended enjoyed the experience greatly; perhaps some will return in years to come as actual Members of Parliament.