Supporting your visit to Parliament House
11 November 2022
If you're planning to book an excursion to Parliament House, we've put together this series of activities and resources that can be used to help prepare your students pre-visit and consolidate their learning post-visit.
There are also some strategies to help students construct questions they can ask while on the tour or doing a role play and links to some of the other resources that may be helpful.
Information for your visit
Two social stories are available to accompany a visit to Parliament House. These have been designed for visitors who are neurodiverse who may like to read them in preparation for their visit. One is intended for readers of all ages, the other focuses on the experience of a school visit to Parliament House.
Visitors to Parliament House are required to pass through a security checkpoint before entering the building. This involves a walk-through scanner and baggage scanning. Visitors with pacemakers should ask to be scanned using handheld scanners. Bags must be left at reception when taking part in a tour or sitting in the public galleries. Click here for more information.
While you’re in the area
If you have some spare time on your visit to Parliament House, there are a few other related activities you might be interested in exploring. For instance, you could visit one of the exhibitions at the Old Treasury Building or book a workshop at the Big Issue classroom. Both activities need to be booked prior to the day.
Alternatively, you might like to take students on the self-guided Civics and Citizenship walking tour of East Melbourne. The tour takes in ten landmarks and monuments of civic importance and comes with a range of activities and questions that can either be used at the time of the walking tour or back in the classroom.
While on the tour, the students will see both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council chambers. You might like to ask the students to search for who their Members of Parliament are, and then see if they can guess where their MPs sit (depending on the Chamber, their party and/or whether they are a minister, back-bencher or cross-bencher).
- Find the Members of Parliament that represent you in your electorate for both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.
- Find your electorate. Students may find that their school and home may be in a different electorate, especially in Metro areas of Melbourne.
Questions for the tour
The questions below maybe useful if you are looking for some ready-made questions to help students think about and reflect on their experience at Parliament House.
How would you describe the building?
- What did you first notice? Why?
- What surprised you about the building? Why was it surprising?
- What do you think the architects wanted people to think and feel when they came to Parliament House?
Parliament House is often described as the people’s house.
- What did you see or hear that confirms this is a building for the people?
- Was there anything that contradicted this?
- How would you change Parliament House to make it more inclusive?
What was the most surprising thing you learnt? Why were you surprised?
What was your favourite room? Why?
What room, story, object, person would you like to know more about?
What’s one thing I would change about:
- The building
- The Chambers
- The law-making process
(Why would you make these changes?)
These thinking routines have been developed by Harvard Project Zero, which could be used as prompts for students both before, during and after the tour.
Strategies for student-generated questions
You may like students to prepare a range of questions to ask during their visit. The following tools may be useful to help students develop their questions:
Key concepts: pre and post-visit
There are a number of parliamentary concepts that may be referred to throughout your visit to Parliament House. Below are some familiarisation and consolidation questions and activities that can be used to frontload concepts for students prior to their visit and/or consolidate students’ understanding post-visit.
How might the role of an MP change depending on the house of parliament they sit in?
- Think about the different types of voting used for both houses (preferential or proportional voting), the geographical space, the area the district or region that the electorate covers, how many people in the electorate.
How might the concerns of the constituents (all the people in the electorate, including everyone who can and can’t vote) change from electorate to electorate?
- What might be the causes for these changes in concerns? Consider demographic information, such as age, gender, cultural or ethnic background, religion, employment types and unemployment, geographical details, most common economy
Three levels of government
The Three levels of government flash cards include 30 different examples of responsibilities and services along with a key that lists the level of government that has the primary oversight for each. But for many of the examples the oversight is far more complicated. This means for examples like taxes, education and roads there are opportunities for students to discuss how the different levels of government interact and manage different aspects of a service, and most importantly, who they can contact for the most impact.
The Three levels of government flash card resource could be used with the ‘Circles of Action’ thinking routine to consider the different ways students might contribute or influence an issue at the different levels of government.
The bicameral system: the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council
Some parliaments (Queensland, ACT and NT) only have one chamber and therefore do not have an upper house, also known as the house of review.
What might be the benefits or limitations of one versus two chambers in the law-making process?
How a law is made
Parliament Explains: How Parliament makes laws is a short animation that provides students with an overview of how a law is made.
Connecting to parliament's resources
This resource explores the rich history, culture, identity, and struggle of eminent Victorian Aboriginal leaders who were instrumental in bringing about change for their people. With stories, images and a suite of learning activities, students explore Aboriginal community decision-making, leadership, the development of the Aboriginal Rights Movement, and different ways Aboriginal people have advocated for their rights.
The Parliament Prize is an annual competition run by the Parliament of Victoria based on the format of Members’ statements to parliament. Students submit a 90 second video discussing an issue or a matter of importance to them. The competition opens mid-May, and details will be available here on the Teach and Learn section of the parliament’s website
The blog post Connecting the Parliament Prize to your classroom explores what members statements are and how 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 Member’s 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 (the Speaker of the Assembly and the President of the Council) before the sitting day if 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.
The blog post Being heard and taking action encourages students to take action on topics and issues that might be of importance to them. This can be used as an extension activity for the class or for individual students.
The resource provides some guiding strategies for facilitating issues-based discussions in the classroom, especially issues that may be considered challenging - for any number of reasons. These strategies also acknowledge that any topic has the potential to raise questions and concerns for students and teachers, especially when they encourage different perspectives. The different perspectives and viewpoints may, for instance, relate to social, political, environmental, religious, ethical or moral, historical, economical or legal considerations, and/or these perspectives may be informed by students’ lived experiences including family or community views and values.
This resource is a step-by-step guide that looks at each phase of the inquiry process, providing a brief summary of each and suggested activities for your class. The reflection and evaluation questions at the end ask students to explore the purpose of committee inquiries, to develop an understanding of their importance in the process of making and reforming the law.
Written for VCE Legal Studies, Unit 4 Area of Study 2, this guide can also be used at other levels, either in conjunction with one of the accompanying case studies that looks specifically at a recent law reform, or with an inquiry topic of your own choosing.