Three levels of government – Are you game?

24 January 2023

Road workers painting pedestrian crossing lines on a road.

Nearly everything we do involves some form of government, but it isn’t always apparent who takes the lead. Hospitals, waste collection, immigration – whose responsibility is it anyway? Here are some classroom games that can be used to deepen student understanding of this key concept.

When students are questioned about which level of government –local, state (or territory), or federal—is in charge of different services, it isn’t unusual to be met with confusion.  Adding to this confusion is the fact that more than one level of government can have shared responsibility for a service, and some places in Australia (such as Australian Capital Territory) only have two levels of government.

Our three levels of government flashcards, and the quick games and activities below, can help students to work out who takes responsibility for different services in our community. While the cards were designed for younger audiences, they are great for recapping or reintroducing concepts of government. And, as a recent activity with Parliamentary Educators demonstrated, not as straight forward as it seems.

Download the three levels of government flashcards

Who am I?

Gamification motivates students to actively participate in their learning. In this classic version of ‘Who am I?’ students take one of the flashcards at random. The student can either not look at the card and ask the class questions, or can look at the card and answer questions from the class. The questions should be closed (yes or no answers) to determine which service is listed. This encourages both the students guessing and those responding to develop their understanding of the different levels of government. Some questions to get students started might include:

  • “Am I managed by state government?”
  • “Am I managed by more than one level of government”
  • “Would I go to the council for this service?” 

Plus, Minus, Interesting (PMI)

A literal take on this established thinking routine. What if we added a level of government or instead removed two levels to only have one? 

In this exercise, students consider all the flashcards. Firstly, they complete a PMI for the three levels of government. Based on their PMI analysis, students decide how many levels of government they think would be best. For example, they may prefer to remove one or two levels of government or add one or multiple levels. Once students have decided on their preference, they can repeat the PMI analysis, and compare the new analysis to the original.

The idea is for students to find the levels of government that they think would work the best. In completing this activity, students can ask:

  • How might services be redistributed?
  • Are there new services that could be added? Or, 
  • Are there services that could be removed?

To Privatise or Not?

Some services don’t always remain the responsibility of government and are privatised, for example, sections of the telecommunication, banking, energy, and air travel sectors have been transferred to private ownership. There are also those services that might include a mix of government-managed and private-owned facilities, such as in aged care. Students could use the flashcards to consider which services, if any, they would privatise and possible reasons for or against doing so.

If you are looking for an extension activity or a way to further the conversation, there are plenty of newspaper articles examining the different perspectives on the privatisation of the state electricity commission and the proposed reinstatement of this service during the 2022 election campaign. 

Service Scramble

Imagine a world where the federal government was responsible for kerbside bin collection, or the local council was in charge of immigration, or state government had the sole responsibility for roads. In this hypothetical, students place the flashcards under one or more of the three levels of government. An exercise in justification, the students should provide their reasons for where they have placed each card.  
We love to hear how you use the flashcards in your own classroom. Let us know at