The Voice: What Australian Children Need To Know

Dear Reader,

With the passing of the referendum bill through the Senate, it is now official: a referendum will be held this year to ask Australians whether they want to change the Constitution to insert a new body into our governing structure, an Indigenous-only Voice to Parliament and the Executive.

Regardless of whether this referendum is needed or not, it is an opportunity to inform young Australians on an important democratic process. While most students are ineligible to vote, it offers them a chance to learn how the referendum process works, participate intellectually in the debate and form their own views.

Sadly, as I hear from parents and teachers, many students are only being presented with one side of the debate – the Yes side.

The federal president of the Australian Education Union, Ms Haythorpe, has stated, ‘Our union, which consists of public school, preschool and TAFE teachers, principals and support workers, overwhelmingly backs in First Nations Australians and their call for self-determination through constitutional reform… and, that is why we will back this in with resources including a Voice Campaign Lead officer and project officers.’

The AEU is ensuring there are human resources in each state who ‘identify as First Nation to assist with the Yes campaign’. [Read here]

Australian teachers are under enormous pressure to discuss the upcoming referendum in the classroom and will be inundated with biased resources to do so.

However, Class Action is ahead of the game. I am delighted to share the launch of Class Action’s latest inquiry unit for Year 9 and 10 students, The Voice Referendum: What’s it got to do with you? [View and download here]

History – One and Free

The unit gives students the opportunity to deliberate on the Voice and explore both sides of the debate. Students critically examine arguments about race, identity, political power, representation and the powerful role of the Australian High Court, all of which play a role in our system of democracy. After fully informing them, students are asked to consider some pretty tough questions.

Is voting Yes the right thing for all Australians?
Is voting No racist as some have suggested?
Is a permanent race-based body in the Constitution a good idea?

This unit is also helpful to any adult reflecting on the issues.

Please view this introductory video, which accompanies the curriculum unit. [View here]

I request you to share this unit with teachers and educators within your network. I will be working hard to ensure that it reaches as many teachers as possible.

Another targeted attack at values-based education

ABS statistics reveal that from 2018 to 2022 Australia experienced a 3.9 per cent increase in total student enrolments. Independent and Catholic schools received the lion’s share of those enrolments with an increase of 12.5 and 3.9 per cent respectively. Government schools received only a 1.9 per cent increase in enrolments. [Read here]

The statistics show the growing dissatisfaction among Australian parents with politicised public schools.

However, it seems a parent’s desire for better opportunities for their children cannot go unpunished – especially in the state of Victoria.

In the latest state budget, Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, has announced that non-government schools will be stripped of their payroll tax exemption from July 2024. The exemption has applied since the introduction of state payroll tax in 1971, in recognition of schools’ not-for-profit status and their contribution to the community. No other state imposes such a tax.

Despite the stereotype of plush private schools, many of the schools affected will be suburban, low fee-paying schools with religious affiliations.

Victoria is setting the precedent for other states who are also hurtling towards big debts and slowing economies and will be looking for avenues to improve their revenues, punishing non-government schools and parents who opt for them will be too easy an opportunity for state governments to pass by.

Class Action teacher network gathering

Class Action recently held a teacher network gathering at the IPA’s Melbourne office. Thank you to all of you who were able to make it to the event.

The event was attended by a small but enthusiastic group of experienced and graduate teachers, from both primary secondary schools. Meeting and speaking with them only confirmed to me how it is the education system, not our teachers, that is failing young Australians.

The issues I heard again and again from the attendees were a biased curriculum, a twisted disciplinary culture which has flipped the teacher-student dynamic on its head, and the lack of teacher support within school settings.

Thank you once again for all those who attended.

Class Action in the media

Part of Class Action’s agenda is to openly discuss and highlight issues in education in the community.

Towards this goal, I appeared on The Rita Panahi Show on Sky News Australia to discuss how university teacher training programs have become ‘politically charged’ and ‘polluted’. [View here]

I also sat down with Phil Dye on his podcast, Marking The Role: A podcast for teachers without fear or favour, to discuss how we are indoctrinating, not educating, Australian students. The podcast is available on his Substack. [Listen here]

Thank you for your support


Colleen Harkin

National Manager, Class Action Program and Research Fellow