PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9440


Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/1994

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 9440

It is my pleasure to announce that I have today received the report of the
Civics Expert Group.
The Report is appropriately entitled Whereas the people which is the
opening phrase of our Constitution and declares the popular basis of our
national government. Yet there is a sting in the tail of this title, as it reminds
us how few people in the general community or even in this place would know
the source and importance of these words.
The Commonwealth established the Civics Expert Group in June 1994 to
prepare a strategic plan for a non-partisan program of public education and
information on the Australian system of government, the Australian
Constitution, Australian citizenship and other civics issues.
The Group is Chaired by Professor Stuart Macintyre, the Ernest Scott
Professor of History in the University of Melbourne. The other members of
the Group are Dr Ken Boston, the Director-General of the New South Wales
Department of School Education, and Ms Susan Pascoe of the Catholic
Education Office in Melbourne.
The report reflects considerable credit on them all. They have completed
their task with considerable style and thoroughness. It is obvious that a great
deal of careful thought has gone into the report's recommendations, and that
the Group has genuinely come to grips with the difficult subject of educating
Australians about our system of government.
The Report sets out a program to help Australians participate more fully and
effectively in the civic life of our nation. It reflects the wide program of
consultation undertaken by the Group, which met with State governors;
representatives of State and Territory governments; leaders of federal
political parties; Australia's government and non-government education

sectors; community groups and interested bodies in the field such as the
Constitutional Centenary Foundation and the Parliamentary Education Office.
I endorse the view of the Group that an active and informed citizenship
should be " the mortar that holds together the bricks of our contemporary,
multicultural Australia". For this, Australians need a better knowledge of how
our government works, they need skills to become involved effectively, and
they need an appreciation of the benefits of active citizenship.
Education is the key. As part of its inquiries, the Group drew on a national
survey of community understanding of civics issues. The findings of that
survey, which are detailed in the Report, indicate widespread ignorance and
misunderstanding about the structure and function of Australia's system of
government, about its origins, and about the ways it can serve the needs of
citizens. The ignorance is not just of matters of detail, it goes to a basic lack
of understanding of the system and the principles on which it is founded.
This reflects a fundamental failing in our education system which the
Government is determined to address.
The remedy is to build an active and informed community through our
education system. The Group has put the view that education for citizenship
is an essential component of a liberal education and should rank with English
and mathematics as a priority for school education. I agree that it has been
neglected for far too long. To feel confidence in our future, to be active
participants in our national life, to feel pride in our democratic and inclusive
society, people must understand our democratic institutions and have a
sense of their history and the ideals on which they are based. To participate
fully and effectively to be good citizens, in other words they must
understand both the role of those institutions and the way they can become
active participants in our civic life.
This will require cooperative action by Australian governments. The
Commonwealth government recognises that Commonwealth financial support
would assist the State and Territory education authorities to implement
proposals along the lines recommended. The nature and extent of the
Commonwealth's support will be considered following consultations with the
States and Territories.
The Group has recommended that its report be made available for public
comment and discussion for three months. I am happy to agree and would
welcome comments on the report and its implementation by the end of
February 1995.
7 December 1994

Transcript 9440