Our key focus in reviewing the Version 2 Draft Syllabus of the Proposed NSW History Curriculum is whether there is sufficient explicit and compulsory content regarding Government and Laws to ensure NSW students are informed and active citizens.  Version 2 Draft Syllabus for the Proposed History Curriculum NSW Stages 1 – 5 improves upon the current History Curriculum and Version 1 of the Draft Syllabus to include explicit terms and compulsory Civics Content.  However, we recommend the following changes to the Draft Syllabus:

  1. Include within the required essential knowledge and understanding (Outcomes) an understanding of Civics (Government and Laws) for all stages within the HSIE and History Syllabus

  2. Include additional Content regarding Laws and the Courts so that students can satisfy the new Civic Outcomes as per above; and

  3. Provide different perspectives of Colonisation in Australia by changing Depth Study (Core)- Aboriginal Peoples’ Experiences of Colonisation in Australia (c1788-1901) to Depth Study (Core) Experiences of Colonisation in Australia (c1788-1901)

    We also recommend that NESA prioritises Teacher Training to help teachers implement this new material.  This should take the form of a dedicated unit for Teacher Graduates (pre-service) and in-service training opportunities for current practicing teachers. 

    The need for Active and Informed Citizens

    As outlined in our original Submission on Version 1 Draft of the NSW History Syllabus, the NSW Government supports the concept that active and engaged citizens are necessary to maintain a democracy.  This is confirmed by the NSW Education Standards Authority Charter which states:

    Our Charter sets out our aim: to enable all children and young people to fulfil their potential through a high-quality education that is characterised by equity and excellence, equips them to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens, and nurtures development of the whole person, preparing students for meaningful work and living lives they have reason to value.

    In NSW, NESA incorporates the majority of its compulsory and explicit teaching in civics and citizenship within the ‘study of history’ as outlined in the Aims and Rationale of the Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) K-6 Syllabus and History 7-10 Syllabus:

    Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) K-6 Syllabus History 7-10 Syllabus
    Rationale Students explore what it means to be Australian and the roles and responsibilities in our democratic society. Through the study of history students learn civics and citizenship, which form the basis for Australia’s free, democratic and egalitarian society
    Aim knowledge and understanding of Australia’s democracy to become active, informed members of their community

    for students to participate in society as active, informed and responsible citizens


    In this Submission we do not make a comment on whether Civics and Citizenship should be a separate subject or incorporated within History.   We also will not comment on the citizenship content within the Syllabus.

    Instead, we will focus on whether the Outcomes and Content within the v2 Draft History Syllabus provides sufficient compulsory and explicit civic education, ie about Government and Law, for NSW students to be informed and active citizens.

    What should be included in Civics and Citizenship Education?

    In 2003, the Statement of Learning for Civics and Citizenship was written and endorsed by all Australian State, Territory and Australian education authorities (including the NSW Minister of Education).

    The Statement of Learning for Civics and Citizenship outlines the basic (minimum) areas of Civics and Citizenship that should be included in each State’s curriculum, with each State also able to include additional aspects as they see relevant.

    They are organised into four learning periods and cover three key aspects:

    1. Government and Law
    2. Citizenship in Democracy
    3. Historical Perspectives and the impact of the past on Australian civil society

    The Statements can therefore be seen as a measure of whether the Outcomes and Content in the NSW History Syllabus provides sufficient civics and citizenship learning.

    In this Submission we will not comment on the Citizenship in Democracy content within the Syllabus.

    General Comments Regarding v2 Draft History Syllabus

    i. Improved Civics Content in Version 2 of Draft Syllabus

    We are pleased to see content regarding Civics and Citizenship within the revised version of the Draft Syllabus.

    i.i. Compulsory Content

    In the current draft, there is now core (compulsory) content in the Curriculum regarding civics.

    We note that in Stage 3, students consider that People in Australia have democratic roles and responsibilities. This Unit provides NSW students the opportunity to learn about our bicameral parliamentary system. The Australian Constitution, equality before the law, the Magna Carta, the levels of government and how people can participate in democracy. This additional content will provide primary students with a basic understanding of our democracy.

    We also note that Depth study Australia: Making a nation (1889– 1914) is now a core unit in Stage 5 and therefore part of the compulsory material that secondary students will learn about. This Unit provides NSW students the opportunity to explore the ‘development and role of parliamentary democracy, features of the constitution, the division of powers and separation of powers, referendums and voting processes.’

    i.ii. Explicit Terms

    In the current draft, there is also additional key terminology incorporated within the content including separation of powers, division of powers, parliamentary democracy, Magna Carta, Constitution, equal before the law and referendum.

    ii. Areas of Concern in Version 2 of Draft Syllabus

    ii.i Does not Build Knowledge Over Time to Understand Critical Democratic and Legal Concepts

    The NSW Government’s priorities in ‘Learning with Understanding’, as identified on page 5 of each of the v2 draft syllabuses, include:

    It should therefore be a priority that Civics and Citizenship education is developed in a way that is increasing in depth over time, with core content sequenced through the new syllabus to develop a deep knowledge and understanding of concepts such as Government and laws.

    In the current v2 draft, the NSW History (and HSIE) Curriculum have only two key areas where civics and citizenship are incorporated: Stage 3 and Stage 5.  There is also no suggested time that should be spent on these areas.

    NSW students should be provided with more than 2 opportunities for progressions and sequences of learning regarding civics and citizenship.

    This is consistent with the NSW Government’s priority for understanding to develop in depth over time and with The Statement of Learning for Civics and Citizenship that has four junctures of progressions in years 3,5,7 and 9.

    Examples of civics content that could be incorporated into Stage 2 can be seen in the Appendix.


    Include Civics and Citizenship Content and Outcomes for Stage 2 (as well as within the 7-10 Syllabus as outlined below.) Examples can be found in Appendix 2.

     ii.ii Outcomes do not include Civics content.

    Outcomes are defined in the Syllabus as ‘The essential knowledge, understanding and skills that students are expected to demonstrate as a result of the teaching and learning of the syllabus.’ An Outcome is important as it describes what it is a student will learn and be assessed on.

    Currently, as per below in the K-6 Draft, Stage 3 includes democratic civic content but there is no outcome for learning in Stage 2 or, as outlined below, in any Outcome in the 7-10 Draft.

    In the 7-10 History syllabus, there are no Outcomes whereby a student will be able to explore how and why civics rights, democracy and the rule of law have changed over time in Australia.  Even though there is Content in Stage 5, there is no corresponding outcome regarding civics and citizenship education.

    We note that the Table of Outcomes includes specific outcomes for the development of knowledge regarding the experiences of Aboriginal Australians over time.


    The inclusion of Content and Outcomes for Stage 4 for Civics and Citizenship content.

    The inclusion of Outcomes for Stage 5 specific to Civics and Citizenship content.

    ii.iii       Insufficient Content regarding Laws and the Courts.

    The draft syllabus contains some content regarding the laws and the courts. We note that students are provided the opportunity to learn about the Australian Constitution and the origin of the principle that all people are equal before the law and must obey laws (Magna Carta). They also learn about the division of powers and separation of powers, referendums and voting processes, as well as the development of constitutional law in Australia.

    However, the Stage 3 Outcome only refers to teaching about Government. To be consistent with the Statement of Learning for Civics and Citizenship it should be about ‘Government and Laws’ which includes an understanding of laws, the legal system and Courts.

    Additional content is required so that students are taught about laws and the Courts including;

    • The purpose of rules and laws
    • Fair and unfair rules and laws
    • What happens when you break rules and laws
    • The fairness and appropriateness of laws
    • The fairness and appropriateness of punishments for breaking laws
    • Key personnel within the legal system
    • Different types of laws
    • International laws
    • Law and societal values
    • Role of Courts, including the High Court
    • Justice including independent judiciary, rule of law, presumption of innocence, fair trial, checks and balances etc

    It is important that explicit and compulsory content is included in the History Syllabus about laws and the courts as this may be a student’s only opportunity (if they do not elect to study Commerce or Legal Studies) to learn about the judiciary and to develop public confidence in its operation.


    Include an understanding of Australia’s legal system within the Outcome description ie describes the origins and features of Australia’s democratic system of government and its legal system

    Additional content in Stage 2, 3 and 5 regarding laws and the courts. This could look at the first cases in the colony or the establishment of the Supreme Court by the NSW Act 1823 (UK).

    Additional content on laws and the courts could be included in Stage 5 by removing the confusing content item ‘The development of constitutional law in Australia.’

    ii.iv  Different Perspectives of Colonisation in Australia

    In Stage 4, students learn about the Historical Context regarding the era of colonisation. They then undertake a Core Depth Study and look at this era of colonisation in Australia from an Aboriginal Peoples’ perspective.  Although the Outcome for this Depth Study states that the student ‘explains different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past,’ the Content primarily directs students to look at this period in Australian history from an Aboriginal Peoples’ perspective.

    As outlined in our previous submission:

    “The Stage 4 Depth Study (core) – Aboriginal Peoples’ Experiences of Colonisation in Australia (c. 1700-1901) provides a single lens perspective to students of one group experience in a particular time frame. Further, the concepts and skills as detailed are skills focused and do not foster the formation of critical thinking as detailed by the concepts and skills listed above.

    RoLEC acknowledges and supports the need for express teaching of historical truth when students learn of the Indigenous experience. However, this must be balanced with the other aspects of the formation of the Australia that presently exists including the perspectives of the British Heritage and other migrants to Australia.

    For critical thinkers to be created in an education system, all relevant perspectives must be examined and taught, and students must be able to think of these experiences from their own unique perspectives. It is the role of the education system to minimise bias in order to allow for student to develop the skills for critical thinking.”

    By considering this era of Australian history only from an Aboriginal People’s perspective, students are not provided with a balanced perspective of Colonisation of Australia in 1788. There is no mention of the role of the law, courts, development of democracy, religion or the Judeo-Christian heritage in the new colony.

    Without these perspectives, it will be difficult for students, when they study the second core Depth Study- Australia: Making a Nation (1889-1914), to consider Federation without a sufficient sequence of learning to understand the colony and the development of democracy and the courts before 1901.


    Change Depth Study (Core)- Aboriginal Peoples’ Experiences of Colonisation in Australia (c1788-1901) to to Depth Study (Core) Experiences of Colonisation in Australia (c1788-1901)

    Additional Outcome for Depth Study (Core) Experiences of in Australia (c1788-1901) to include civics and citizenship understanding.

    Additional Content including Instructions given to Governor Phillip, Experiences of the Justice system (and the first Court Cases), reasons the English thought the land was Terra Nullius and changes in the way Australia was governed from colonisation to Federation.

    Teacher training

     Over the last 20 years, research has revealed that most Australians lack understanding of our democracy and democratic way of life. If additional content is included within the Curriculum regarding civic education, it is critical that extensive teacher education is provided.

    It is not sufficient to merely provide supplementary teacher notes to remedy this systemic lack of civic knowledge in our community and our teachers.

    This can only be remedied with a long-term shift through improved formal teacher education.


    All pre-service teachers in NSW complete a dedicated unit in Civic education as part of their degree/ diploma through the revised Professional Development Policy.

    Prioritise Civics and Citizenship Education training for current practicing teachers

    Appendix: Some Suggested Ways (Written in BOLD) to Include Civics Content in Stage 2

    Geographical information is used to understand the world


    A student:

    • describes Aboriginal Peoples’ obligations to Country, Culture and Community
    • explains how people care for Australia’s environments and participate in Australian society, using geographical information
    • describes the origins and features of Australia’s democratic system of government and the Australian legal system

    Sources provide evidence for how people lived in the first penal settlement at Sydney Cove

    • Identify reasons for the establishment of a British penal colony at New South Wales
    • Describe the role that transportation of convicts played in the establishment of a colony at New South Wales
    • Describe the experiences of men, women and children on the First Fleet voyage using sources as evidence
    • Research the role of the Courts in protecting convict’s rights, using sources as evidence such as Blackstones Laws, Case Transcripts and Official Government Documents
    • Research and draw conclusions about resources transported with the First Fleet, using sources as evidence
    • Represent life in the penal settlement at Sydney Cove using maps, images and sites
    • Research and recount the life of an Aboriginal person, convict, marine and settler who lived in the penal settlement at Sydney Cove
    • Explain how stories, images, objects and sites are used as sources of evidence for the first penal settlement in New South Wales

    People participate in Australian society

    • Conduct surveys and graph results to explain how and why people respond to needs in the community
    • Explain the traditions of major world religions in Australia
    • Research the origin and work of a New South Wales organisation that responds to a community need
    • Explain the importance of volunteering as active citizenship
    • Explain the purpose of laws and what happens when people break the law
    • Design a response to a need in the school or local community

    Help us review the Draft v2 NSW History Syllabus

    NSW Education Standards Association (NESA) incorporates most of its compulsory civics and citizenship material in the History Syllabus. The content that is included in the NSW History Syllabus is the key indicator of what NSW’s future citizens will learn regarding our system of government, rights and responsibilities, rules and laws, judicial process, elements of a fair trial and the Constitution. As NSW students comprise approximately 30% of all Australian students, it is vitally important that the curriculum includes sufficient explicit and compulsory content to ensure NSW students are equipped with the necessary knowledge to become active and engaged citizens.

    As of 26 February 2024, NESA has released 8 draft syllabuses for final public consultation including the HSIE K-6 and History 7-10 Syllabuses. There is only 2 weeks for feedback.

    The Rule of Law Education Centre will be providing written feedback on the draft syllabus to NESA in regards to the civics and citizenship content and whether there is sufficient content within the study of History to ensure NSW students are provided adequate material to be informed and active citizens able to uphold Australia’s free, democratic and egalitarian society.

    We are asking our members for feedback to include in our submission.

    Teachers are also encouraged to directly give feedback either by a written submission emailed to nswcurriculumreform@nesa.nsw.edu.au or via the online feedback form here.

    Copies of the Syllabus can be found here:

    Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) K–6 Draft Syllabus

    History 7–10 Draft Syllabus

    Previous Submissions and articles about v1 Draft NSW History Curriculum

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