National Library of Australia

Teachers notes: Establishing the seat of Federal Government

Time, Continuity and Change

A student:

  • describes the significant ideas, people or events that have contributed to Australian identity.
  • analyses how periods of time in history are used to identify ideas and place events, e.g. places developments in medical science according to the centuries in which they happened.
  • examines and explains how people may think differently about the same event or issue, e.g. compares the reasons people voted for the same candidate in an election.

Place and Space

A student:

  • explains how people’s use of natural and built features of places changes over time, e.g. uses photographs and maps of a place to identify changes in land use and suggests reasons for this.
  • explains why various individuals and groups have different views about issues to do with the care of places, e.g. describes the significance of the land to Indigenous people.


A student:

  • describes how cultural groups, their beliefs, and the way they organise themselves contribute to making the identity of a society.
  • examines how a person’s gender, race, income and social status influence the way they see themselves and are thought of by others, e.g. looks at how Indigenous people are represented in the mass media.

Natural and Social System

A student:

  • describes key features of Australian political and legal systems at the local, state and national level, e.g. describes the roles of legal aid, lawyers, judges, reform commissions, attorneys-general.

Investigation, Communication and Participation

A student:

  • recognises the main issues to be researched and the most suitable ways of investigating them.
  • argues a personal point of view by using supportive evidence from research.
  • identifies the causes of conflict and the problems relating to group work and negotiates ways to solve them.

If you don’t have the right to vote you won’t get your issues and concerns considered.


  • Who could vote in the 1899–1900 referendum for Federation; white men, women or Indigenous peoples? Who could vote a year after Federation in 1902?
  • What forms of political demonstration could you use to get the attention of politicians and win the right to vote?
  • One of the first acts of the newly Federated Parliament was to create the White Australia policy. What was it, how did it work, what was its purpose and when was it revoked?
  • Jimmy Clements was a Wiradjuri Aboriginal elder. At the age of 80 he walked barefoot with his dog all the way from Tumut to be present at the opening of Parliament House in 1927. He was not allowed into Parliament House because he was not dressed properly. The Police tried to turn him away but the crowd supported his presence at the historic opening. Could this have been Australia’s first land rights demonstration? If so what message might it have communicated to Aboriginal people?
  • Why didn’t they build Canberra by the sea? Why did it have to be an inland capital?
  • Many people described the site for the National Federal Parliament as a ‘good sheep paddock spoiled’. Why?
  • The Griffins held strong spiritual beliefs, they were Theosophists. Theosophy is similar to Buddhism. Theosophists believe in the need to cooperate with nature, to preserve and protect the natural world and to be ecologically responsible. How did these beliefs affect their design for Canberra as the ideal city?


  • The Aboriginal Embassy was established on the lawns of Parliament House in 1972. It is Australia’s longest running demonstration. Research how the Aboriginal Embassy placed Australian race relations in the international spotlight.


  • In groups research some of the characters in the National Capital Story: Charles Scrivener, Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahony Griffin, King O’Malley, and Jimmy Clements. Imagine that they all travel back to Canberra today. Create a presentation from each character’s perspective about what they think of the National Capital today.
  • Visit the National Library’s online Exhibition — An Ideal City: The 1912 Competition to Design Canberra to see Marion Griffins’ drawings, photographs and maps of the site and also to see the original shortlisted competition entries.