Parliament in Schools program offers peek into political life

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

In schools across Australia, some of today’s Australian primary school students will grow up to become tomorrow’s leaders. To help those children understand what it means to be an active, informed citizen, a bi-partisan initiative to make civics education accessible in regional, rural, and remote schools takes life as an MP on the road.

This week, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honourable Milton Dick MP is in regional New South Wales (NSW) as part of the Parliament in Schools program.

With the Member for Parkes, the Hon Mark Coulton MP, the Speaker visited Bullarah Public School and Rowena Public School on Wednesday 30 August, and will visit Gravesend Public School, Pallamallawa Public School, and Croppa Creek Public School on Thursday 31 August.

Students will learn about federation, democracy, and the Australian Parliament, as well as listen to first-hand experiences about what daily life is like as a Member of Parliament in their electorate, and during sitting weeks in Canberra.

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About the Parliament in Schools program

The Parliament in Schools program launched in September 2022 and is a collaboration with the Parliamentary Education Office (PEO).

The PEO draws on accessible, immersive, experiential programs and resources to help educate Australians about – and inspire their enthusiasm for – Australia’s parliamentary democracy.

In 2021-22, 19 468 students from 347 schools across Australia participated in an onsite PEO program.

Sharing stories about life in politics

“I am visiting schools in regional areas who may not have the opportunity to travel all the way to Canberra,” the Federal Member for Oxley, Milton Dick MP, told EducationDaily. “I strongly believe that all schools should have the opportunity to participate in a Parliament program, regardless of their location.”

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The best part about this program, Mr Dick says, is that “is it bi-partisan and apolitical”.

“Students get to see a different side to parliament than what they usually see on tv,” he told EducationDaily. “And, of course, one of my favourite parts of the session is where students get to ask myself and their local member any question they like – almost like their own Question Time!”

Although his days when Parliament is sitting always begin with a meeting with the Clerks to go through the day’s business ahead before he officially opens Parliament, no two days as Speaker are the same, says Mr Dick.

“As Speaker, I am also Presiding Officer of Parliament House, which means I have responsibility of the day-to-day operations of Parliament House,” Mr Dick told EducationDaily. “So, my day will be filled with various meetings and briefings on matters in the building and committees. And I always finish the day in the Chair for the adjournment debate.”

For school students who might be considering a career in Australian politics, the educational pathway to become an MP is varied, Mr Dick says.

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“MPs come from all walks of life and there is no one way to become an MP,” he told EducationDaily.

Mr Dick hopes the Parliament in Schools program enables school students across Australia to see the potential impact a life in politics can deliver.

“If you are passionate about certain issues and would like to make a difference in your local community, then being an MP might be the perfect role,” he says.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]