Janice (right) shows her daughters how to prepare pandanus leaves to make fibre artworks to sell. Photo: Richard Wainwright

Subsidiarity and Participation


Teacher Introduction

By the end of this unit, students will: 

  • Develop a deep understanding of Subsidiarity and Participation as principles of Catholic Social Teaching 
  • Familiarise themselves with the ways in which Caritas Australia works towards subsidiarity and participation for communities through its work both in Australia and around the world 
  • Understand how to have an active voice on issues that impact their lives and the lives of others around the world 
  • Apply their understanding of subsidiarity and participation to social justice issues, and plan how they will express their heart of concern and service towards the flourishing of others in their local communities 

This learning sequence has been created using the ‘See, Judge and Act’ model. This reflection–action process was first used by a Belgian Catholic priest, Joseph Cardijn (who later became a Cardinal) with Young Christian workers prior to the First World War. This approach was also recommended in the 1961 encyclical letter written by Pope John XXIII called Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher). 

Teachers, before you start:

  1. Watch the Subsidiarity and Participation film and familiarise yourself with the pause points 
  2. Provide your students with a copy of the Success Criteria. This will help students self-assess their knowledge and understanding of subsidiarity and participation throughout the unit. 
  3. Additional useful readings for teachers include Pope Francis’ encyclicals Fratelli Tutti and Laudato Si’, as well as the DOCAT What to do? 


What is Subsidiarity and Participation?  

Watch (All Years)

Watch the Subsidiarity and Participation film, stopping at the pause points. Students write down, or discuss, their responses to the questions. 

This can be completed as a whole class, or set as prior learning before you commence the learning sequence.  

Discuss  (All Years)

Referring students to the film, ask them to define both Subsidiarity and Participation, and explain the difference between the two.  

Rights and Responsibilities (All Years) 

Explain the purpose of the activity to your students prior to commencement. 

As a class, we are going to explore what the CST principles of Subsidiarity and Participation are, and how we can contribute to a more just and fair world by enacting these principles in our everyday life. An understanding of our rights and responsibilities is central to this since these are the rights that people in positions of authority must uphold, and that we must uphold through our own actions – both in our daily life and in holding people in power to account. 

Using the relevant resource below, students complete the activities, demonstrating an understanding of Subsidiarity and Participation as a Catholic Social Teaching and how they are classified as both rights and responsibilities in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  

Years 7-8 -Rights and Responsibilities – Lower Secondary 
Years 9-10 -  Rights and Responsibilities – Upper Secondary  

Extension (Years 9 &10) - Ask each group to share which rights they feel are most important and identify those that are common amongst the class. Encourage discussion as they explain why some are more important than others. Pose the following questions: 

  1. What are some of the human rights issues you identified in the second question of the worksheet?
  2. In relation to one common human rights issue you named, identify which rights have been violated. 
  3. Would your ranking of rights have changed if you were living in the country where the issues are taking place? 
  4. Are some rights more important than others depending on where you live in the world? Why or why not? 

Who is in charge? (Years 9 & 10) 

Refer students to the second pause point in the film:  

Think about an issue in your local community. Who is making the decisions? Can everyone participate? 

Students share their responses with a partner, small group and/or the class. 

Provide students with a copy of the Who is in charge? resource. Students are to identify the various powers of local, state and federal governments, and potential barriers to subsidiarity and participation. (This activity will assist to deepen students’ understanding of activities in the following ‘judge’ section of the learning sequence.) 


Subsidiarity and Participation for First Australians 

Students will have an opportunity to dive deeper into the ongoing issues surrounding participation and subsidiarity for Australian First Nations Peoples and apply their understanding of Church teaching and scripture to this social justice issue.  

Meditative exercise - Dadirri (Deep listening) (All Years) 

Listening is an important part of how we learn and share meaning, understanding and wisdom.  

  • Ask students to do the following: 

Sit comfortably. Gently close your eyes. Notice your breath. Listen to the air flow in and out. Listen. Can you hear the breath of others in the room? Notice what else you can hear. Take a deep breath in. And out. After a minute or two, finish with another deep breath in and out, then gently open your eyes.  

Optional – play some music. For example, a song from Gurrumul's 'Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)' album (2018) or Australian nature sounds from ABC Radio 

  • After some time to reflect, ask students to share what came to mind, and how their bodies felt, as they listened. 

For more on deep listening, see Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann’s ‘dadirri’ reflection on the Miriam Rose Foundation website 

Uluru Statement from the Heart (Years 7 & 8) 

Begin by gauging student understanding of colonisation. 

Refer students to the film where it mentions how for centuries, the Australian government has made decisions for First Australian communities, rather than upholding these communities’ rights to make decisions for themselves or be part of the decision-making process. Students complete the following activities/questions: 

  1. Construct a timeline of Australian First Nations Peoples’ rights in Australia. Or review this timeline from the Uluru Statement from the Heart website. Upon completion, ask them to share three takeaways from the activity, two questions they have and select one of these to research the answer to. 
  2. When Australian First Nations Peoples are not part of the decision-making process when it comes to things that affect their lives, what church teachings are being denied? 
  3. Can you recall a scripture passage that highlights the importance for all to be involved? 


Listen to, and read the lyrics of Yothu Yindi’s song ‘Treaty’ and answer the questions below: 

  • What phrase stood out the most to you? Why?  
  • How is music being used as an effective tool to promote participation and subsidiarity? Can you name another song that promotes justice?  
  • What is a treaty? How do treaties enable participation and subsidiarity?  

The Dialogues (Years 7 & 8) 

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was born from a series of regional dialogues held across the country, culminating in a National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in 2017. The purpose of these 12 Dialogues and 1 regional meeting was to consult and educate, resulting in the most proportionally significant consultation process of First Nations peoples Australia has ever seen. 

  • Choose a dialogue from the map. Read the text then watch the video and answer the following:   
  1. What word, phrase or image stands out or surprises you?  
  2. Describe one unique thing about the place where the dialogue took place.  
  3. Write a sentence that summarises the main points that were raised in the dialogue. 
  4. Describe how participation and subsidiarity were demonstrated through the dialogue process.
  • In 2022, the newly elected Labor government committed to a referendum within the next three years. The question that people will answer yes or no to is: Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?  

What do you want to say/want others to know about the idea of establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in parliament, from your particular location, perspective and experience?  

 Uluru Statement from the Heart (Years 9 & 10) 

  • Begin by asking students to recall what they know about the impact of colonisation on Australian First Nations Peoples. You may wish to use an online brainstorming tool such as Mentimeter so that student responses can be displayed for all to see and discuss. 
  • Ask students if they have heard of, or what they know about, the Uluru Statement from the Heart. 
  • Refer students to the film where it states how for centuries, the Australian government has made decisions for First Australian communities, rather than upholding these communities’ rights to make decisions for themselves or be part of the decision-making process. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an opportunity for Australian First Nations Peoples’ voices to be heard and included when it comes to decisions that impact them. 
  • Watch the Uluru Statement from the Heart educational video to deepen students’ understanding of the history behind colonisation, land rights and the statement.  
  • Provide students with a copy of the Uluru Statement from the Heart resource and have them complete the accompanying resource questions as they watch the clip. 

Once completed students discuss/record the following:  

  1. Explain how a lack of subsidiarity and participation has impacted Australian First Nations Peoples. 
  2. Which church teachings have been denied or upheld by not truly listening to the voices and needs of Australian First Nations Peoples? 
  3. Watch the following clip from The Project which provides a good summary of the progress of the statement since being written. What were some of the reasons past governments made for not committing to the statement? 
  4. In 2022, the newly elected Labor government made a commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. What has been the progress of the commitment since then? 
  5. By the government committing to the statement, explain how it will improve subsidiarity and participation for Australian First Nations Peoples. 

Extension: Create a short video 

More and more videos have been watched, shared and created, particularly on social media. They can be a great way to send a quick message to a targeted audience. There has been a lot of confusion in the media about what a voice to parliament actually means.  

Create a short video targeted at the youth of Australia, that explains the Uluru Statement from the Heart, its purpose, and the importance of an Australian First Nations Peoples voice to parliament. Try to incorporate key church teaching or scripture references into your film. 


Subsidiarity and Participation Global Tour (All Years) 

Refer students to the film that highlights the importance of listening to the voices of those most affected by the issues and asking for their ideas.  

It is through support from schools and parishes that enables Caritas Australia to promote subsidiarity and participation throughout their programs around the world.  

Caritas Australia works alongside their partners to build on existing local strengths and resources, so that communities can drive their own development.  

Provide students with this Google Earth activity link. This activity will enable students to see how when they put their compassion into action through supporting Caritas Australia, they too are working towards achieving subsidiarity and participation amongst communities around the world. Students will watch case study videos and answer accompanying questions.  

Acknowledgement of Country (Years 7 & 8) 

Remind students that educating ourselves is one powerful way that we can take action. Ask students to research the Australian First Nations Peoples’ Country your school resides on and research their history and any identifying features (e.g. language). 

  • Create a sign of acknowledgement that can be displayed in your school. This can be in the form of an artwork on any sign that includes relevant words, colours and symbols. Consider sharing the signs on your school social media channels. 
  • Ask students to write a unique Acknowledgement of Country based on their research to be used at class/whole school gatherings. 
  • Find existing, or come up with new ways, to connect/support the voices of First Nations Peoples in your school.  

Supporting Australian First Nations organisations and businesses (Years 9 & 10) 

Refer students to the film where it introduces them to the Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation. Businesses such as these are particularly important as they are designed and led by Australian First Nations Peoples. They provide employment, income, and a way to promote various aspects of Australian First Nations culture. Actively supporting, raising awareness and promoting businesses such as these, are ways that we can take action to promote subsidiarity and participation for First Nations Australians.  

Ask students to work individually or in groups to research an Australian First Nations run business and present their findings back to the class as a presentation. They should locate the following information: 

  1. What is the name of the business? 
  2. What does the business offer?  
  3. Provide a brief history of the business (When was it founded? Who is/are the founders? Where is it located? Is there an interesting story behind it?) 
  4. How does this business work towards providing a voice for Australian First Nations Peoples?  
  5. What can you do to actively support this business? E.g., like/follow their social media pages, share their social media posts, buy from the business, encourage others to buy from this business, encourage other people to support this business, contact the business and ask how you can help.  

Participating in Caring for our Common Home  

Pope Francis calls us all to be active participants in caring for our common home.  

“I urgently appeal… for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. 

All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” Laudato Si’ n14  

Using the Be More Reflection Guide and Personal Planner, students reflect on the current environmental crisis and what personal, family, local, national and global actions they can each take to care for our common home.  

Extension Reading: Caritas Australia, along with several other organisations, has written a joint Statement on Subsidiarity. This statement calls upon Federal, State and Territory governments, and religious institutions, not-for-profit organisations and businesses to commit to subsidiarity through a number of recommendations aimed at giving First Australian communities an opportunity to be a part of decisions that impact their lives.  Read Caritas Australia’s Joint Statement on Subsidiarity here.  


Conclude the learning sequence in prayer with your students. 

Begin with an Acknowledgement of Country. (For students in years 7 and 8, ask them to share one of their own from the activity within the learning sequence.) 

Ask students to join together in prayer.  

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

Loving God,  

We pray for Australian First Nations Peoples, the traditional custodians of this Land, and thank them for their inherent care of your precious creation. May we learn from their wisdom, working towards a sustainable future where the land is nurtured, respected and shared by all.  

May we listen compassionately to the call of their hearts, so that justice, recognition, legislative change and equality for First Nations Australians is achieved. 

Inspire us to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters on this journey towards a just and free nation, that amplifies Australian First Nations Peoples’ voice and boldly shares their truth. 

In Jesus’s name,