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Democracy. Are you in? Joining the conversation

Vote for Your Values cards in the Democracy. Are you In? exhibition. Photo by: Stefan Postles
Vote for Your Values cards in the Democracy. Are you In? exhibition. Photo by: Stefan Postles
Exploring how a healthy democracy is a balance between trust and mistrust, the museum’s permanent exhibition Democracy. Are You In? is a unique experience where visitors become an active part of the conversation.

Through the new permanent gallery Democracy. Are You In? the museum is exploring the qualities of Australian democracy and growing public awareness of its current challenges, and looking at how we can do things differently.

This richly multilayered exhibition uses a range of photographs, objects and audiovisual elements in unique and engaging ways, encouraging visitors to come to their own conclusions about where Australia’s democracy sits on a global scale.

Told through a collection of intriguing objects connected to personal stories of individuals who contributed to shaping our nation, the exhibition stimulates conversations about the current state of democracy and casts an eye to the future—inspiring new ways for ordinary people to have their say.

All the objects in the exhibition reflect democratic processes at work in different ways, including the rainbow flag signed by supporters of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, a Berlin Wall fragment, Jessie Street’s brooch and modelled microphone, and Neville Bonner’s tobacco tin with soil from Jagera Country.

Underpinning the exhibition is authoritative research and data analysis, including the findings of quantitative and qualitative surveys conducted by the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra.

Through the exhibition’s interactive elements, including Vote for Your Values cards, visitors nominate what democratic qualities and institutions they value, what kinds of political action they regard as most effective, and what reforms they think would have the biggest impact. Around 750 visitors to the museum have contributed Vote for Your Values cards, providing a wealth of data for researchers at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, and demonstrating the importance of the conversation.

Democracy. Are You In? plays an important role in educating both general visitors and students on how to be active citizens, with the exhibition including an interactive digital trail used in a museum learning program. The digital trail extends the students’ knowledge of civics and citizenship and encourages them to identify the importance of their ongoing, participatory role in Australian democracy.

By asking visitors what democracy means to them—and what life would be like without it—the exhibition provides a unique space for exploring conventional and contemporary forms of political participation; collecting and disseminating new research findings; and exploring alternative forms of political engagement in the digital age.