THE TIMELINE OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE IDEAS INCORPORATED IN THE SIX CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES
The first Aboriginal people have already arrived in Australia
For over 60,000 years the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have inhabited the Australian continent, living with the land as their nation and in accordance with systems of law and custom. Distinct tribal groups inhabited hundreds of district territories with over 250 languages spoken.
In Ancient Greece Athenian Democracy included voting and a written Constitution
Regarded as the beginnings of democracy the democratic government of Athens rested on three main institutions: the Assembly of the Demos, the Council of 500 and the People’s Court. Citizens (just free men) voted by a show of hands. The idea of the rule of law can be traced back to Athens. Aristotle wrote: "it is better for the law to rule than one of the citizens."
The Magna Carta gave people the right to justice and a fair trial
Tyrannical King John of England was forced by the Barons to seal an agreement known as “The Great Charter” at Runnymede. Everybody, even the King, was then subject to the law. After centuries of Kings being able to tax any person any amount, or throw anyone in jail, Magna Carta gave all "free men" the right to justice and a fair trial.
The Bill of Rights was enacted by the Parliament in England
After the Glorious Revolution King James II fled England and the Bill of Rights was enacted by the English Parliament. It limited the power of the King and bolstered the power of Parliament. It included the requirement for Parliament to meet regularly, for free elections and freedom of speech. It also included the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. This revolution permanently established Parliament as the ruling power of England.
The Industrial Revolution marked the end of the feudal system
The transition from hand production methods to machines turned Britain into a worldwide trading empire with colonies from North America to India. It also marked a change in political sentiment as the rise of the business man meant successful merchants started clamouring for political representation in the Parliament. The power of the aristocracy in the Government was substantially reduced. The decline of feudalism also brought enormous change to the structure of society.
The eastern part of continent of Australia was colonised by the British and called New South Wales
The British arrived in Sydney, taking the view that the land did not belong to anyone (Terra Nullius). They brought English statute law and the common law. Governor Phillip had been given instructions by King George III on how to run the penal colony and to treat the Aboriginal peoples well. 751 convicts and 213 soldiers reached New South Wales on the first fleet and the British were keen to ensure this colony was different from the American experience.
Moves were made towards achieving self-government in the Colony of NSW
The New South Wales Judicature Act was passed in Britain and provided a Legislative Council and the beginnings of a Parliament in NSW. The penal colony became a settled colony with the establishment of a civil government, civil courts and trial by jury. 5 to 7 members of the Council were appointed to advise the Governor and taxes could only be levied for local needs.
The first elections were held in Australia
Australia’s first election was held on 31 October 1840 for the Adelaide City Council. Nearly 600 property owning men who had lived within the municipality for at least 6 months voted. Women, aliens and anyone that had been imprisoned within the previous two years were excluded. Local government elections were held in Sydney and Melbourne in 1842.
The first inter-Colonial Conference was held
The colonies of the Australian continent began to realise that there were particular matters on which they needed to work together. With shipwrecks a regular occurrence off the coasts of the colonies, the first Conference discussed the maintenance of the lighthouses. Over 80 inter-Colonial Conferences were held prior to federation. Meanwhile Victoria pioneered the secret ballot in 1856.
The end of convict transportation to the Australian colonies
With free settlers concerned about the society that was developing in the Australian colonies, the arrival of convict ships had been abolished in most colonies. Western Australian companies still required cheap convict labour and transportation had continued there. The last convict ship, the Hougoumont, arrived in Fremantle on 9 January with 279 prisoners.
The first draft of the Constitution was written on board the Q.G.S.Y. Lucinda on the Hawkesbury River in NSW
The first Constitutional Convention was attended by delegates appointed by the colonial parliaments. Politicians from the colonies were reluctant to give up any power to a Federal Government. Queensland Premier Sir Samuel Griffith, South Australian Premier Charles Kingston and New South Wales delegate Edmund Barton sailed away over the Easter weekend to write the Constitution. A pre-draft Constitution prepared by Tasmanian delegate Andrew Inglis Clark was used as a starting point. Shortly afterwards a recession hit and federation was put aside.
South Australian women were able to vote and hold a seat in Parliament
Suffragettes persuaded the South Australian Government that allowing women to vote would be politically advantageous. Legislation was tabled by Premier Charles Kingston to allow women to vote with the expectation that it would fail on the floor of Parliament. However it passed. SA women were granted the right to vote and were the first women in the world able to stand for and hold a seat in Parliament. Catherine Helen Spence was the first woman to put herself forward for election in 1897 when she ran unsuccessfully as a delegate for the second Constitutional Conventions.
The second Constitutional Convention was held in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne
10 delegates were elected from each of the colonies except Western Australia who appointed their delegates and Queensland who did not attend. The delegates attended three Constitutional debating and drafting sessions over 82 days. The debates, held in three locations, focused on incorporating the responsible government from the separate colonies into a federal structure. Finding agreement was at times difficult. The final draft was then sent to the people at a referendum, which failed in NSW.
Referendums were held in all colonies except WA
Successful referendums were held in five colonies where the people approved the Constitution. Many viewed the Constitution as very democratic for its time. The people of NSW were convinced by the changes to the Constitution made by the Premiers’ Conference. The Colonial Government of Western Australia was still reluctant to join the new federation.