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Introduction to the Australian Constitution: Its story and how it works

The Australian Constitution is the bedrock of our society. Since 1901 it has underpinned our story of nation building through a world history that lurched between war and peace.

The Constitution has been a remarkably successful rule book. It guides us daily as citizens in our communities so we can get on with our lives in a safe and stable system of government.

Before the Constitution came into being, a group of six separate British colonies had to agree to unite. Colonial parliaments had to feel comfortable that they retained enough of their powers. The voting population wanted to pioneer rights such as a fair go in a free and just society. At this time most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and most women did not have the vote. The writers of the Constitution wanted to entrench foundation principles that would ensure the branches of Government had checks and balances to limit their powers.

We were fortunate to get a Constitution that can evolve and change to meet the needs of a progressing country. Alterations can only happen through a vote by all the people. Yet research suggests many people today don’t understand the importance of our Constitution. We hope our Educational Program and our Exhibition at the High Court, Canberra demonstrate how the Constitution works and that it is a national treasure. Knowledge of our Constitution’s history and story will help you realise what a great system of government we have in Australia. You will also explore how your own life, in your own community, benefits from the Constitution.

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