The Australian Constitution is the foundation legal document of our system of government. It established the Commonwealth and the states and made Australia a single nation.
Gaining support for constitutional change is not an easy task.
Generally to amend the Constitution, a Bill proposing the amendment must first be submitted to and passed by the Parliament. Between two and six months later the proposal can then be put to Australian voters at a referendum.
For an amendment to succeed a ‘double-majority’ is required. This means that a majority of voters nation-wide need to vote ‘yes’ and a majority of voters in a majority of the six states must also vote ‘yes’ (territory votes are counted in the national total but not in any state figure).
Of the eight successful national referenda, the 1967 referendum is often referred to as the ‘most’ successful having been passed with 90.8 per cent agreement, the highest ‘yes’ vote to date.
Prior to that referendum the Constitution specifically denied the Commonwealth the power to legislate for Aboriginal people or to include them in national censuses.
The success of the 1967 referendum was a major step towards including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australian society.
The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution is a further step towards building a nation based on mutual respect and understanding