About

The Constitutional Reform Unit was established in 2011. It is based in the Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney, but is an inter-disciplinary body that will draw on expertise across the University as appropriate. It may also draw upon the expertise of associates from outside the University.

Aims and objectives

The Constitutional Reform Unit has been established to provide the objective research and analysis that is needed to underpin and inform public debate upon proposals for constitutional reform in Australia at both the Commonwealth and State levels. It is a non-partisan body that does not advocate or oppose particular reforms. Instead, its aim is to publish rigorous reports which:

  • explain the background to reform proposals,
  • outline the history and operation of current constitutional provisions,
  • set out comparative material as to how such matters are dealt with in similar countries,
  • explain the options for reform and
  • analyse how they would fit in with the rest of the Constitution and what their likely consequences may be.

The reports published on this site are intended to provide a resource for the media and the public, as well as for the advocates and critics of reform. The objective is not to achieve or prevent constitutional reforms, but rather to raise the level of public debate, so that constitutional reform issues can be decided on their merits, not on misconceptions and incorrect assumptions.

Scope of the Constitutional Reform Unit’s work

The Constitutional Reform Unit will analyse and report on reform proposals at both the Commonwealth and State levels. These will include not only proposals for formal amendments to the written Constitutions of the Commonwealth and the States, but also constitutional reforms in the broader context of reforms to the institutions of Government – the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary.

It is anticipated that the Constitutional Reform Unit will also undertake joint research projects with similar overseas bodies, sharing Australian expertise and comparative material with other countries undergoing constitutional revisions and reform.

Advisory Board

The current advisory board of the Constitutional Reform Unit is comprised of:

The Hon Justice James Allsop, President, NSW Court of Appeal, Sydney.
Mr Chris Eccles, Director-General, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, Sydney.
Professor Robert Hazell, Director, The Constitution Unit, Department of Political Science, University College London.
Dr Rosemary Laing, Clerk of the Senate, Parliament House, Canberra.
Ms Helen Silver, Director-General, Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, Melbourne.
Dr James Thomson, University of Western Australia and Office of the WA Attorney-General, Perth.
Mr Roger Wilkins, Secretary, Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra.

Management

The Director of the Constitutional Reform Unit is Professor Anne Twomey and the Deputy Director is Professor Helen Irving.