The ā€˜Cā€™ Word - The challenge and necessity of changing our Constitution

Presented in partnership by the NSW Reconciliation Council and Reconciliation Australia to mark National Reconciliation Week 2013

The Australian Constitution has not been amended for more than 35 years. In fact, with only 8 of 44 total referendums successful, changing our Constitution is a notoriously difficult task.

With a referendum proposed for the near future and the daunting task of achieving a ‘yes’ vote, what is the likelihood of constitutional change? Will Australians be ready to erase the racial discrimination in our founding document and include significant recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians?

And what does it say about us as a nation if we don’t?

To celebrate Reconciliation Week 2013, join Dr Tom Calma AO, Associate Professor Sarah Maddison and Professor Anne Twomey in a discussion on national identity, Constitutional change and the next steps for reconciliation in Australia


Dr Tom Calma

Dr Tom Calma AO is an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group in the Northern Territory. He has been involved in Indigenous affairs at a local, community, state, national and international level focusing on rural and remote Australia, health, education and economic development. Dr Calma is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment and has spearheaded initiatives including the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, development of the inaugural Indigenous suicide prevention strategy and Justice Reinvestment. Past positions include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission and senior Australian diplomat in India and Vietnam.

Professor Anne Twomey

Professor Anne Twomey is a Professor of Constitutional Law in the Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney She has previously worked for the High Court of Australia, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Research Service, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee and The Cabinet Office of New South Wales. She has written extensively about the State and Commonwealth Constitutions, and is Director of the Constitutional Reform Unit at Sydney Law School which has looked at the recognition of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a preamble to the Constitution.

Associate Professor Sarah Maddison

Associate Professor Sarah Maddison is a widely published Australian author and academic, who currently holds an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship in the School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales. Her fellowship project is a four-year comparative project exploring dialogue and reconciliation in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Guatemala, and Australia. Her recent books include Black Politics: Inside the complexity of Aboriginal political culture (2009), winner of the Australian Political Studies Association Henry Mayer book prize in 2009, Beyond White Guilt: The real challenge to Black-White relations in Australia ( 2011), and the co-edited collection Unsettling the settler state: Creativity and resistance in Indigenous Settler-state governance (2011).