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The 10th Henry Parkes Oration
Professor George Williams AO
Achieving social justice through constitutional change
Wednesday 24 October 2012
Museum of Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House, Canberra ACT
Australia’s Constitution has a profound, long-term effect on the nation and our quality of life. However, according to Professor Williams, “When it comes to constitutional reform in Australia, we have lost the plot.”
The Constitution, drafted more than 100 years ago, can only be changed through a referendum, and it has been 35 years since this last occurred – by far the longest period that Australia has gone without amending the document. The next longest period was 21 years between the 1946 and 1967 referendums.
Professor Williams believes this failure has major implications for community well-being in areas such as health, education, environmental protection and Aboriginal justice. The issue is particularly timely in the context of ongoing debate around recognition of Aboriginal peoples in the Constitution.
“Australia needs to recapture Henry Parkes’ vision for achieving social justice through constitutional reform,” said Professor Williams.
Download the full speech as a PDF.
The Oration is scheduled to be broadcast on Radio National's Big Ideas program on Tuesday 19 February 2013.
Professor George Williams AO is one of Australia’s leading constitutional lawyers. He is the Anthony Mason Professor, a Scientia Professor and the Foundation Director of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. He is a well-known media commentator on legal issues, and has written and edited 28 books, including Australian Constitutional Law and Theory and The Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia.