Executive summary

A fuller declaration of Australia’s nationhood

The Referendum Council called for the adoption of a symbolic statement of recognition that does not form part of the Constitution but which unifies all Australians.

Upholding the Constitution

The need for a symbolic statement does not justify creating uncertainty in relation to the interpretation of the Constitution.

The place of symbolism

A symbolic statement about modern Australia’s Indigenous heritage, British institutions and multicultural achievement would help unify all Australians as part of the process of Indigenous recognition.

What would a declaration say?

There are at least eight themes which a declaration of recognition might be expected to address.

Who would draft a declaration?

When drafting the declaration, there should be a process, such as a drafting competition, that encourages a high level of participation from all sections of Australian society, so that the declaration embodies the will of the Australian people.

How would a declaration be adopted?

The declaration of recognition should not be adopted through ordinary legislation, but through a process that evinces participation of the Australian people and/or all the Australian legislatures.

Timing

The adoption of a declaration of recognition should be the capstone that provides symbolic recognition of modern Australia after implementing substantive reforms to recognise Indigenous peoples.

Two options

A declaration could be adopted either by amending the Australia Acts or by proclamation in response to a petition to Parliament.

Amending the Australia Acts

Commonwealth and State parliaments may legislate in concert to amend the Australia Acts by inserting a new section 18 which recites the declaration of recognition.

Petitioning for a Declaration of Recognition Act

The Commonwealth Parliament may legislate to authorise the Governor-General to issue a Proclamation adopting the declaration of recognition in response to a petition by the Australian people.

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