Ep 3 – The Constitution


Professor Cheryl Saunders talks about the 1975 Dismissal and some flaws in the Australian constitution, Professor Larissa Behrendt discusses the idea of sovereignty for Aboriginal Australians.


Lizzie O’Shea introduces the constitution and its separation of powers: parliament, executive and judiciary. She explains that in 1975 the biggest crisis in our constitution took place when the Governor General dismissed the Prime Minister, and his elected government.

Professor Cheryl Saunders explains that, under the constitution, it is unclear if the Governor-General had the power to dismiss the government. She talks about the constitution as an historical, and at times vague, document. She outlines some of the problems including no mention of citizenship; no pre-amble; and the races power no longer reflects contemporary opinion.

Professor Larissa Behrendt reveals that the discussion around recognition and the races power is one argument, but there is a different argument about sovereignty and treaty. She points out that many Aboriginal people would like to have their sovereignty recognised, to be seen as independent nations, rather than just citizens within the one nation.

Lizzie O’Shea wraps up by reminding us about the key concerns of the constitution, and that the high court is there to resolve problems that arise when the constitution is vague.

Curriculum Areas

Years 9/10 civics and citizenship education curriculum in relation to the theme of Law and Citizens.

Years 11/12 Legal Studies
Unit 4: The people and the law, Area of Study 1, The people and the Australian Constitution.

Preliminary course: Part I: The legal system, the constitution and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ customary laws.
HSC course: Option 7: World order, 2. Responses to world order.

Stage 1 – Topic 1: Law and Society, What are the origins of Australia’s laws? And What are the characteristics of Indigenous customary law?
Stage 2 – Topic 2: Constitutional Government

Sources of Australian Law

Useful links