2012 Oration

Mission impossible? Achieving social justice through constitutional change

 The 10th Henry Parkes Oration: Professor George Williams AO
Wednesday 24 October 2012. Museum of Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House, Canberra ACT

George Williams

Professor George Williams – 2012 Orator

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 text as a PDF.

The Oration was broadcast on Radio National’s Big Ideas program on Tuesday 19 February 2013.

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