An Australian Declaration of Recognition: the case for semi-entrenched symbolism

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In June 2017, the Referendum Council tasked with advising on Indigenous constitutional recognition endorsed the historic Uluru Statement from the Heart and recommended a singular constitutional reform: a constitutionally guaranteed First Nations voice. Since then, the proposal for a First Nations voice in the Constitution has garnered the vast majority of public, political and scholarly attention. However the Referendum Council also made a second, extra-constitutional recommendation which has engendered little attention. It proposed that a symbolic, inspiring and unifying Declaration of Recognition should accompany the recommended constitutional change. The Referendum Council also recommended that the Declaration should be enacted concurrently by all Australian parliaments. This innovative extra-constitutional recommendation raises intriguing legal and political questions. What are the possibilities for a Declaration of this kind? Would a Declaration enacted by federal concurrence carry elevated and enduring moral and political importance in Australian life? Might it also be enacted to be semi-entrenched? This article explores the legal possibilities and potential symbolic power that could be enlivened utilising variations of Australia’s federal unanimity procedure, as alluded to by the Referendum Council.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-313
Number of pages47
JournalMelbourne University Law Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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