The role of constitutions

A constitution is a written document that underpins a nation’s political and legal systems. Constitutions provide a framework for government and law. They establish bodies like parliaments or courts; distribute and limit law-making powers; and outline the structure of executive government. Some constitutions also guarantee rights, either explicitly or implicitly. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution came into effect in January 1901 and is our fundamental law. The following topic pages explore topics related to constitutions and constitutional law in Australia. If you would like to suggest or contribute a topic, please contact us.

What are constitutions?
The origins of Australia’s constitutions
The structure of our Commonwealth Constitution
Constitutional powers
Constitutional interpretation
Changing the Constitution
The difficulties of constitutional reform

Case study: The Castle
Case study: 1967 referendum on indigenous Australians
Case study: Tasmanian dams affair
Case study: 1999 referendum on an Australian republic

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