Sunday, January 1, 2012


On the 1st of January 1901, the self-governing British colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia joined together to form a Federation. Under the new Constitution, each state retained a degree of self-governance, while a newly formed Federal/Commonwealth/National government was given a number of central powers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were excluded from the Constitutional Conventions held in the decades leading up to the enactment of the Constitution in 1901.
The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) (‘Australian Constitution’) came into force. Section 51 (xxvi) gave the Commonwealth power to make laws with respect to ‘the people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it was deemed necessary to make special laws’. Section 127 of the Constitution provided: ‘In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.’
In 1967 sections 51 was amended and section 127 was repealed. Widely believed to be a watershed moment in Australian history, the constitutional amendments did not lead to the types of meaningful changes in the status and position of Aboriginal People that was hoped for at the time.

Dow, C and Gardiner-Garden, J (2011) Background Note: Overview of Indigenous Affairs: Part 1: 1901 to 1991, Parliament of Australia: Canberra.

Image: A Souvenir of Australian Federation. National Library of Australia.

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