Referendums Project

Source: National Archives of Australia: M3967, 1

Project Director Paul Kildea

The Referendums Project contributes to legal scholarship and public debate on the use of constitutional referendums in Australia. This issue is particularly relevant now, given recent proposals for the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the likelihood of a referendum on this subject within the next few years. Constitutional change has also been flagged in other areas, including local government funding (a proposed referendum on this subject was abandoned in August 2013), cooperative federalism and the management of the Murray-Darling Basin. Aside from specific proposals for constitutional amendment, there is increasing interest in making reforms to the referendum process itself, as demonstrated by a recent parliamentary inquiry into referendum machinery.

Since it was established in 2010, the Referendums Project has produced leading research in the area. This includes the first book on this history of referendums in Australia – People Power: The History and Future of the Referendum in Australia, co-authored by George Williams and David Hume – and numerous journal articles on Indigenous constitutional recognition, local government constitutional recognition and the challenges of achieving citizen engagement in constitutional reform. Members of the Project also provide regular media commentary on referendum issues, and engage widely with community organisations working on matters of constitutional change. In 2013 the Project website featured a comprehensive, plain English Q&A on the anticipated local government referendum to help advance public understanding of the proposed constitutional changes.

A resources page for this project is hosted by the Centre here.