Celebrating the Constitution

Media release: Friday, 13 June 2008

The people of Brisbane will have a one-day opportunity to view Sir Samuel Griffith's personal 1891 draft of the Australian Constitution this week. 

The document, complete with handwritten notations, is part of a joint presentation by the National Archives of Australia and the Supreme Court of Queensland Library to mark the continuing importance of the Constitution for today's Australians.

The two organisations are hosting Constitution lectures by Queensland judges Paul de Jersey and Patrick Keane on 12 June and an exhibition, which will include Sir Samuel's draft of the Constitution for one day only on Friday 13 June. The National Archives has taken the unusual step of transporting the rare document from Canberra to Brisbane for the event.

'We usually hold Sir Samuel's draft in our Canberra repository but we recognised it was appropriate to have it on display in Brisbane because of its importance to all Queenslanders,' said Ross Gibbs, Director-General of the National Archives. 'Sir Samuel Griffith was Queensland's major representative in the colonial negotiations to draft the Constitution and, as such, has left an important legacy, not only to Queenslanders but to all Australians.'

The Australian colonies had spent a decade in negotiations before coming up with the final document for the new federation. It was this draft which they sent to the British Parliament and which was passed with few amendments, with Queen Victoria giving assent on 9 July 1900.

The National Archives and the Supreme Court Library are hosting the Brisbane events as a prelude to Constitution Day celebrations in July.

In the first lecture on 12 June, Paul de Jersey, the Chief Justice of Queensland will discuss Sir Samuel Griffith's contribution. In the second lecture, Mr Justice Patrick Keane from the Queensland Court of Appeal will explore the Australian people's responsibility for their own destiny and defend the decision of the Constitution framers to exclude a bill of rights from the document.

The National Archives will have a curator on hand to answer questions about Sir Samuel Griffith's copy of the Constitution. The Supreme Court Library staff, under the guidance of Librarian and National Archives Advisory Council member Aladin Rahemtula, have curated an accompanying exhibition on the key events that led to the drafting of Australia's Constitution.

Contact information:

Supreme Court Library:  Helen Jeffcoat (07) 3247 4267
National Archives:   Elizabeth Masters (02) 6212 3957; 0427 853 664

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018