Seven reasons why our Constitution is important to you

New Australians take the oath of allegiance at a citizenship ceremony and receive a copy of the Constitution, Government House in Canberra, 9 July 2009
New Australians at a citizenship ceremony, where they received a copy of the Constitution. Government House, Canberra, 9 July 2009 (Photograph: Alanna Bishop)
  • Australia wouldn't exist without the Constitution. In the 1890s the people of six British colonies (now the states) agreed to unite under one Constitution as the Commonwealth of Australia.

  • We Australians were the first people in the world to vote on our national Constitution. And today, the Constitution can only be changed if we agree to it through a referendum.

  • Imagine trying to envisage what life would be like in 100 years time – and creating a Constitution to meet future needs. That's just what the key players did in the 1890s – they created a Constitution that still has relevance to our complex life today, with our mobile phones and internet connections.

  • Our federal parliament was designed by the Constitution. It allows for an upper and lower house and for elections every three years. It also ensures that Senators and Members of the House of Representatives are directly chosen by the people. And, if we want to, we can stand for Parliament ourselves.

  • Our Constitution obliges all Australians to obey the law – even politicians and governments. The High Court was set up as a separate power from the Parliament and has, at times, overturned decisions made by the Australian Government as unconstitutional.

  • The Constitution also has an impact on our personal lives by dividing up powers between the Commonwealth and the states. The Commonwealth makes laws on a range of issues (such as regulating marriage and divorce) but allows other powers (such as providing roads and transport) to remain with the states. 

  • The Australian Constitution provides some rights for all Australians, such as freedom of religion and the right to compensation if the government acquires your property.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017