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Snapshots – The Constitution

Video duration: 2 min 29

Transcript

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  A Constitution is a set of rules for how a nation is governed. It's a bit like a guide book for running a country.
  Before 1901, Australia was not a nation, but rather six British colonies. These colonies were under the law-making power of the British Parliament. During the 1890s, representatives from the colonies met to discuss the idea of joining together to form a new nation. A written Constitution was developed to set out the rules for how this new nation would work.
  Special meetings called “Constitutional conventions” were held to work on a draft of the new Constitution. Each colony held referendums to allow their people to vote yes or no on the new Constitution.
  It took a few years, and many changes, but eventually the new Constitution was approved by the Australian people. It was then sent to the British Parliament and passed as the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. The Constitution came into effect on 1 January 1901 and Australia became a nation.
  The Constitution describes how the Federal Parliament works, what it can make laws about and how it shares its power with the states. It also describes the roles of the government and the high court.
  Sometimes there are disagreements over the issues relating to the Constitution. The High Court of Australia is responsible for providing the official interpretation of the Constitution and deciding on these disagreements.
  The Constitution is divided into eight chapters. Each of these chapters is divided into sections which describe the different powers in detail.
  Changing the Constitution requires a nation-wide referendum. A majority of Australian voters, and a majority of voters in at least four states, must agree to the changes. The Constitution has had a total of eight changes since 1901.
  More than 100 years on, the Constitution continues to guide how Australia is governed and how laws are made. It is the framework for our democracy.

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