1. The Final Version of the Preamble
On 11 August, the Prime Minister read his revised version of the Preamble to the House of Representatives and announced that it would be put to the vote at the 6 November referendum. Here is the new text:
With hope in God, the Commonwealth of Australia is constituted as a democracy with a federal system of government to serve the common good.
We, the Australian people, commit ourselves to this Constitution:
- never forgetting the sacrifices of all who defended our country and our liberty in time of war
- upholding freedom, tolerance, individual dignity and the rule of law
- honouring Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, the nations first people, for their deep kinship with their lands and for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our country
- recognising the nation-building contribution of generations of immigrants
- mindful of our responsibility to protect our unique natural environment
- supportive of achievement as well as equality of opportunity for all
and valuing independence as dearly as the national spirit which binds us together in both adversity and success.
2. Womens Early Lobbying About the Preamble
The Womens Constitutional Convention Steering Committee wrote this letter to the Prime Minister on 22 February 1999, one month ahead of the draft preambles release in response to the PMs statement that it would contain a statement of "equality of men and women before the law"
WOMENS CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION STEERING COMMITTEE
Promoting the Outcomes of the Womens Constitution Convention
29 and 30 January 1998
Dear Mr Howard
We write to congratulate you on the most commendable initiative you have taken in supporting a separate referendum question on a new preamble to the Constitution. Your stated intention to actively campaign for the new preamble is also strongly welcomed.
We applaud your decision to include specific reference to the equality of men and women in the preamble.
News reports yesterday indicated that the working for inclusion would be "equality of men and women before the law". While we are highly supportive of this inclusion, and join in your acknowledgment of the fundamental importance of equality of men and women before the law, we believe that the words do not yet pick up the central value which is the equality of men and women in all spheres.
We believe that the necessary emphasis, which also accords with the list of matters recommended for consideration by the Constitutional Convention (Con Con), can easily be achieved by adjusting the words reported in the media to words such as the following:
"equality of men and women; equality of all before the law"
Further, we welcome the inclusion of words in the preamble in relation to prior indigenous occupation, acknowledgment of indigenous rights and culture, and a statement of regrets of past injustices as well a commitment to responsible government and the valuing of cultural diversity. We attach a copy of the outcomes of the Womens Constitutional Convention and direct you to the specific section on the preamble which may assist you in your drafting.
We look forward to your committing the Government to strong support for the proposed preamble. We urge all Government members to personally campaign for the preamble. We will be pleased to work with your Government and women across the country in the coming months to ensure the success of the referendum question on the preamble where the equality of men and women and equality before the law are expressed as outlined above.
Equal Say - Women for A Representative Democracy
National Womens Justice Coalition
Womens Electoral Lobby Australia
Women for an Australian Republic
Women Into Politics
YWCA of Australia
3. The Prime Ministers Draft Preamble released on 23 March 1999
"With hope in God, the Commonwealth of Australia is constituted by the equal sovereignty of all its citizens.
The Australian nation is woven together of people from many ancestries and arrivals.
Our vast island continent has helped to shape the destiny of our Commonwealth and the spirit of its people.
Since time immemorial our land has been inhabited by Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, who are honoured for their ancient and continuing cultures.
In every generation immigrants have brought great enrichment to our nations life.
Australians are free to be proud of their country and heritage, free to realise themselves as individuals, and free to pursue their hopes and ideals. We value excellence as well as fairness, independence as dearly as mateship.
Australias democratic and federal system of government exists under law to preserve and protect all Australians in an equal dignity which may never be infringed by prejudice or fashion or ideology nor invoked against achievement.
In this spirit we, the Australian people, commit ourselves to this Constitution."
4. Womens Groups Respond to the Draft Preamble
"A DEEPLY EMBARRASSING DOCUMENT"
"The Prime Minister's preamble is an opportunity missed for Australian women"
5. Draft Preamble issued by Labor, Democrats, Greens
"Having come together in 1901, relying on God, as a Federation under the Crown;
And the Commonwealth of Australia being now a sovereign democracy, our people drawn from many nations;
We the people of Australia:
Proud of our diversity
Celebrating our unity
Loving our unique and ancient land
Recognising Indigenous Australians as the original occupants and custodians of our land
Believing in freedom and equality, and
Embracing democracy and the rule of law
commit ourselves to this Constitution"
6. Womens Preambles
Women for an Australian Republic particularly likes the following two preambles written by women because they:
The first one has been drafted by Marian Sawer, Associate Professor, Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University Canberra.
The second one by Dr Jocelynne Scutt, Melbourne barrister.
The third one is is a preamble poem "written from the heart" by 26 year old Melbourne solicitor, Tahnee Woolf.
The fourth by Associate Professor Greta Bird from Southern Cross University is described as "a very honest preamble" based on a historical perspective
Other suggested preambles were submitted to the Constitutional Centenary Foundations Preamble Quest. Those identified as "particularly interesting, either because of their overall style or because of their approach to or expression of particular Con Con proposals" and drafted by women are shown here on our site.
7. Other Acclaimed Preambles
Here is the preamble written by Dr Lowitja ODonoghue of South Australia, Aboriginal community leader and former chair of ATSIC. Dr ODonoghue was an appointed delegate to the Constitutional Convention where she read her version of the preamble:
"Australians affirm their Constitution as the foundation of their commitment to, and their aspirations for, constitutional government.
Our nation dedicates itself to a responsible and representative system of government that is inclusive of all its peoples, upholds fundamental human rights, respects and cherishes diversity, and ensures full participation in its social, cultural and economic life.
Australia recognises the Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders as its indigenous peoples with continuous rights by virtue of that status.
We seed a united Australia that respects and protects the land and the indigenous heritage, values the cultures of its peoples, and provides justice and equity for all.
The authority for this Constitution derives from all Australians."
Some womens groups have supported the draft preamble written by Dr Mark McKenna, republic historian from the Australian National University, which has been published several times.
By Mark McKenna, combining the original preamble with the new:
"Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.
And whereas that Federal Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of Australia, evolved into an independent nation under the Crown of Australia:
We, the people of Australia have decided to constitute the Federal Commonwealth of Australia as an independent democratic republic.
In a spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge that the territory of Australia was previously occupied by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, Australias indigenous people, many of whom suffered dispossession of their traditional lands.
As a people of many cultures, customs and beliefs, we hereby declare the principles which bind us as a sovereign and free people.
We will uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.
We will respect the dignity of the human person, the equality of men and women and the equality of all persons under the law, regardless of colour, race, gender or creed.
We will promote the liberty and welfare of all Australians, and we will respect the land and environment which we share.
To these principles, and to this Constitution, we, the people of Australia, agree to be bound."
And, finally, the recently rewritten preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa:
"We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who have suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We, therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic, so as to -
Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by the law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God sen Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika."
If you are interested in reading more preambles, or more about the writing of the preamble, consult the CCF site at www.centenary.org.au and read the papers given by women at the Womens Constitutional Convention at www.womensconv.dynamite.com.au
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Last modified: May 11, 2002