Constitutional Recognition

Constitutional recognition is the move towards recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s founding document – our Constitution.

Currently, our Constitution doesn’t contain any references to the First People of Australia. They were not given a say in the convention debates of the 1890s during the drafting of the Constitution in 1901, and they were not able to vote on it.

Since then, many Australians have advocated for changes to the Constitution and much work has been done on what form recognition should take.

The Australian Government appointed an Expert Panel in 2011 and a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee completed its work in 2015.

On 7 December 2015, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition appointed a Referendum Council to consult widely throughout Australia and move towards achieving constitutional recognition of First Australians.

These consultations will form the basis of the Council’s Final Report to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition on constitutional change, and will inform a model to take to a referendum as well as when that should happen. The Council’s final report is due in mid-2017.

What’s happened since the Council was appointed?

Since its establishment on 7 December 2015, the Council has designed a comprehensive consultation process that puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre of discussions.

Both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves have made it clear that constitutional recognition can only proceed with the support of the people being recognised.

To ensure this is the case, the Council is leading a national consultation on constitutional recognition with the Australian community. Twelve First Nations Regional Dialogues are being held across the country, culminating in a National Indigenous Constitutional Convention at Uluru on 24-26 May 2017.

The Council is also holding a digital consultation and invites all Australians to have their say on constitutional recognition. You can go to the Council’s website to read the Discussion Paper, watch regular discussion topic videos, join the conversation or upload a submission.

The Discussion Paper is currently being interpreted in a number of traditional languages. The interpretations will be available soon.

Submissions close on 8 May 2017.

Key Dates & Progress

Latest News


Programmes & Policies

Contact Us

Contact us at:

Media enquiries should be directed to the Department’s media team:

Follow our tweets from @pmc_gov_au

More information on constitutional recognition and consultation activities is available on the Referendum Council’s website

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.