How did Federation affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900: Original Public Record Copy (1900).
Parliament House Art Collection, Art Services Parliament House
This image shows the front page of the original public record copy of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900. There is a a red ribbon tied in a bow on the left hand side of the document. The paper looks faded from age.
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Thanks for your question, Phoebe. Although there was widespread support for Federation, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were excluded from taking part in the process.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not involved in the discussions leading up to Federation or the drafting of the Australian Constitution – the nation’s founding document. Most did not vote in the referendums agreeing to the draft Constitution, nor were they part of Federation celebrations.
In 1901, the Constitution made limited mention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lived in Australia for over 60 000 years, this was not recognised in the Constitution.
The system established at Federation continues to have an impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
However, in 1967, Australians agreed to change the Constitution to:
- remove section 127 which excluded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from being included in the national population count
- modify section 51 (xxvi)to allow the Parliament to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples.
You might like to research the impact that Federation had on individual Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people by contacting the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).