Constitutions and Populations: How Well has Constitution Accommodated a Century of Demographic Change?

Public Law Review, Vol. 21, pp 109-140, 2010

40 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2010 Last revised: 5 Jun 2011

See all articles by Brian Opeskin

Brian Opeskin

University of Technology Sydney

Date Written: April 20, 2010


Australia, like most Western countries, has undergone profound demographic changes since 1901. The most significant transformations have been the sizable growth in population, declining fertility and mortality, substantial immigration, population aging, and the spatial redistribution of people between the states and territories. This article examines how the Australian Constitution has dealt with the deep processes of demographic change that have reshaped the Australian population over the course of a century. Demography was in its infancy as a scientific discipline when the Constitution was drafted in the 1890s, yet the founders showed an understanding of rudimentary aspects of population dynamics. They anticipated population growth, interstate migration, the role of international immigration in shaping the Australian community, and the importance of population statistics. However, in other respects they introduced constitutional rigidities that have impeded the capacity of government to adapt to population change. This article charts the areas of demographic foresightedness and short-sightedness in the Australian Constitution. It concludes by considering how a constitution might be designed to provide a sound framework for governance that is responsive to population dynamics.

Keywords: Australia, Constitution, population, constitutional design, demography, aging, fertility, mortality, migration, spatial distribution, census, statistics

Suggested Citation

Opeskin, Brian, Constitutions and Populations: How Well has Constitution Accommodated a Century of Demographic Change? (April 20, 2010). Public Law Review, Vol. 21, pp 109-140, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Brian Opeskin (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

Faculty of Law
University of Technology Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales 2007
+61-2-95149670 (Phone)


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics