A History of Section 127 of the Commonwealth Constitution
(2016) 42 Mon ULR 206
33 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 10, 2016
Until 1967, s 127 of the Australian Constitution excluded Aboriginal people from being counted constitutionally. This article demonstrates that it was largely practical problems with counting itinerant or even unknown Aboriginal peoples that lay behind this provision. Sir Samuel Griffith, its drafter, did not think it inconsistent even with voting rights for Aboriginal people. At the same time, a few people in the 1890s appreciated the possible symbolic meaning that could be conveyed by s 127 and objected to it on that basis — such principled resistance should not be forgotten. By the 1960s the practical problem dealt with by s 127 had not quite finally disappeared, but was much smaller than it had been in the 1890s; only s 127’s symbolic meaning was available to contemporaries. It was therefore rightly repealed, but not before it made one final appearance on the stage of Australian electoral politics as part of the background to the rejection of the 1962 federal redistribution.
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