: Everything You Need To Know About The Referendum To Recognise Indigenous Australians

Everything You Need To Know About The Referendum To Recognise Indigenous Australians

Kate Galloway

Davis-Williams-Everythng-you-need-to-know-about-the-referendum-cover-smMegan Davis & George Williams; New South Books, 2015; 224 pages; $19.99 (paperback)

The momentum for Indigenous constitutional recognition has been building over the last few years, but more recently has shifted tracks as different voices are heard and political realities settle in. For those grappling with the issues (and I am one), there could not have been a better time for the release of this book.

In this very readable edition, two of Australia’s foremost experts in constitutional law provide an account of the history, contemporary context and legal issues associated with Indigenous constitutional recognition. While being comprehensive, the book does not distance itself from the reader’s likely level of understanding. For this reason, it is engaging as well as thought-provoking, reading more like a story but containing all the requisite evidence and legal authority that you would expect from professors of constitutional law.

Helpfully the book starts with a clear overview of the arguments for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to constitutional recognition. The authors observe that Australians are broadly supportive of recognition and the latest polling supports this. However there is still no concrete proposal for change and the question remains just what recognition might look like. Chapter Five outlines the different approaches, from the oft-cited ‘symbolic change’ through to non-discrimination provisions. The reader is introduced to each proposal, including the objections that have been raised. In a dynamic political environment, this overview provides an excellent primer.

For the lay reader seeking informed engagement with contemporary Australian constitutional issues, this book is essential reading. But I suspect that there are a lot of lawyers out there, too, who would find it useful — especially in clarifying the context of the 1967 Referendum and its aftermath. I also commend the book to law students, who could probably source a decent proportion of foundation constitutional concepts in a readily understandable form. This book would also serve as an excellent school text, not only for legal studies, but for civics and history students too. It is certainly a most useful addition to my personal and professional bookshelves.

KATE GALLOWAY teaches law at James Cook University.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 292
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