National Schools Constitutional Convention 2023

Recently, 21 – 23 March 2023, I flew a very lengthy 50 minutes to Canberra to attend the annual National Schools Constitutional Convention which was organised by the National Curriculum Services (Department Of Education Victoria). I was one of 118 delegates from schools all over Australia.

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The topic for the convention this year was, “Is Section 128 still a necessary requirement to change such an important document as the Australian Constitution?”

On the first day we visited Parliament House and attended a very wild question time. This was our favourite part of the trip,  before meeting the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, The Hon Patrick Gorman. On the following day, our discussions and debate on the question of referenda began in earnest at the Old Parliament House.  We had some great discussions and I was privileged to be surrounded by some very intelligent peers. I feel as though I left with a bigger brain than I arrived with!

After concluding our discussion and debates we attended Government House, where His Excellency, the Governor General, provided  some delicious lemon lime and bitters to drink and popcorn chicken to eat.  His wife also made us sing, “You are my sunshine”, which is apparently a tradition at Government House now. After speaking with both The Governor General and his lovely wife, we set off to the High Court of Australia. We attended a very delicious dinner at the High Court, with the guest speaker Sean Dondas, ACT State Recipient Young Australian of the year 2022, who gave us some inspiration and insight into how he overcame immense adversity when he was our age.

The final day was a sad one as we would be leaving friends we had made from across the country.   We had a soapbox session on the final day, where student delegates got to share their views and opinions on the relevance of our Australian Constitution. A mock referendum was also held on the question of whether Australia should keep the double majority or switch to single majority to determine the result of a referendum.

Student delegates voted to retain the double majority rule which means that there must be a majority of “YES” votes in 4 out of 6 states in Australia and there needs to be a majority of “YES” votes across the entire voting population of Australia. As we know, this is difficult to achieve and Australia has only had 8 successful referenda out of 44 proposals since Federation in 1901.

WE completed our three-day event with a tour of the Museum of the Australian Democracy.  Overall, it was an amazing and insightful experience and I encourage other students, in the future, to participate and engage in our democratic process if the opportunity arises.

Georgia, Year 12