Indigenous Peoples and Constitutional Reform in Australia: Beyond Mere Recognition

Dr Bede Harris, Senior Lecturer in Law at the School of Business, has just published his latest book titled Indigenous Peoples and Constitutional Reform in Australia: Beyond Mere Recognition.

Published by Springer Nature, this book examines Australia’s constitution should be reformed so as to enable the country to fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which it ratified in 2009. The book surveys the history of the constitutional status of Australia’s Indigenous peoples from the time of colonisation through to the current debate on what is referred to as ‘Indigenous constitutional recognition,’ but argues that that term, with its connotation that mere acknowledgement of the existence of Indigenous peoples suffices to meet their legitimate expectations, misrepresents the nature of the project the country needs to engage in.

The book argues that Australia should instead embark upon a reform programme directed towards substantive, and not merely symbolic, constitutional change. It argues that only by the inclusion in the constitution of enforceable constitutional rights can the power imbalance between Indigenous Australians and the rest of society be addressed. Taking a comparative approach and drawing upon the experience of other jurisdictions, the book proposes a comprehensive constitutional reform programme, and includes the text of constitutional amendments designed to achieve the realisation of the rights of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. It ends with a call to improve the standard of civics education so as to overcome voter apprehension towards constitutional change.

Bede Harris was born in Zimbabwe. After graduating with a BA(Mod) from Trinity College, University of Dublin, he studied law in South Africa and graduated with an LLB (cum laude) from Rhodes University. He began his academic career at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. He subsequently taught at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, where he obtained his DPhil. He taught at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, the University of Waikato, James Cook University, and the University of Canberra. Dr. Harris specializes in constitutional law, particularly constitutional reform. In 2001 he was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholarship and attended the American Studies Institute at Lafayette College in the United States, during the course of which he visited native American territories and observed tribal government. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Law at Charles Sturt University. He is the author of eight books and over 50 book chapters and articles on constitutional law, human rights, Indigenous legal issues and corporations law.