Canberra academics launch educational podcast series about the Constitution - Education Matters Magazine
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Canberra academics launch educational podcast series about the Constitution


Professor Kim Rubenstein from the University of Canberra (UC), and James Blackwell from the Australian National University (ANU) have joined forces in an eight-part podcast series, unpacking all aspects of the Australian Constitution to help voters make an informed decision about the 2023 referendum.

The podcast series titled ‘It’s not just the Vibe: It’s the CONSTITUTION’ explores the history of the Constitution and is presented in a conversational and engaging format – to educate and provide insight into the proposed constitutional amendment to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice.

Professor Rubenstein joined the University of Canberra in 2020, is a leading expert on citizenship and a passionate advocate for people knowing more about the Australian Constitution. She has combined her expertise with James Blackwell – a proud Wiradyuri man from regional NSW, Research Fellow in Indigenous Diplomacy at the ANU’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, and Ambassador for the Uluru Youth Dialogue.

“In 2023 Australians are being asked to change the Constitution. If we are being asked to change something, shouldn’t we know what is in it already? Sure, we know something about ‘the vibe’ of it from the Castle, but what else? We’ll take you through how the Constitution came to be, what is in it already, and what the 2023 referendum is about,” Professor Rubenstein said.

“ACT votes only count for half of the outcome of this referendum, so they only count when assessing the majority of votes in the country. This means ACT voters are not treated ‘equally’ when it comes to changing the constitution.”

“This referendum is one of the most important votes Australians will likely ever make,” Mr Blackwell said. “It’s so vitally important that Australians not only understand what the Uluru Statement says, and what a Voice to Parliament will mean for Indigenous peoples, but also that they understand the role of the Constitution, not just for us as Indigenous peoples but themselves also.”

Professor Rubenstein and Mr Blackwell took the podcast on the road, recording episodes at the University of Canberra, the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House and on Wiradyuri Country in Hilltops Shire, NSW.


Episodes 1-4 (Recorded at UC)

1. History

When did the Constitution come into being (and what was there before) and who was involved in writing it? Why is it important? Why weren’t women or Indigenous Australians involved? What was the impact of the White Australia Policy?

2. Our Federal System
Explaining Federal and State governments and what the Constitution says each
is meant to be doing under the Constitution –
Discussion about COVID and the controversies around who was doing what- Discussion about the ‘race’ power and the unhealthy place of Indigenous Australians in terms of powers over them and the background of Commonwealth and State powers over Indigenous Australians

3. Separation of Powers – this include how we have a separate Legislature –Parliament – and an Executive – those who carry out the laws (and how Responsible govt works) – and the Judiciary – and how they are all set out in the Constitution.

4. Citizenship – this involves discussion on how there is no mention of Australian citizenship at all – and why – and how section 44 (i) disqualifies people who are dual citizens and some of the issues that flow from the episode before about representative democracy – and how Indigenous Australians were always formal members but were treated differently – and how the High Court has interpreted the Constitution to say that Indigenous Australians can never be ‘aliens’ under the Constitution!

(Episodes 5 and 6 recorded at Museum of Australian Democracy)
5. Representative democracy – this involves discussing the right to vote – -ss 7 and 24 and s 41- the changes for women and indigenous Australians on that – and we unpack some of the discussion around the Voice where some people are expressing concern it gives Indigenous Australians more representation than other non-Indigenous Australians.

6. How to change the Constitution
This looked directly at section 128 and what it says about how to change the Constitution – some of the quirky history around it – links back to the first session on
history and what is involved now in a referendum this year.
Episodes 7 and 8 (Recorded on Wiradyuri country)

7. The Crown – the fact that the Australian constitution is a UK piece of legislation, the history around the role of the UK Crown – how that has changed – and whether we need to update that too now that Australia has changed – to become a Republic – linking in the Voice process with a referendum about the Republic with Nova Peris as Co-Chair now of the ARM movement.

8. The Voice – process leading to the Uluru statement of the Heart, the steps since then that have got us to this point – and then the links about the earlier aspects of this podcast that fit in with the proposal to change the Constitution to include a new – section 129 as a new section and a new chapter of the Constitution.

Links back to history, federalism, representative democracy, citizenship, separation of powers, the Crown, section 128 and changing the Constitution.

Professor Kim Rubenstein and James Blackwell from the recording studio.


University of Canberra Professor Kim Rubenstein started teaching constitutional law in 1993 and has been a passionate advocate for people knowing more about the Australian Constitution. A graduate of Melbourne University and Harvard Law School she is Australia’s leading expert on citizenship and has been a public policy contributor on a range of public policy issues. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy and the Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

James Blackwell is a proud Wiradyuri man from regional NSW, and Research Fellow in Indigenous Diplomacy at the ANU’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. He is a PhD candidate within the School’s International Relations Department, looking at Indigenous foreign policy approaches, and how First Nations knowledges can be better reflected in international relations and foreign policy. James is also an Ambassador of the Uluru Youth Dialogue at UNSW.

The first podcast episode is now available on Spotify, Apple, and Google.

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