Rawls and the Legitimacy of Australian Government

Paul Patton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For much of the 19th century, Indigenous Australians were excluded from the rule of law and denied any say over the institutions and procedures by which they were governed. When the Commonwealth of Australia was established on
1 January 1901, it was on the basis of a constitution drafted at two conventions during the 1890s, at which there were no Aboriginal representatives. Aboriginal people were not consulted about its adoption. The Constitution explicitly
denied the Commonwealth power to make specific laws regarding ‘Aboriginal natives’ (s 51(xxvi)) and excluded them from being counted in the population tables used to calculate States’ entitlements to electorates and to portions
of Commonwealth revenue (s 127). It is widely although wrongly believed that, until the amendment of these two provisions at the 1967 referendum, the Constitution excluded Aboriginal and Islander people from the benefits and duties of citizenship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Indigenous Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Constitutions
  • Federal government
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Aboriginal Australians
  • Torres Strait Islanders
  • Rawls, John, 1921-2002.


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