How to change Australia's Constitution: Referendums

Activists with federal politicians

Activists with federal politicians
NAA: A1200, L62232

The power of the Australian people to make change to the Constitution is given to them by Section 128, 'Mode of altering the Constitution' – '…a proposed law is submitted to the electors [and] the vote shall be taken in such a manner as the Parliament prescribes'.

For a referendum to be successful and the Constitution alteration passed, a double majority vote must be achieved, which is:

  • a majority of voters in a majority of states (at least 4 of the 6 states)
  • a national majority of voters (an overall YES vote of more than a 50%).

If the double majority is achieved and the proposed Constitutional alteration is approved, 'it shall be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent'. (Section 128)

The records in this classroom resource relate to the 1967 Referendum and illustrate the process of a referendum from proposal to Royal Assent. Find out more about how we make changes to our Constitution by visiting the 'About' tab of the records below:

  1. Confidential Cabinet Minute re 1967 Referendum
  2. Writ for a Referendum and the 'Proposed Law' Bill
  3. 'Case for Yes' in the 1967 Referendum
  4. Western Australian Ballot Paper for 1967 Referendum
    a. Polling Day - How to vote cards
  5. Counting the Votes: Tally Sheets
  6. Return of the Writ to the Governor-General
  7. PM Holt's Press Release
  8. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette Notice
  9. Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967

Get thinking

  • What is a referendum?
  • What are the various stages of the referendum process and what role does the Australian Parliament have in the process?
  • What role do the Australian people have in a referendum and what gives us this power?

Get going

  • Click on record links below to see the primary sources related to the above Referendum Process.
  • Click on the 'About' tab attached to some records to learn more about that record.