Advance Notice: 2019 Conference: Melbourne

The Society’s next Conference will take place in Melbourne, Friday 9 August to Sunday 11 August 2019. Further details (venue, program, speakers, accommodation, etc.) will be added when confirmed.

Australia Day Message 2018

No one would contend that our democracy and the institutions of it are flawless.  Most people of good will and free spirit are keen to find and remedy the flaws. But they, of which the members of the Samuel Griffith Society are some, also understand the importance, indeed the crucial importance, of recognising and preserving, as well as improving, the initiatives and institutions upon which our nation was founded and which have enabled it to flourish. If it were otherwise, Australia would hardly have been, as it continues to be, the magnet that attracts people from so many other countries.

Australia Day is the day that we have chosen to celebrate our national identity. Celebration of it is not a disparagement of any particular group or groups of Australians. Those who would wish for a different celebration, or a different day for it, would do well to look beyond our shores and contrast what they see there, with our freedoms, the rule of law, the robust parliaments, and the media that keeps them under scrutiny here.

It is for these ideals and the maintenance of the Constitution of 1901 that have served us so well in pursuing them, that the Samuel Griffith Society stands.

I wish everyone an enjoyable and reflective Australia Day

I D F Callinan AC
26 January 2018

New Volumes of Proceedings added to Website

The Proceedings of the Society for 2015 (volume 27) and 2016 (volume 28) have now been added to the site as PDFs. More information and download options here.

How much do you know about our Constitution?

If you’re like most Australians your answer would probably be, “not much”!

We all know there is something called “The Constitution” and we know that the Constitution has been a good thing, yet we know very little about what’s in it, or how it works in practice.

The Constitution is in fact the keystone of our parliamentary and legal system. It protects our democracy and our liberties.

From time to time, assorted prominent people suggest that Australia’s Constitution is “badly in need of reform” and that we should now embark on a large scale process of “constitutional review”.

These comments have set alarm bells ringing in the minds of many Australians who regard such attempts to “reform” our Constitution with great reserve, if not suspicion.

Written constitutions exist in many countries and have been established for very good reasons – maintaining law and order and protecting citizens from abuses of power and authority – including, particularly, abuses by governments.

It is difficult for many Australians who, if native born, have never experienced serious domestic turbulence, or civil wars, or openly oppressive government regimes, to appreciate fully the benefits of such civil quietness. Nevertheless most of us would agree that we should always be alert against any attempt to undermine the liberties we currently enjoy.

With these thoughts in mind The Samuel Griffith Society was formed in 1992, and the fact that hundreds of Australians have since joined the Society indicates the general concern to uphold a Constitution which has served us so well for so long.

Sir Samuel Griffith was, from 1903 until 1919, the first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. It is widely accepted that he was primarily responsible for writing the first constitutional draft of 1891.This document became the basis for our Constitution, under which the six Australian self-governing colonies came together to form a Federation. The proper roles of federal and State governments under the Constitution are of continuing and vital importance.

The Samuel Griffith Society’s prime role is to ensure that proposals to change the Australian Constitution will be subjected to the most intense scrutiny. Constitutional change may well be desirable from time to time, but it should only occur after exhaustive, community-wide debate, leading up to consideration by the Australian people under the referendum provisions of s.128 of the Constitution.

The Society now appeals to all Australians to join in upholding their Constitution – not only because it has served us well in the past, but also to ensure it continues to serve well future generations.