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‘What sort of nation?’: A cultural history of Australians and their federation

journal contribution
posted on 01.11.2017, 00:00 authored by Carolyn HolbrookCarolyn Holbrook
Australia's foundational moment was steeped in democratic and civic optimism. At the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia, there existed a widely‐held belief that this was ‘the peoples' federation’. The people who had ignited the federation process after it stalled in the hands of the politicians would naturally become the custodians and protectors of the Constitution they had endorsed at referendum. They would simultaneously safeguard its democratic principles and amend the Constitution as necessary to ensure its suitability for the unforeseeable exigencies of the future. The high hopes of the ‘founding fathers’ about the civic engagement of the people have not been realised. Australians appear apathetic about and ignorant of their federal system. Yet, there is little knowledge beyond these broad impressions about Australians' attitudes, and the reasons for their civic indolence. This article argues that a cultural history of attachment to the Australian federation since 1901 can provide evidence of why federation reform has proved so difficult and suggest means of overcoming citizens' reluctance to amend the Constitution. Most significantly, it promises important insights about the relationship between civic engagement and the effective function of democratic government.

History

Journal

History compass

Volume

15

Issue

11

Article number

e12426

Pagination

1 - 10

Publisher

John Wiley & Sons

Location

Chichester, Eng.

ISSN

1478-0542

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2017, John Wiley & Sons Ltd