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Australian & Comparative Constitutional Law

Constitution Founding Documents

Australasian Federation Conference & Constitutional Conventions 

The records of the Australasian Federation Conference of 1890 and the Australasian Federal Conventions of 1891 and 1897/8 are among the most significant founding documents of the Australian nation. Following the Australasian Federation Conference in Melbourne in February 1890, the Constitution was drafted by representatives of the six Australian colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania at a series of constitutional conventions in 1891 and 1897 to 1898.

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill 1897

See below:

To find the full text of the documents from the Federation Conference and the Conventions, use the following open access resources:

Historical Books

World Constitutions Illustrated on HEIN Online (UniMelb staff & students) contains a wealth of 19th and early 20th century full text legal, historical and political books on the colonies, pre and post-federation and the Constitution - these are pdf replicas of the original print books. Scroll to the Commentaries & Other Relevant Sources heading to see an alphabetical list by title. For example: 

  • Advanced Australia: A Short Account of Australia on the Eve of Federation by William Johnson Galloway (Methuen & Co, 1899)
  • Australian Colonies: Their Origin and Present Condition by William Hughes (Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1852)
  • History of the Australasian Colonies (From Their Foundation to the Year 1911) by Edward Jenks, (Cambridge University Press, 3rd ed, 1912)
  • Interpreting the Constitution: A Politico-Legal Essay by TC Brennan (Melbourne University Press, 1935)
  • Legislative Powers of the Commonwealth and the States of Australia, with Proposed Amendments by John Quick, (CF Maxwell, 1919)
  • Making of the Australian Commonwealth 1889-1900: A Stage of the Growth of the Empire by Bernhard Ringrose Wise (Longmans, Green, and Co, 1913)
  • Studies in Australian Constitutional Law by A Inglis Clark (Charles F Maxwell, 1901)

Opinions of the Commonwealth Attorneys-General 1901-1945

The three-volume work Opinions of Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth of Australia (published between 1981 and 2013) comprises legal advice provided to the Commonwealth government between 1901 and 1945, from Federation and the creation of the Commonwealth to shortly after the Second World War. These opinions consider many constitutional issues and are an invaluable historical resource.

The Opinions are available:

Recent Books on the History of the Constitution