Who cares about the Constitution?
Bookings flooded in for our 2013 Constitution Day speakers forum at Parliament House on 9 July, with more than 300 guests gathering in the Great Hall to hear the panellists’ views on Australia’s Constitution.
The Big Ideas program recorded the forum, ‘Who cares about the Constitution?’, which went to air on ABC Radio National on 15 July and will be shown on ABC television at a later date.
Big Ideas host Paul Barclay posed plenty of challenging questions for the panellists, Samah Hadid, the Australian director of the Global Poverty Project, and anti-poverty and women’s rights campaigner; the United States Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich; Tanya Hosch, the deputy campaign director for Recognise, the movement to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution; and leading constitutional lawyer Professor George Williams.
In an animated discussion, the guests tossed around constitutional thoughts on same-sex marriage, whether Australia should have a bill of rights, whether our federal system guards against untrammelled power in the hands of politicians – and much more. The audience found out what the Constitution says about dual nationals holding office, whether it’s constitutional to swear ministerial oaths on the Qur’an, and whether the British monarch can annul Australian laws.
There were enthusiastic suggestions about how Indigenous Australians could be recognised in the Constitution and whether a referendum ‘yes’ vote on that issue was likely. The words for such recognition might be better coming from someone with poetry in their soul, suggested George Williams, rather than a legal type.
And there was musing on why Americans queue around the block for a glimpse of their founding document, while many Australians don’t even know we have a Constitution.
Social media played its part in getting the constitutional message out, with guests and others posting more than 400 tweets on the night. We hope you’ll also share your thoughts on Twitter by following @naagovau and the #conday13 hashtag, or by adding your comments to our Constitution Day blog. You can also listen to the Radio National broadcast.
Indigenous Archives Network creates space for collaboration
A new website that connects people working with Indigenous archives continues to grow. The Indigenous Archives Network was created by Dr Shannon Faulkhead and Kirsten Thorpe, with the assistance of funding received from the National Archives’ Ian Maclean Award.
Dr Faulkhead and Ms Thorpe came up with the idea for an online network after often hearing about the lack of opportunities for Indigenous people and those working with Indigenous collections to share experiences and talk about projects.
‘When we heard about the Ian Maclean Award, we thought it could provide a great opportunity to bring together information in a focused way, with benefits for greater collaboration, exchange and education’, said Ms Thorpe.
The network has an international focus, with projects discussed on the site ranging from those created by major cultural heritage institutions to smaller, locally-run community efforts. The site also offers links to resources and protocol documents and includes a blog and discussion forums for questions and collaboration.
‘We welcome people interested in this field to join and contribute to discussions. We also welcome information from collecting institutions about the materials that they may hold that may be of interest to Indigenous people internationally’, said Ms Thorpe.
The Ian Maclean Award supports individuals interested in conducting research that will benefit the archival and historical profession in Australia and promote the important contribution that archives make to society. For more information about the Ian Maclean Award and other Archives’ grants, visit the Research Grants page on the Archives’ website.
National Archives presents birthday gift to Canberra
The Archives has marked Canberra’s centenary with a special birthday gift – the transfer of the city’s coat of arms into ACT custody. The handover was conducted by Senator Kate Lundy and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher on 1 July.
The coat of arms was authorised by King George V in 1928 after a competition to create the design. The creator, Mr CR Wylie, later wrote that he had chosen as armorial bearings a triple-towered castle representing a capital city, and the sword of justice and a parliamentary mace, intersecting below an imperial crown.
The design also includes a white rose, the badge of York ‘in remembrance of the Princes of that House and their visits to the City’. A portcullis, the badge of Westminster, ‘the home of the mother of all parliaments’, was used as the crest, with a gum tree behind it symbolising the idea of Canberra as a garden city. The Latin motto, adopted from the Federal Capital Commission’s motto, was pro rege, lege and grege – translated as ‘for the king, the law and the people’.
The Archives also transferred associated records to the ACT, including the document signed by King George V on 8 October 1928 that authorised the Royal College of Arms to issue Canberra’s coat of arms.
‘We are delighted to be able to transfer these records to Canberra under section 24 of the Archives Act,’ said Director-General of the Archives, David Fricker. ‘It makes sense in this centenary year for the city to be given custody of such important historical documents.’
Footprints exhibition marks Reconciliation Week
To celebrate Reconciliation Week 2013, the National Archives in Canberra hosted the Public Record Office Victoria exhibition Footprints: the journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper. Original documents from the World War I defence service records of Percy Pepper and his brother-in-law Harry Thorpe, held in the Archives’ collection, were added to the exhibition for its Canberra showing.
Over the week, more than 550 people visited the exhibition, which tells the moving story of a Victorian Aboriginal family in the first half of the 20th century.
Pastor Ossie Cruse, a grandson of Lucy and Percy Pepper, gave talks to the public and to Archives staff, speaking about the challenges that Aboriginal people faced in this period, and sharing personal stories of his family’s struggles.
Four of Pastor Cruse’s brothers and sisters and a number of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren came from as far as Queensland to be part of the exhibition launch. Percy’s grandson BJ Cruse presented the Archives with the loan of a scarf Percy bought in 1918 as a soldier in France, which was included in the exhibition for the duration of its Canberra visit.
The Antarctic experience in Western Australia
A taste of the frozen continent came to Western Australia as part of the Traversing Antarctica: the Australian experience exhibition at the Western Australian Museum in Geraldton. Rob Bryson, Operations Manager of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), gave two public lectures, in which he spoke about the complex logistics of Australia’s Antarctic program and the significant scientific work the AAD is undertaking in Antarctica.
Traversing Antarctica celebrates the centenary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Douglas Mawson in 1911–14 and charts Australian involvement in, and fascination with, Antarctica up to the present day. It is a joint project by the National Archives, the AAD and the Western Australian Museum.
It is showing at the Western Australian Museum in Kalgoorlie until 4 August, and opens in Albany on 24 August.
Find out more about Traversing Antarctica and other travelling exhibitions on the Archives’ website.
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