I again had an opportunity to attend and participate in the 2010 Western Region Schools’ Constitutional Convention. The Convention is organised every year by John Vithoulkas, a teacher at Taylors Lakes Secondary College, with the assistance of staff and students. The Convention is part of the Schools’ Constitutional Conventions program which started in 1995.
The Schools’ Constitutional Convention program is aimed at increasing younger Australians’ knowledge and appreciation about the Australian Constitution. Participants of the regional conventions can apply to attend a State Convention at State Parliament in October 2010. Participants of the State Conventions can apply to attend a Federal Convention in Canberra in March 2011.
A feature of the Convention is a debate between two speakers – one supporting the Australian Constitution and the other supporting a change to the Constitution (and therefore a change from Australia status as a constitutional monarchy to a politicians’ republic). This year I spoke again in favour of retaining Australia’s current Constitution while Simon Bateman, Convenor of the Australian Republican Movement in Victoria, spoke in favour of constitutional change.
After the debate, as in previous years, students are asked to vote on Australia’s constitutional arrangements as would occur in a referendum. This year – as in previous years – students voted overwhelmingly (over 71%) to retain the Australian Constitution and defeat a politicians’ republic (whatever model that may be).
The result this year was similar to that of previous years where students (it should be noted from a variety of backgrounds) voted by a significant margin to retain the current Constitution. My experience this year confirmed, once again, to me that young Australians are able to critically think about the Constitution. In addition, young Australians are genuinely interested in the Constitution and Australia’s future and understand that the two are inextricably linked.