What is a referendum?

A ‘referendum’ is the process for changing the Australian Constitution. A majority of all voters in a majority of the states, are required to say ‘yes’ in order for a change to happen. This is known as the ‘double majority’ requirement and is why it’s so hard for referendums to succeed.

This will be Australia’s 45th referendum. Of these, only eight have succeeded. Five further referendums received a majority of the national vote, but not a majority in a majority of states. The double majority requirement is a significant threshold, reflecting the unique significance of the Constitution as the nation’s ‘rulebook’.

What is a Constitution?

The Australian Constitution took effect on 1 January 1901. It brought together the existing states who came together and negotiated an agreement to become part of a federation: the Commonwealth of Australia. You can read more about Federation here.

The Constitution is different from ordinary laws or Acts of Parliament. It is the founding document that sets out the powers of the Commonwealth of Australia. You can think of it as the rulebook that sets out the processes and matters that the Commonwealth of Australia may make laws about.

Listen, learn and share:

Australian Electoral Commission has released a ‘Your Answers Matter – Referendum 101’ Podcast to share unbiased information on the referendum process in the lead-up to the Voice to Parliament vote on October 14.

  • Why have a referendum?
  • How did we get to here?
  • Mythbusting