An update on establishing the Australian Constitution Centre
By CEFA Chairman Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery AC AO (Mil) CVO MC (Retd)
The Lowy Institute reports that just 42% of Australia’s 18-29 year olds see democracy as preferable to any other kind of government; this is a national calamity in the making and will only be corrected through a sustained, coordinated and stimulating education program.
This is why CEFA is in discussions with senior ministers of the Turnbull Government to establish an Australian Constitution Centre with the aim of providing excellent education opportunities for all young Australians through our various schooling systems. We are seeking a commitment from the Federal Government of $5M to match the corporate and private donations which have already been promised, subject to government funding. This funding will ensure five years’ operating costs and set the Australian Constitution Centre up for the long term.
I have advised the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff of the importance of the Australian Constitution Centre in educating the community and in particular our younger people, on the importance of our democracy for the future stability and security of our country. The Australian Constitution Centre will also run the very successful CEFA Parliament in the Schools program, with a substantial prize to the best performing school, the Governor-General’s Prize and the online Yaba program that provides instructional resources and information packages for teachers.
It is important for the Prime Minister, relevant Ministers and the Government to recognise the strong and active support for CEFA’s activities from for example, several former Governors-General, the present incumbent, a former State Premier, various High Court judges and respected parliamentarians from both sides of politics and senior corporate and community citizens. It is also noteworthy that at the celebration of his 20 years since forming government, the former Prime Minister, John Howard, spoke powerfully of the need to protect our democracy and his real concern about the growing alienation of voters. He emphasised the importance of education regarding our parliamentary processes, under the Westminster system. His remarks were reinforced by Prime Minister Turnbull including the essentiality of due cabinet process.
In the same week, the Governor-General, General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, presented the prizes to the winners of the 2015 Governor-General’s Prize Essay Competition and spoke of the uniqueness of the work that CEFA was doing in protecting our democracy and our constitution through its multi-faceted and well co‑ordinated education programs.
Educating our people, and particularly our youth, on how we are governed, our Constitution and the consequent flow on to Australia being one of the most stable democracies in the world, is of paramount importance to the long term well-being of our country.
Noting that the private sector has already indicated its willingness to partner the federal government in establishing the Australian Constitution Centre, it is clearly behoven on the government to meet a key educative responsibility in ensuring our youth and the public in general become involved and informed supporters of our unique Australian democracy.