His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd)
On the occasion of
Awards Ceremony for Constitution Education Fund Australia
9 March 2016
Welcome to Government House.
Our nation—our democracy, our government, our laws, our very way of life are all founded upon our constitution.
The Australian Constitution is fundamental to who we are and how we live.
But of course this is something this audience knows all too well.
And of course as Governor-General, I have to be pretty familiar with the Constitution myself.
Not surprisingly, much of my time is spent fulfilling my executive powers and attending to my other Constitutional responsibilities.
But the ongoing authority and effectiveness of the Constitution—and indeed the role I fulfil—depends upon the Constitution functioning effectively and retaining the confidence of the people.
Because the Constitution is ultimately by the people, for the people.
It is there to serve us.
To reflect our principles and ideals.
And to protect, preserve and promote the open, democratic and stable system of government we value so much.
Any changes to be made to the Constitution must be most carefully proposed, considered and decided, if it is to be preserved as the core of our democracy.
And the consideration of constitutional changes by the electorate is in many ways greater than the contemporary responsibilities of voting at general elections, vital as these are.
And this is where the work of the Constitutional Education Fund comes to the fore.
Because you stimulate debate and encourage learning.
You take something that could be abstract and the esoteric— the domain of a privileged few—and you ensure it remains relevant, accessible and of service to all.
a Constitution that is appreciated and understood.
a Constitution that is pertinent and informative to contemporary issues.
And a constitution that is both respected and critically evaluated
…is a constitution that is not just the foundation of who we are—it is also the foundation of who we will become
So whether it’s…
- leading discussion about indigenous recognition,
- creating school parliaments,
- or establishing the Australian Constitution Education Centre,
…you are promoting the absolute importance of our Constitution to our nation and our future.
And of course the Governor-General’s Prize is a central part of all this.
It’s a competition that fosters analysis and debate.
And in recent years it has fostered engagement between cultures, generations and history.
The 2014 Prize focussed on the status of Indigenous peoples
In the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta the 2015 prize touched on what the Magna Carta meant to Australia today.
And in 2016, as we remember the centenary of the First World War, students will have the opportunity to write about the Constitution’s role in those early days of nationhood.
It is this breadth and depth of issues, their importance to our nation and the quality of the submissions received that makes this an important competition for our country—and one I am proud to be associated with.
But the pressing business of tonight is the presentation of certificates and the Winterton Cup to the overall winner.
Congratulations to all this year’s finalists.
Your very presence here demonstrates that you are talented scholars and thinkers.
So as Patron and in my constitutional capacity of Commander-in-Chief—let the presentations commence.