Women’s Constitutional Convention 2002

Held on 11-13 June 2002 in Canberra to mark the centenary of the passing of the Bill in the federal parliament on 12 June 1902 which gave all women citizens (thus excluding Indigenous women who did not get the franchise until 1962) the right to vote in federal elections.

The second Women’s Constitutional Convention was attended by 120 women from around the country. For full coverage of the Convention, papers and full Convention outcomes, visit the WCC 2002 website at www.wcc2002.asn.au and find Bulletin 6.

Outcomes which relate to the Republic and constitutional change are reproduced below:

Convention Statement – endorsed by the delegates in attendance on 13 June 2002.

Women living democracy supporting, sustaining and recognising women’s full participation in political, economic, social and cultural life.

  1. The winning of the right to vote and stand for Parliament by all women in Australia has not translated into equal political influence or equal access to political office. Indigenous women and their communities have been most seriously affected.
  2. Women are still under-represented in access to elected office at all levels in Australia and women remain under-represented among appointed and invited office holders.
  3. At the same time, women have an undiminished will to participate fully, to speak and be heard, to play a decision-making role and to be involved in the full breadth of social, political, economic and cultural life.
  4. Many women, therefore, feel extremely frustrated by the narrowness and exclusivity of Australian political life. There is a strong feeling that our public institutions need new voices, fresh imagination and new skills.
  5. Women insist on entering fully into the entire democratic process of agenda setting, decision-making and decision implementation. Women aim to find ways to increase their political influence, power and resources.
  6. The women from all walks of life, from all Australian states and territories, who have gathered at this Convention, believe in and will work for three broad, over-arching objectives:
    1. The promotion of deeper and broader public conversations about our democracy, that include education about the current Australian Constitution and recognition of women’s visions for full participation in our future.
    2. Human rights commitments and processes must be strengthened for all women and specific rights for women must be formulated
    3. Democratic institutions and practices must be fully inclusive, responsible and operate with full respect for the community.
  7. We commit to continually trying to broaden and enrich Australian public debate and the inclusion of those who have little public voice.
  8. We ask that the next Women’s Constitutional Convention again consider ways of deepening Australian democracy, so that it works fully and effectively for all women.
  9. We trust the women to:
  10. We trust the women in political parties, the media, Parliament, the Executive, the judiciary and everywhere in political life. We call on them to keep our trust – and to themselves recognise, sustain and trust the women.

 Action issues emerging from workshop discussions:


A new written preamble to the Constitution should be written, based on inclusive principles and formulated in consultation with key stakeholders, such as Indigenous peoples, republicans and women and men of Australia.

The right to vote should be entrenched in the Constitution.

Any Bill of Rights must include positive, sex specific rights, not merely universal human rights or anti-discrimination legislation.

In debate on a Bill of Rights, Australian women should argue for the inclusion of explicit clauses on the right to bodily and psychological integrity, including autonomy in their choice of maternity and control over reproduction.


A job description for head of state, which accords with feminist principles, should be written.

Women-friendly processes should be established for selection of the head of state

The republican movement needs women to work for constitutional reform, which might take a variety of directions.

Equal input from women in the development of a republic should be apparent at every stage of the process.