Attitudes to treaty, sovereignty & constitution

In the 2016 National Church Life Survey (NCLS), Australian churchgoers were asked about a proposed change to the nation's constitution. The 2016 NCLS took place in the midst of a period where questions of indigenous and non-indigenous relations in Australia were, at least in part, publicly focused on the question of a proposed national referendum to change the constitution and provide “recognition” of indigenous people in the nation’s founding document.

Churchgoer attitudes to constitutional change

Half of respondents “strongly supported” constitutional change to “recognise Aboriginal people as our first inhabitants”, with a further 23% of attenders “somewhat” supportive. Only 7% opposed constitutional change. On the specific question of the removal of racially discriminatory clauses from the Australian constitution a total of 79% of respondents supported this proposal, with 64% strongly in support.


Churchgoer attitudes to treaty

The idea of a treaty attracted less upfront support with 37% of respondents indicating “it would be good for Aboriginal people and would assist Australia to become a more just society”, 26% that it wouldn't lead to change, and 28% being unsure. Despite this mixed picture, only 9% chose to respond that there should not be a treaty at all (figure below). There were some differences in views on a treaty between rural and urban communities with 39% of urban respondents affirming a treaty “would be good” as compared with just 28% of rural responses. Conversely, 35% of rural attenders felt that a treaty wouldn’t lead to change compared with 25% of urban attenders.

Ruth Powell, Miriam Pepper
Data Sources:

Powell, R., Pepper, M., Hancock, N. and Sterland, S. (2017) 2016 NCLS Attender Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research.

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