Publication Details

Arcioni, E. Rachel. (2009). That vague but powerful abstraction: the concept of 'the people' in the Constitution. Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law 2009 Constitutional Law Conference (pp. 1-10). Sydney, Australia: University of New South Wales.


The concept of ‘the people’ in the Constitution is undoubtedly unfinished constitutional business. The concept is “vague” due to a lack of development by the High Court but also because it is an inherently fluid concept. Yet it is also “powerful” because of what ‘the people’ has come to signify, which is something that I suggest should be further developed by the High Court. There are two questions that I will consider in this paper. The first is: who are ‘the people’? The second is: what impact do they have on our understanding of the Constitution and constitutional terms?

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