Twenty-third Geoffrey Sawer Lecture: Modern Australian Federalism and the Uluṟu Statement

Date & time
5.30–7pm Wednesday 16 February 2022


Professor Megan Davis


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Presented by Centre for International and Public Law

Public lecture

Part of the Annual Geoffrey Sawer Lecture series

Presented on 16 February 2022 by Professor Megan Davis (Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, University of New South Wales), this lecture considers the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart in the context of modern federalism and specifically the practice of Australian federalism. It explains why a First Nations Voice, designed to speak primarily to the national Parliament, aligns with the practice of modern federalism, and why the Uluṟu dialogues contemplated the Voice as a critical anchor for any modern Treaty process (as opposed to agreements and other constructive arrangements or state-based treaties) and truth-telling. Finally, it outlines why comparative studies of overseas jurisdictions are of limited utility to designing an Australian institution because of the unique federal context in which a First Nations Voice must operate in Australia.


  • Professor Megan Davis »

    Image shows Megan Davis smiling and standing beneath a tree

    Professor Megan Davis is Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and Balnaves Chair for Constitutional Law, UNSW Law. She is a constitutional lawyer who researches in public law and public international law. Her current research focuses on constitutional design, democratic theory and Indigenous peoples. In 2015 she was appointed by the Prime Minister to the Referendum Council and designed the deliberative constitutional dialogue process the Council undertook. In 2011, Megan was also appointed to the Prime Minister's Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution. She is the Chair of the UN Human Rights Council's Expert Mechanism on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, an Acting Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. She is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and an Australian Rugby League Commissioner. Professor Davis was Director of the Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law from 2006-2016. Professor Davis is formerly Chair and expert member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2011-2016). Professor Davis has extensive experience as an international lawyer at the UN and participated in the drafting of the UNDRIP from 1999-2004 and is a former UN Fellow of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.


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