The term democracy is derived from ancient Greek and means 'rule by the people'.
In a democracy, the people have the right to have a say in how they are governed and what laws are passed.
There are two main types of democracy - 'direct democracy' and 'representative democracy'.
Direct democracy existed in Athens in Ancient Greece, where all eligible citizens could vote on every issue.
Representative democracy exists in modern societies where it is not practical for all citizens to vote on every issue. Instead, citizens vote in elections to choose people to represent them and make decisions on their behalf.
What is a Constitutional Democracy?
A constitution is the framework of government and the rules about how it is governed.
Australia is a constitutional democracy and government consists of more than just a written document. It is a democratic political system where people are an integral part of the decision making process through elections.
Today, virtually all liberal democracies have formally codified or written constitutions. The chief exception is the United Kingdom where the rules of the Constitution are scattered through a range of charter documents, parliamentary acts, elements of the common law and constitutional conventions.
Australia is unique because our Constitution was adopted by a popular referendum and it takes a popular referendum to change it. The only way to change our Constitution is to hold a Section 128 referendum. This requires a majority of votes and States for the referendum to be successful, and ensures it is a democratic process.
In addition, Australia’s laws are subject to the High Court’s interpretations of the wording of the Constitution because it is our supreme law.
In contrast to the Commonwealth Constitution, we do not always need a referendum to change the Western Australian Constitution. Some changes can be made in State Parliament.
Separation of powers