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The 1967 Referendum
Transcript of The 1967 Referendum
People in Australia have to register their dogs and cattle, but we don't know how many Aborigines there are.
—Faith Bandler, 1965 [
The Referendum of 1967
In Reckoning the number of the people in the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted
For the Referendum to be successfully passed, a majority of 'Yes' votes were needed. In 1967, this meant 2.5 million yes votes in the 4 states. The territories were not allowed to vote.
Saturday, May 27, 1967
A History of Aboriginal Australia
The 1967 Referendum came out with an overwhelming victory for the Aboriginal supporters. A 90.77% majority voted 'Yes', and to this date, remains the biggest 'yes' vote in Commonwealth history. As an interesting note, the majority of the 'No' votes came from country seats.
However, it is important to remember that the referendum did not enforce equal rights for Aboriginals but merely allowed the Commonwealth Government the opportunity to hopefully enact reforms for the Aboriginal's benefit.
Following the referendum however, the government continued to enforce laws involving the Indigenous without consulting them.
"John Howard and [Tasmanian senator] Brian Harradine, discussing our native title when we’re not even in the room. How symbolically colonialist is that?”
Thé 1967 Référendum
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws
The 1967 referendum was the most successful referendum in Australia's political history. It made two amendments to the constitution, allowing Aboriginal people to be included in the census and it allowed the Federal government to create laws for them. However, this was only a small step forward for the Aboriginal rights movement as it did not take any power away from the state governments which could also make laws and policies for Aboriginal people and it did not give them any more human rights or citizenship rights than they already had.
Federation of states. Commonwealth constitution states that the Commonwealth would legislate for any race except Aboriginal people. The states therefore retain their power over Aboriginal Affairs.
Because the states had the power to create laws relating to Aboriginal affairs, the laws were inconsistent. For example, voting rights would change from state to state.
—Constitution, section 51, clause 26, pre-1967
—Constitution, section 127, pre-1967
The Grayden Report reveals the state of the Aborigines and their appalling conditions after an investigation in the Warburton Ranges. Australia's white population are shocked.
The Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement founded to achieve equal rights for Aboriginal people and the constitution to be changed for the Aboriginal people
The Labor Party opposition submits urgent appeal to include Aboriginals in the Census
The Commonwealth Electoral Act enables Indigenous Australians to vote
FCAA ensures that over a 7 week period, each day began with tabling petitions. Keeping the issue alive. From 1962 to 1964, over 50 petitions asked the government to change the constitution.
On 11 November 1965 it was announced that a referendum would be held and among other things, repeal section 127 of the constitution.
FCAA renamed to Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders
A group of 36 Aboriginal people went to Canberra to protest about clause 26 of section 51
The 1965 Freedom Rides took place. Led by the first Aboriginal student to finish tertiary education, Charles Perkins, these protests led by University of Sydney students led to the awareness of discrimination and the unfair treatment of Aboriginals.
Harold Holt replaces Robert Menzies as prime minister
William Wentworth, an avid campaigner for the referendum gets turned down by the government in relation to his bill. He argued that by enabling the Commonwealth to make laws for the Aboriginal people these would be for their advancement. State laws would not be affected by Commonwealth legislation and states could receive federal funding
The 1967 Referendum is held on May 27th. Now also clause 26 of section 51 is amended and the words ‘other than the aboriginal race in any State’ is dropped
An overwhelming 'Yes' vote means that by the 10th of August 1967, the change is law
I would like to see spelt out in the Constitution the Commonwealth's power to help Aborigines and to see a prohibition against adverse racial discrimination towards the Aborigines or anyone else.
—W C Wentworth, Feb 1967
Do you approve the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled ‘An Act to alter the Constitution’ so as to omit certain words relating to the people of the Aboriginal race in any state so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the population?”
SMH REF. RESULTS
Laws, proving negative and detrimental to Aboriginals continued to be passed. What needed and was done in the following decades, were protests against the government to address these problems. This came in the form of movements such as the Tent Embassy and a list of following acts:
The Racial Discrimination Act
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act
The Native Title Act
These Acts helped provide a base to stop discrimination and allow the Aboriginal people to be socially accepted.
Vote 'Yes' Poster 1967
Charles Perkin's Freedom Rides
Faith Bandler, a leading activist for the Aboriginal cause became involved in the peace movement in the 1950s. A founding member of the FCAATSI, this is her view on the 1967 Referendum.
Faith Bandler on the 1967 Referendum
Historical Significance - Positive Effects of the 1967 Referendum
Charles Dixon, an Aboriginal rights activist stated in a news article that he felt that the Referendum has changed his acceptance as a person in society, that him and his race are now considered to be humans just at the thought of a Referendum involving them.
During the time shortly after the Referendum, there was some positive discrimination where Aboriginal people were targeted to be provided with their desperate needs.
The Australian population was exposed to the changing attitudes and views towards the Aboriginal people by both the government and society
The overwhelming support meant that the government had to help in creating more policies for the assistance of Aboriginals
The Referendum allowed many laws to be passed later in Aboriginal history such as the Aboriginal Land Fund Act 1974, Aboriginal Reconciliation Act 1991 and Native Title Act 1993
Indigenous people became more open with their issues of discrimination and discussion of their human rights
The lives of the Aboriginal lives were also changing dramatically due to changes in land rights, anti-discrimination and financial assistance
Initiatives supporting Aboriginals began such as Indigenous housing, loans, emergency accommodation and funding for tertiary education which all contributed in improving the lives of Aboriginals
Referencing the Referendum
"The 1967 referendum â Fact sheet 150." corporateName=National Archives of Australia; address=Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes, ACT 2600; contact=+61 2 6212 3600. http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs150.aspx (accessed September 7, 2014).
"Aboriginal culture & resources - Creative Spirits." Creative Spirits. http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-1967-referendum (accessed September 7, 2014).
Attwood, Bain, and Andrew Markus. The 1967 referendum race, power and the Australian Constitution. 2nd ed. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2007.
"Faith Bandler - Introduction." Faith Bandler - Introduction. http://www.australianbiography.gov.au/subjects/bandler/ (accessed September 8, 2014).