As we celebrate 50 years since the 1967 Referendum let’s reflect upon some of the key facts from this important milestone in Australia’s journey towards reconciliation.
The 1967 Referendum was the most successful in our history winning 93 percent of votes cast.
This empowered the national government to make laws in respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that could assist in addressing inequalities.
Until the 1967 referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not included in the census and therefore weren’t considered members of the Australian population.
The 1967 referendum changed Section 51 of the Constitution to allow the parliament to “make laws for peace, order and good government” for all Australians, where previously Aboriginal people had been specifically excluded.
In 1965, Charles Perkins, the first Aboriginal man to graduate from an Australian university (the University of Sydney), led a Freedom Ride through towns in western NSW to raise awareness of the poor state of Aboriginal health, education and housing. The Sydney students gained significant public attention, and are credited with influencing the outcome of the referendum.
The 1967 referendum was the most successful in Australia’s history. There have been 44 referenda since 1901 and only eight of those have returned a ‘yes’ vote.
Although it is a common misconception, the 1967 referendum did not give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the right to vote. This right had already been legislated for Commonwealth elections in 1962.
People in Australia have to register their dogs and cattle, but we don’t know how many Aborigines there are.