1967 Referendum

The 1967 Referendum is often hailed as a great victory for Aboriginal rights. The campaign for the “yes” vote was part of a strong community movement involving both Aboriginal and non – Aboriginal Australians. A fundamental moral problem which arose from the European settlement of Australia was foreshadowed long before Cook sailed along the east coast of the continent.   For generations indigenous Australians were not regarded as Australian citizens and were unable to reap benefits the colonial governments, and later the Commonwealth Parliament, established. For the first time in almost two hundred years of colonization Aboriginal people would be included in the census.   One key moment which Australians seemed united in their interest in Indigenous equality was in the popular support for the 1967 Referendum.   The 1967 Referendum was the beginning of the Indigenous rights movement and the long road on the search for equality under the Australian legal system. Inclusion through equal access to education, employment and the economy were seen as key ways of improving the situation of Aboriginal people. This notion of access and opportunity underpinned the desire for “citizenship rights” and with the claim for land and the desire for self determination created the key platforms in the Indigenous political agenda.  

The 1967 Referendum celebrations fit with a liberal vision of blacks and whites working together for equal rights for all Australians. It was a reassuring idea of equality before the law for one people, one nation. It can be seen as the start of reconciliation. It is argued that the referendum results wereseen as the good deed that purged Australia’s wrongs; a comforting notion for white Australians. The referendum helps draw an artificial distinction between past and present, allowing people to acknowledge the unfortunate past but only in the context of its being over – in the past.   It can be used as the benchmark of goodwill towards Aborigines and many...
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