Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tenth Sorry Day and the 40th Anniversary of 1967 Referendum

10th Anniversary of Sorry Day and the 40th Anniversary of 1967 Referendum. 27 May 1967 is the date of the most successful referendum in Australian history. Forty years ago the overwhelming majority of Australians voted for changes in the Australian Constitution that the voters believed would give Indigenous Australians a ‘fairer go’ in their own country.

On 27 May 1967 over 90 per cent of the Australian electorate did vote YES on the Aboriginal question.

The 1967 Referendum: On 27 May 1967 a Federal referendum was held. The first question, referred to as the ‘nexus question' was an attempt to alter the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The second question was to determine whether two references in the Australian Constitution, which discriminated against Aboriginal people, should be removed. This fact sheet addresses the second question.

The sections of the Constitution under scrutiny were:

51. 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:-

(xxvi) The people of any race, other than the aboriginal people in any State, for whom it is necessary to make special laws.

127. In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives should not be counted.

The removal of the words ‘… other than the aboriginal people in any State…' in section 51(xxvi) and the whole of section 127 were considered by many to be representative of the prevailing movement for political change within Indigenous affairs. As a result of the political climate, this referendum saw the highest YES vote ever recorded in a Federal referendum, with 90.77 per cent voting for change.

The right to vote: The 1967 referendum did not give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the right to vote. This right had been legislated for Commonwealth elections in 1962, with the last State to provide Indigenous enfranchisement being Queensland in 1965.

Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals) - WIKIPEDIA
Collaborating for Indigenous Rights: the 1967 Referendum
The 1967 Referendum - National Archives of Australia

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