50 years since the 1967 referendum

Saturday 27 May 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, in which over 90% of Australians voted for a better and more fair country for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The amendments enabled the Commonwealth Government to start officially counting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the census, and gave a power to create specific laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by removing the words ‘other than the aboriginal people’ from the race power in section 51(xxvi) of the Constitution.

Rodney Dillon, Indigenous Rights Adviser at Amnesty International Australia, wrote this week for The Huffington Post:

As a young boy, I listened to the talk around our dinner table, sensing the big change in the air. On TV, influential people had publicly championed the Yes vote. It was 50 years ago, when Australians came together and stood up for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the 1967 referendum.

Until then, we had seen the Federal Government pass the buck to the States and Territories, the States and Territories pass it back to the Federal Government, but none of them ever thought it was important to protect our people’s rights.

When over 90 per cent of Australians voted for change, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people felt supported by the goodwill of the people, and we were full of hope. But 50 years later, we’ve been continuously let down. In so many ways, today the injustice gap is widening — and our kids are feeling it the most.

It’s time for Prime Minister Turnbull to fulfil the legacy of the 1967 referendum, and secure a better future for Indigenous kids.

Read Rodney’s full piece here.

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Rodney Dillon, Indigenous Rights Advisor
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