Federal Referendum

Federal Referendum. In 1961 a Senate Committee on Aboriginal voting rights recommends that all Aborigines should be given the right to vote in federal elections and uses its powers to provide voting rights to Aborigines in the NT. This leads to the states providing the right to vote by the mid-1960s. On 27 May 1967 the Commonwealth government holds a referendum asking voters to decide whether the Australian Constitution should be changed to (1) enable the federal government to assume responsibility for Aborigines in each state (the Constitution had been written to enable the federal government to make laws for “the people of any race other than the [A]boriginal race”); and (2) enable the federal government to include Aborigines in national censuses (the Constitution is worded “In reckoning the number of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a state or other part of the Commonwealth, [A]boriginal natives shall not be counted”). Approximately 90% of all voters in the Referendum are in favour of the changes and many people see this as a positive acceptance of Gooris. The Referendum leads to many positive changes, especially the movement of official government policy away from assimilation towards self-determination. Joe McGuinness with Faith Bandler are joint national campaign directors of the Referendum campaign. Chicka Dixon (born Wallago Lake mission) is a central campaigner. In his role as President of the Aborigines Advancement League, Bill Onus helps to create positive support among wider Australians for the referendum. (Indigenous Rights Net, Foley Koori History, Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association)