Key Thinkers Fourm – THE 1967 REFERENDUM

TOPIC – THE 1967 REFERENDUM
IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTH THEN, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
– Chaired by Professor Tom Calma AO

The 1967 Referendum – Background

On the 27th of May 1967, the Australian Government held a referendum, which altered the Australian Constitution and opened the door for ending inequalities experienced by the first Australians.

The ‘Yes’ vote, given by over 90 per cent of Australian voters, enabled the Commonwealth to enact laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and removed the prohibition against counting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the census.

Prior to the referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were treated as foreigners in their own home and on their own land. They were not included as Australian citizens; they were regarded as British subjects.

The 1967 referendum paved the way for several significant legislative developments, and for many people it represented a turning point from official discrimination to the promise of full and equal citizenship.

With the introduction of ‘positive discrimination’ (otherwise known as affirmative action) as a means of addressing disadvantage, WC Wentworth, the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, began programs designed to address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, such as improvements in healthcare.

To read the Briefing Paper for this Forum, please click here.

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