Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

The 1967 Referendum: Thirty Years On

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

The 1967 Referendum: Thirty Years On

Article excerpt

As an eleven-year-old cherub, I remember the 1967 Referendum well and the lead-up to it. If I had to make another toffee or lamington for the numerous fundraising drives, I was sure I'd puke. Similarly, the standing on street corners handing out badges and pamphlets, the barbeques, the dances and the talks that my dearest and committed mother would `drag' us around to were all in the week's agenda.

Although annoying to us at the time, those social functions were an opportunity to knock on the doors of people who'd never met an Aboriginal person before, and to let them know we had arrived again after the attempted silencing and assimilation processes. We weren't going to go away, we weren't `myalls'. I wanted our respectful place back in society and obviously had something to offer the wider community. If only they would listen, respect our position and learn, then perhaps they could even begin to empathise and understand.

We children didn't quite know what it was all about nor did we realise what a great significant event was taking place and that we were all to be part of the history of a near-revolution for our people. Mum told me we would get counted in the census now, along with the sheep and cattle, and I never quite knew what she meant -- only that this was going to be a big deal!

After the referendum was announced in the affirmative, there were shrieks of joy, laughter and a mass of tears. I think we had all gathered at the place of our most respected non-Aboriginal fighter, Mother Langford, who is also affectionately known as Mrs L, Migaloo Mum, Super Gran and the White Godmother of Aboriginal Affairs.

This was also my earliest recollection of the struggle that Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals fought together in their common goal to get rid of the suffocating oppression that we had all come to know and feel. …

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