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Right Wrongs - '67 Referendum - WA 50 years on

On 27 May 1967 a referendum was held in Australia that would prove to be significant for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and a watershed moment in Australian history. The 1967 Referendum was a vote put to the Australian people that asked two questions. The first is known as the ‘Nexus’ question and the second related to the alteration of discriminatory references toward Aboriginal people in the Constitution, enabling Aboriginal people to be counted in the census. In response to the second question the highest ‘Yes’ result was recorded in history, with 90.77 per cent of Australian voters in favour. 

To acknowledge this momentous occasion 50 years later, the Western Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs’ Aboriginal History Research Unit has developed an information toolkit to provide a unique WA perspective of this event. To date much of the historical discourse surrounding the Referendum has centred on the Eastern States.  

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the 1992 High Court Mabo Decision and the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report, both milestones in the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights.

One of the fifty-four recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report led to the expansion of the Aboriginal History Research Unit at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It is important to note, however, there is still much more to do with regard to achieving real equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Some of these views are presented in the ‘Community Perspectives’ section of this toolkit.