• Entry type: Event
  • Entry ID: IMP0091

Referendum 1967

(1967 – )


In February 1967, Prime Minister Harold Holt agreed to hold a national referendum in May 1967 as the result of a sustained campaign by the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) which was agitating for amendments to the constitution. There were two changes proposed, both of which were accepted by a vast majority of voters: (1) to remove a discriminatory clause in Section 51 (xxvi) which had prevented the Federal Government from legislating for Aboriginal people. This clause had meant States could enact their own laws relating to Aboriginal people; in this way Aboriginal people had been discriminated against and excluded from social services under State law; (2) Section 127, which excluded Aboriginal people from being counted in national censuses, was deleted.

Despite legislation enacted on 10 August 1967 as a result of the referendum, the effects of the constitutional changes were not immediate; some States were reluctant to repeal discriminatory laws, and did not do so for many years. The federal government was slow to act on its new powers. The ‘yes’ vote had also been concentrated in certain areas leaving a substantial ‘no’ vote in other areas.
The 1967 referendum has nevertheless been mythologised in Australia’s history as a high-water-mark of popular support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, and reflects the sustained efforts of generations of Indigenous advocates.

Sources: Horton (ed), 1994, Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia.
McGinness, 1991, ‘What FCAATSI fought for’

Published resources

  • Journal Article
    • (The) 1967 (Referendum) and all that : narrative and myth, Aborigines and Australia., Attwood, Bain; Markus, Andrew, 1998
    • 2001 Eldershaw Memorial Lecture : founding fathers, dutiful wives and rebellious daughters.[Lecture presented to a Tasmanian Historical Research Association meeting on 10 Apr 2001.], Lake, Marilyn, 2001
    • The Commonwealth Referendum of 1967 and Australian Indigenous citizenship : an interpretation of historical events, Tripcony, Penny, 2001
    • Revitalising citizenship: lessons from the margins. -Paper presented to Citizenship & Indigenous Australians : Changing Conceptions and Possibilities (1996: Canberra ), Eggerking, Kitty, 1997
    • The 1967 referendum, Bennett, Scott, 1985
  • Edited Book
    • The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and culture, Horton, David, 1994
  • Book Section
    • Representation matters : the 1967 referendum and citizenship, Attwood, Bain; Markus, Andrew, 1998
    • Aborigines and the 1967 referendum : thirty years on, Henry Reynolds, 1998
  • Resource Section
  • Book
    • The fair go [videorecording] : winning the 1967 referendum, ABC; Canute Films for the Open Leaning Agency of Australia, 1999
    • The 1967 referendum, or, When Aborigines didn't get the vote, Bain Attwood; Andrew Markus, 1997
    • 1967 [videorecording] : citizens at last, Harvey Broadbent, 1997
    • Yes, Aborigines do count, 1967-1992 : a publication to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum., 1992

Archival resources

  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Charles Perkins, 1956-1993 [manuscript]
    • Papers of Jessie Street, circa 1914-1968 [manuscript]

Related entries

  • Supported by
    • Scott, Evelyn Ruth (1935 - 2017)
  • Related Organisations
    • Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (1958 - 1978)