50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum

The 27th May 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark referendum to amend the Australian Constitution to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for Aboriginal people.

The sections of the Constitution under scrutiny were:

51. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:-
...(xxvi) The people of any race, other than the aboriginal people in any State, for whom it is necessary to make special laws.

127. In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives should not be counted.

The second question in the Referendum referred to the removal of the words ‘… other than the aboriginal people in any State…' in section 51(xxvi) and the whole of section 127.

Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Constitution being amended, with 90.77 per cent voting for change. This is the highest YES vote ever recorded in a Federal referendum.

The Constitution was changed, giving formal effect to the referendum result, by the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967 (Act No 55 of 1967), which received assent on 10 August 1967.

To commemorate the anniversary and raise awareness of this nationally significant event, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs ran a campaign to share the stories of Aboriginal Territorians who experienced and have been impacted by the 1967 Referendum.

The campaign consisted of print advertising in Northern Territory papers and movies on Facebook and YouTube that share the stories of Aboriginal Territorians.

Lisa Mumbin, Chairperson Jawoyn Association

John Berto, CEO Jawoyn Association

Linda Turner

Geoff Shaw

Roaslie Kunoth-Monks

Pat Brahim, CEO of Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation

Bakamumu Marika, Rirratjingu clan leader


Newspaper advertisements

Darwin - Jack Ah Kit
Arnhem - Bakamumu Marika
Katherine - Lisa Mumbin and John Berto
Tennant Creek - Linda Turner
Utopia - Rosalie Kunoth Monks
Alice Springs - Geoffrey Shaw

Online resources

ABC 1967 Referendum site ‘Right Wrongs’

Article - Three biggest myths of the 1967 Referendum

1967 Referendum fact sheet

The Barunga Statement artwork

Barunga Statement information

The 1967 Referendum overview

Teachers Notes about the 1967 referendum

Referendum information and resources

Last updated: 19 May 2017

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