The 1967 Referendum

Why did Australian attitudes towards Aborigines change?

  • The movement to include all Aborigines as Australian citizens emerged against a background of civil rights activism in many parts of the western world. Research and write a report on one of the following features of the civil rights movement in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s:
    – the Montgomery bus boycott
    – the lunch counter sit-ins
    – the Freedom Rides.
  • Outline the key influences on the change of attitudes towards Aboriginal citizenship that occurred in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Hirst indicates that Prime Minister Menzies was not interested in Commonwealth involvement in Aboriginal affairs. Can you suggest why that would have been so?
  • Harold Holt was a Liberal Prime Minister like his predecessor Sir Robert Menzies and yet he was responsible for one of the most significant legislative changes in relation to Aborigines of the 20th century. Can you explain why, in his second year as Prime Minister, Holt introduced the Aboriginal citizenship referendum?

Present an oral report

Using the 'Additional resources', conduct further research into one of the listed events. Present an oral report explaining what impact one of the following events had on changing black and white attitudes:

  • the 1965 Australian Freedom Ride
  • the 1966 Wave Hill strike.

Prepare a news report

Write a news report that would have appeared on Saturday 27 May 1967. Your report should include:

  • an account of the successful referendum;
  • an interview with a white Australian on the reasons he or she voted 'Yes';
  • an interview with an Aboriginal leader on the expected consequences of the vote.

Introduction | What rights did Aboriginal people have between 1901–1967? | Why did Australian attitudes towards Aborigines change? | What were the consequences of the referendum? | Assessment tasks and Additional resources