Government policy

In the early 1950s, the Australian Government implemented a policy of assimilation. The purpose of assimiliation policies was to incorporate Indigenous people into the wider single Australian community. Organisations like the Federal Council for Aborigines Advancement (FCAA) and the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship (AAF) rejected the policy stating that Indigenous people would lose ‘their culture and identity’ in the process.

FCAA would later accept the term ‘integration’ instead of assimilation, suggesting that Indigenous people had the right to be included in the mainstream community without it being necessary to lose their culture and social relationships.


Jessie Street's handwritten draft petition calling for amendments to the Australian Constitution (1957). Papers of Jessie Street, circa 1914-1968 Series 10 Folder 16 Box 28 MS2683

The petition campaign

In 1957, a petition campaign was spearheaded by the AAF. The aim of the campaign was to petition for amendments to sections 51 (clause xxvi) and 127 of the Australian Constitution. Members of the fellowship, Faith Bandler and Mrs. Pearl Gibbs worked alongside affiliates Shirley Andrews from Council of Aboriginal Rights (Victoria) as well as leading civil rights campaigner Jessie Street. The petition campaign would prove to be very successful, collecting just over 100,000 signatures. The launch of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines would soon follow. 


Official F.C.A.A.T.S.I. statement from N.S.W State Secretary Mrs. Faith Bandler, Papers of Jessie Street circa 1914-1968 Series 10 Folder 9 Box 27 MS2683/10/925.

The announcement and the campaign

The referendum was announced on 23 February 1967 by Prime Minister, Harold Holt. The 'Yes' campaign received bi-partisan support from the Coalition and Labor with the Prime Minister giving several speeches supporting the campaign. The text of these speeches given by Harold Holt can be found online at PM Transcripts.

The renamed Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) were prominent during the campaign. Also known as the ‘Vote Yes’ campaign it was the longest and most widely supported of the Council's activities.

Related resources

Ephemera

The Library holds a small but significant collection of ephemera relating to the 1967 in a collection titled: Referendum, 27 May 1967 : ephemera relating to the campaign on the questions of Parliament and Aboriginals collected by the National Library of Australia. This collection includes the following:

  • Vote Yes for Aborigines May 27 card
    Footer on card states "Donations for campaign to: Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines & Torres Strait Islanders, P.O Box 24 Clifton Hill Victoria."
  • Writ for a Referendum
    Document commanding alteration of the Constitution entitled "Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967"
  • Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1966 information sheet
    Information sheet detailing of the arguments for and against the proposed alterations to the constitution.
  • 40th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum Celebrations Programme.
  • Vote Yes for Aboriginal Rights Referendum, 27 May 1967
    A printed brochure in support of the YES campaign. A digitised copy of this brochure is available as part of the Riley Collection. See our catalogue record for this item by clicking here
  • A proposed law to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the People of the Aboriginal Race in any State and so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the Population. 
    This item lists the amendments to the Constitution arising from the YES vote. 
  • The ephemera collection also includes Stickers, bookmarks and a leaflet relating to the 1967 Referendum.

Collections that can be considered ephemeral in nature may also be found in the Library's collections of pictures and manuscripts which include voting pamphlets, newspaper editorials, leaflets and brochures, handbills, invitations, cards, stickers and badges.

Manuscripts

Papers of Gordon Bryant, 1917-1991
MS8256 - FCAATSI, 1964-1975, Series 11, Box 175, Folders 1-3 
As a Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (1972-73), Gordon's papers are well documented in this series pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. His papers contain reports, newsletters, campaign material, newspaper cuttings, as well as membership forms and other publications relating to the 1967 Referendum. 

Papers of Jessie Street, 1914-1968,MS2683 - Series 10, Boxes 27-29
Papers relating to Indigenous rights and race relations including the 1967 Referendum, FCAATSI statements, letters from Ann Waters and Shirley Andrews, hand written 'Draft-Petition' calling for the alteration of the constitution, reports by Faith Bandler, publications, tour reports with Ps. Doug Nicholls and Dr. Charles Duguid, FCAA information leaflets to name a few.  

Papers of Jack and Jean Horner, 1956-2003 
MS9503
Papers of Jack and Jean Horner, rights activists, who campaigned for Indigenous rights for many years, taking active roles in the 1967 referendum and in organisations which support this cause including FCAATSI. 

Papers of John Kempster, 1959-1968
MS Acc14.068 - Box 3 
Contains the papers of Dr. John Kempster and his involvement in various organisations for the advancement of Aboriginal Australians civil rights in the lead up to the 1967 Referendum.

Pictures

Yes for Aborigines : write yes for Aborigines in the lower square May 27th [Sydney : Witton Press, 1967]

Poster for the Yes campaign for the referendum on 27 May, 1967, depicting the face of a child. "Write yes for Aborigines in the lower square May 27th.