I was in my twenties in 1967 when the referendum on giving Aboriginals the vote was held. Obviously, I must have voted, but I cannot remember anything at all about it nor the way I voted. Should I be ashamed about this? Well it seems many Australians do not remember a thing in regard to the referendum. It was nearly half a century ago.
Rarely does a yes vote to change the Constitution "get up". This to non-Australians means that few attempts to make a change have been successful. Of the 24 referendums held only four have got a majority yes vote. People from other countries would think it odd that an advanced country such as Australia had not given Aboriginals the vote decades before. However, think about the racial discrimination in the United States in the supposedly enlightened 1960s.
Other discrimination existed then. Young Australian men who were forcibly enlisted into the military to fight in the Vietnam War could not go into a pub and drink alcohol until they reached the age of 21. Most conscripts were in their teens. When they came home on leave they were condemned by society for fighting the wrong war, even though they did not want to fight at all.
Though the referendum was commonly assumed to be about giving Aboriginals the right to vote, they could already do this but seldom did. The referendum was to give Aboriginals all the rights that Caucasion Australians had. A yes vote gave them the pride and dignity of being accepted as "real" Australians. Before 1967 Aboriginals were a non-people. They had no real identity and were ignored by white society generally.
They got access to welfare and took it dismissively calling it "sit-down money". They began to openly express themselves for good or bad. Discrimination still exists against aboriginals today. The Northern Territory is controlled by the Federal government. Aboriginal men in the Northern Territory are forbidden to drink alcohol. Clearly, many white Australians still feels that Aboriginals are racially inferior and cannot handle alcohol. Go to a night club in the early hours of the morning and see the number of white Australians stunbling about completely out of their minds on alcohol.
Politics by Ty Buchanan