New exhibition at the Museum of the Great Southern reveals Western Australia 50 years on from the 1967 Referendum
News | Created 31 May 2017
It has been 50 years since the 1967 Referendum where Australians overwhelming voted to amend the constitution, allowing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be counted in the census, and to be subject to Commonwealth laws rather than an array of state laws.
Voters recorded the largest “yes” vote – 90.77% – in any Australian referendum. The “yes” result for Albany, in the division of Forrest, was 84.65%. This was higher than the State result of 80.9% and the 10th highest subdivision nation-wide.
A new display called Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 years on is now open at the Museum of the Great Southern marking the 50th anniversary of the historic Referendum and giving local context to the vote and its influence on the community and its future.
The exhibition title is drawn from the slogan used during the 1967 Referendum campaign, “Right Wrongs, Write Yes”.
Western Australian Museum CEO Alec Coles said the exhibition is part of the Museum’s contribution to the 1967 Referendum commemorations in partnership with the State Library of Western Australia and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
“The central exhibition is on display at the State Library of WA in Perth, telling Western Australian stories that explore the long history of Aboriginal activism from Aboriginal peoples’ perspectives,” Mr Coles said.
“Through local voices, the satellite exhibitions at the Museum of the Great Southern, Museum of Geraldton, Museum of the Goldfields and the WA Maritime Museum look to the past and the future, exploring personal reflections of the 1967 Referendum’s significance and meanings. The exhibition recognises the many aspirations that have been met since the Referendum, but acknowledges that social disadvantage still exists.”
In recent years Albany has been at the heart of progressing reconciliation. Recently the Museum of the Great Southern displayed Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja. The exhibition featured historic objects made by Albany’s Menang people nearly 200 years ago. The exhibition was the result of extensive engagement between the Western Australian Museum, the National Museum of Australia, the Menang community and the British Museum where the objects have been held for more than 180 years, and became the first complete collection of Aboriginal artefacts to be loaned for display on country. This was an Australian first, and the project advocated new approaches to sharing cultural heritage through joint custodianship.
Video interviews with four Noongar people are part of the Right Wrongs display in Albany. They explain that although Aboriginal people were finally recognised as people in their own country, it could often take time for many to see and be part of the changes that were taking place. For instance, Aboriginal people had been allowed to vote since 1962 but it wasn’t until after the Referendum that many felt they had a right to.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs’ educational toolkit Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 years on is available online to assist educators to raise awareness and understanding with their students about the Referendum and other related historical events.
WA Museum visitors can see Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 years on during the following display periods:
Museum of the Great Southern, 28 May – 30 June 2017
Museum of the Goldfields, 28 May – 1 September 2017
Museum of Geraldton, 28 May – 3 September 2017
WA Maritime Museum, 26 May – 16 July 2017
Media and Publicity Officer
Western Australian Museum