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The 'Yes' Case

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Geraldton Guardian 23 May 1967

The Geraldton Guardian, 23 May 1967

Reproduced courtesy of The Geraldton Guardian


If Australia fails to write Yes to the proposal on aborigines, the rest of the world will believe that we have neither comprehension nor compassion.

Television broadcast by Hon Gough Whitlam QC, Leader of the Opposition. 16 May 1967

Question: Do you approve the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled ‘An Act to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the people of the Aboriginal race in any state so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the population?

Section 51, Part (xxv1):

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:-

The people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws

Section 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 bold text represents the sections of the Constitution that the Referendum would remove if passed.

FCAATSI committees in each state enlisted strong support from Church and community groups to educate the wider community on the need for a strong “Yes” vote. The Aboriginal Advancement Council and Aboriginal Rights Council  were the leading Western Australian groups led by people including E.C. Gare, George Abdullah, Jack Davies and Charles Pell. Many newspapers ran positive editorials and news stories promoting the arguments supporting the ‘Yes’ vote.

The word ‘yes’ had to be written on the Referendum Ballot papers. All advertising strongly featured this as officials were concerned that people may simply tick or cross the boxes by mistake. Despite an active campaign by all political parties and FCAATSI, many people did not understand what they were voting for. Even today, many people still believe the Referendum was to give Aboriginal people the vote, even though they had been able to vote in Federal elections since 1962.
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