1967 Referendum

Sailed their boats
Up to our shores
Aimed their guns
And made their laws
No man’s land
Was what they said
Did not want to count
One single head

As flora and fauna
We were seen
Did not have a say
In our own dreams
British subjects
Was the term they used?
Wasn’t even asked
For our important views

Alien citizens
On our own sand
Treated as foreigners
By treacherous hands
Our rights were shunned
Our lives controlled
We watched in sadness
Saw it all unfold

Then came a sound
Like a rushing tide
Throughout the land
It rolled far and wide
And one by one
The voices all rose
In an almighty crescendo
We watched them grow

A referendum
A deciding vote
To take count of us
By healing and hope
Set the wheels in motion
And opened the door
“The Aboriginal Question”
The changing of Laws

The scars run deep
Within our lives
But we will fight on
For justice with pride
And hope one day soon
We will stand hand in hand
As we press for equality
In our Great Australian Land

Nola Gregory

The Yamaji peoples are the traditional custodians of the Midwest region.

In 1967, Geraldton was part of the larger division Kalgoorlie. Local media in Geraldton strongly argued the case for a ‘Yes’ vote to change sections 51 and 127 of the Constitution.

“The present constitutional position regarding this sector of the Australian population is obsolete and unjustifiable in this present age. There are many problems in which Commonwealth aid would be invaluable- in which it is urgently needed. Three such aspects come to mind immediately – those of education, housing and health.”The Geraldton Guardian
May 23 1967

While these views were aired by the main newspaper of the town, Geraldton recorded a relatively low ‘Yes’ vote of 73.61%.

Local media articles highlighted public anticipatio
Local media articles highlighted public anticipatio
Image copyright WA Museum 

Since 1967, a number of groups and organisations have formed to support Aboriginal rights.

Reconciliation has been a strong focus and a Reconciliation Committee was formed in 2007.

In 2016, the City of Greater Geraldton launched its second Reconciliation Action Plan, to continue to progress towards equality.

Regional Aboriginal Consultative Committee, c1970
Regional Aboriginal Consultative Committee, c1970.
(Seated, left - right) Robert Stack, Mount Magnet; Elvie Burns, Geraldton; Nancy Ryan, Mullewa; Margaret Green, Mullewa; Kathleen Gregory, Geraldton; George Abdullah, Geraldton; Mrs Johnson, Geraldton; Clarrie Cameron, Committee Chair, Wiluna; Ian Johnson, District Officer; Agnes Ryder, Carnarvon; Margaret Mippy, Meekatharra; Leedham Cameron (Snr), Meekatharra; Doug Fraser, Cue.
(Standing, left - right) Lorraine Jones, Mingenew; Eva Harris, Geraldton; John Mitchell, Carnarvon; Taffy Papertalk, Mullewa; Mr Roberts.

Image courtesy Clarrie Cameron and Geraldton Regional Library.

Nola Gregory is a Yamaji woman from Geraldton with ties to Kitja and Nyul-Nyul / Bardi country in the Kimberley region. Poetry is her passion and she has been writing poems for over 20 years.

Voting Results for the division of Geraldton

Results for Kalgoorlie Enrolled Voters Yes' vote No' vote Informal votes Total valid votes Yes' vote No' vote
Division of Kalgoorlie   21,719 8,888 960 30,607 70.96 29.04
(Boulder) 3,668 2,107 872 141 3,120 67.53 27.95
(Dundas) 3,870 2,239 814 85 3,138 71.35 25.94
(Gascoyne) 2,508 1,028 464 47 1,539 66.80 30.15
(Geraldton) 6,307 3,539 1,269 182 4,990 70.92 25.43
(Greenough) 4,000 2,288 928 79 3,295 69.44 28.16
(Kalgoorlie) 7,335 3,825 2,001 179 6,005 63.70 33.32
(Kanowna) 214 40 11 2 53 75.47 20.75
(Kimberly) 2,726 1,227 435 73 1,735 70.72 25.07
(Leonora) 531 157 74 6 237 66.24 31.22
(Mt Magnet) 786 326 198 28 552 59.06 35.87
(Murchison) 523 144 107 2 253 56.92 42.29
(Pilbara) 1,873 684 255 33 972 70.37 26.23
(Yilgarn) 1,245 729 252 39 1,020 71.47 24.71
Postal votes*         1,121    
Absentee votes*         3,495