The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON researcher to reflect on 1967 referendum

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Professor John Maynard will sit on a panel at the National Museum of Australia, as part of the new exhibition ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, to reflect on the 1967 referendum.

Set to be broadcast live on ABC National, the event on the 24th May will feature acclaimed guests speaking on the landmark decision 50 years ago where Australians voted overwhelmingly to alter the constitution, allowing Aboriginal people to be counted in the census and be subject to Commonwealth law.

The panellists will discuss this landmark decision and what it’s meant for Australia, and, more importantly, where to from here?

Professor John Maynard was 12 years old in 1967, and for 10 of those years, people had been campaigning for change for Aboriginal people in Australia.

“Although I was just a kid, in the years leading up to 1967 I was always deeply interested in the media and newspaper coverage of these events,” he said. “It was a time globally of great social and political upheaval.”

The fight had been a long one, driven by many great leaders such as Kath Walker (later Oodgeroo Noonuccal), Doug Nicholls, Bill Onus, Joe McGinness, Pastor Frank Roberts, Faith Bandler, Stan Davey, Jessie Street, Jack and Jean Horner, Gordon Bryant and Shirley Andrews.

“These individuals had put their backs into more than a decade of effort to ensure change would eventually come,” John said.

Nearly 91 per cent of the electorate voted to amend the constitution in May 1967. However, John says that it’s important to remember that the referendum failed to deliver any real or positive change for Aboriginal people.

“The positives of what happened following the referendum were that Aboriginal people were united in the fight for improving Aboriginal economic and social conditions,” John said. “It was about making change for the good of all Aboriginal people, and that is an important lesson and reminder for today.”

The panel will be led by Paul Barclay from ABC RN Big Ideas. The panel includes:

  • Hon Linda Burney MP, Member for Barton
  • Ray Peckham, Aboriginal Rights Activist
  • Professor John Maynard, Director of Purai Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre, University of Newcastle
  • Andrea Mason, Chief Executive of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council

Tickets are available here.

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