Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Group

Promoting understanding of, and respect for, human rights

1967 Referendum

Date: 27 May 2013

On 27 May 1967, 90 percent of Australians voted 'yes' to a referendum that removed discriminatory clauses from the Australian Constitution.  As a result, Aboriginal and torres Strait Islanders were included in the Census.  This was the biggest 'yes' vote in Australian history.

It is frequently stated that the 1967 referendum gave Aboriginal people Australian citizenship and that it gave them the right to vote in federal elections. Neither of these statements is correct. Aboriginal people became Australian citizens in 1949, when a separate Australian citizenship was created for the first time (before that time all Australians, including Aborigines, were "British subjects"). Aboriginal people from Queensland and Western Australia gained the vote in Commonwealth elections in 1962. However, the Commonwealth voting right of Aborigines from other states was confirmed by a Commonwealth Act in 1949 (the constitution already gave them that right but it was often interpreted differently prior to 1949). They got the vote in WA state elections in 1962 and Queensland state elections in 1965.