Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 Years On exhibition at Maritime Museum

A groundswell of support for the “yes” vote at Beaufort Street, Perth on Labour Day 1966. Picture: State Library of Western Australia
A groundswell of support for the “yes” vote at Beaufort Street, Perth on Labour Day 1966. Picture: State Library of Western Australia

FOR more than half of the short 116-year history of this country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were not considered Australians.

It took until 1967 for Australians to finally vote to amend the constitution, allowing Indigenous people to be counted in the census and to be subject to Commonwealth laws.

With a yes vote of 81.8 per cent, Fremantle residents were among the biggest supports of the cause, which still holds the record for the largest yes vote of any Australian referendum at 90.77 per cent.

The Western Australian Museum will bring the cause back to Fremantle and will mark the 50th anniversary of the vote with a new exhibition at the Maritime Museum and State Library of WA called Right Wrongs: ‘67 Referendum-WA 50 Years On.

Western Australian Museum chief executive Alec Coles said the exhibition aimed to give local context to the vote and its influence on WA at the time and since.

“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,” he said.

“Through local voices, the satellite exhibitions at the WA Maritime Museum…look to the past and the future, exploring personal reflections of the 1967 referendum’s significance and meaning.

“The exhibition recognises the many aspirations that have been met since the referendum but acknowledges that social disadvantage still exists.”

Aboriginal Affairs minister Ben Wyatt said that referendum meant Aboriginal people were afforded the same rights as non-Aboriginal Australians.

“The referendum was pivotal in highlighting the inequalities faced by the Aboriginal community and in securing legislative changes,” he said.

“This is recent history; my family was part of this experience.

“In 50 years we have moved to a point where Aboriginal people are now central in determining their future and it is important that this history, and the WA stories of this time, be shared.”

Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum-WA 50 Years On is at the Maritime Museum until July 16.

Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum-The WA Story is at the State Library of WA until September 3.

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