The 27th May is the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, which changed Australia’s Constitution so Indigenous people would be counted in the census. Now, many Australians say it’s time for another referendum. We find out about the campaign to give First Australians a voice in parliament and recognition in the Constitution.
Vote yes and give them rights and freedoms just like me and you, vote yes for Aboriginies.
FAITH BANDLER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR: The referendum is on Saturday, and it is important that we should have the maximum vote because the eyes of the world are on Australia.
On the 27th of May 1967 Australians went to the polls, but it wasn't for an election. They were voting on whether or not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be counted as citizens of their own country. You see back then Indigenous people didn't have the same rights as other Australians. They faced a lot of discrimination and Australia's Constitution said the government couldn't make laws for them or even count them as part of the population.
FAITH BANDLER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR: I feel that the time has come when Australia can no longer tolerate legal racial discrimination against its Indigenous people.
A lot of people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, realised it was time to change that. But that would require changing the Constitution. The Constitution is a really important legal document that kinda acts like our nation's rule book. It sets out how the government is set up and how laws are allowed to be made and enforced. Changing this thing isn't easy. You have to have a referendum which is basically a big public vote. For a change to pass more than half of the population, as well as more than half of the states have to vote 'yes'. Out of the 44 referendums that we've had only 8 have been successful. Including the 1967 referendum, with 90 percent of Aussies voting 'yes'. It was seen as a huge win for all Australians, but for many it was just the beginning.
55 years later some say it's time for another referendum to recognise First Nations people and give them more of a say in the running of their country. It's something that many have been calling for, for a long time. In 2017 hundreds of Indigenous delegates met at Uluru and came up with this, the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It outlined a number of changes they wanted to see. Including the creation of a new group in federal parliament, the First Nations Body, whose job it would be advise the government on any laws and policies for Indigenous people. That would include things like high incarceration rates, underemployment, as well as access to better healthcare.
THOMAS MAYOR, ULURU PARTICIPANT: Everything that we struggle with, everything that we try and achieve all connects to the decisions made in Canberra by the federal government. All of these things are decided in Canberra with very little influence from Indigenous people.
But for a group like that to be formed there would need to be changes made to the Constitution. Which, as we all just found out, requires a referendum. Something the Prime Minister at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, rejected.
MALCOLM TURNBULL, FORMER PRIME MINISTER: I have to be honest with you about this. I don't think it's a good idea and if it were put up in a referendum, it would go down in flames.
It's now been 5 years and people are still waiting for something to happen. Last month the authors of the Uluru Statement reunited in North Queensland and are now calling on the next government of Australia to hold a referendum within the next two years.
NOLAN HUNTER, ULURU DIALOGUE: When will we ever be ready? How long in history have we gone? How long have Indigenous people in this country said the same thing over and over and over?
Now that a new government has been elected, advocates are hopeful that we will see changes happen soon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
LUKE RUSSELL, GURAKI COMMITTEE: To have an Indigenous governing body advising our government on Indigenous issues instead of having them made for us. To me, that's the ultimate dream.