Skip to main content

4.4 1967 Changing the Constitution

<p>Lobbyists from the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders with Prime Minister Harold Holt (third from left) in February 1967</p>

National Archives of Australia: A1200, L62232

<p>Lobbyists from the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders with Prime Minister Harold Holt (third from left) in February 1967</p>

Based on the Defining Moment in Australian history: 1967 A decade of activism succeeds — Indigenous referendum

Under the Australian Constitution of 1901 laws about Aboriginal people could only be made by state governments. These governments could only make laws that applied in their own states. This meant that different laws existed for Aboriginal people in different states. They did not all have the same citizenship rights as non-Indigenous people.

The only way to make laws that helped all Aboriginal people was for the Australian Parliament to have the power to make the laws. For this to happen the people needed to change the Constitution. This can only be done by a popular vote — a referendum.

In 1967 there was a referendum to change the Constitution to allow the Australian Parliament to make laws for all Aboriginal people throughout Australia.

For a referendum to pass it needed to have a majority of the people in Australia voting ‘Yes’ to the change and a majority of the states also had to vote ‘Yes’.

Here are the results showing the percentage of people who voted Yes and No in Australia and in each state:

 

Yes

No

New South Wales

91.46

8.54

Queensland

89.21

10.79

South Australia

86.26

13.74

Tasmania

90.21

9.79

Victoria

94.68

5.32

Western Australia

80.95

19.05

Australia

90.77

9.23

Logo DMDC Logo NMA