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The state of Australia before the referendum in 1967 was one related to a racist nation. During the year 1900, the British colonialists invaded Australia. To them, the nation was not habited and the aborigines, who lived in Australia, were part of the environment. The constitution that was drafted by the colonialists depicted high levels of inequalities (Crotty & Roberts, 2009). The rights of the white settlers were highly upheld while those of the aborigines were diminishing.
During the 1967 referendum, various parts of the Australian constitution were questioned and changed. The first part was the one that stated who the commonwealth laws should govern (Attwood & Markus, 2007). The constitution stated that commonwealth laws were only made for the whites and not the aborigines. It, therefore, implied that the aborigines had no constitutional rights under the commonwealth laws.
The other section was the part that stated who should be counted during the national census. According to the 1900 constitution, the aborigines were not counted. The section was altered to give the aboriginal community an opportunity to be counted as part of the Australian citizens. So many people fought for a change in the Australian constitution. This act took them more than 10 years.
The year 1967 was a major turning point in Australia as most of the people came out to vote for the alteration of the constitution. More than 90 percent of the populace voted in favour of the changes. The referendum was a breakthrough for the aboriginal people, who were counted later as part of the Australian citizens during the country’s population census. In addition, the aborigines came under the commonwealth statutes as opposed to the state regulations. The new constitution therefore was passed on August 1967.
The outcome of the referendum was of great benefit to the aborigines. First, it assisted in the removal of the initial rules of the aborigine act of 1905 that gave chief guardian of aborigines power over all aborigines up to the age of 16. The power of this guardian was much higher than that of a parent to her own child.
The guardian could take children away from their families as he wish. These children were taken to the home of the white settlers or to some separate hostels. The parents were not informed on the whereabouts of their children, who, sometimes, were being subjected to torture. This act created some form of trauma for both parents and children as it at times involved some brutality. After the referendum, this role was scrubbed and it was a relief to the aborigines.
The chief guardian also had control of the adult populace of aborigines. They were to seek permission for marriage; they did not have freedom of movement or right to own property. The changes of 1967 assured them these rights (Mason, Hill & Davis, 2007).
The new constitution also granted the aboriginal people the right to be Australian citizens. This right will ensure that they are not controlled by the aborigine’s act of 1905. The breakthrough of 1967 gave them this chance. The 1905 aborigines act allowed the aboriginal people to apply to be citizens of Australia so that they cannot be controlled by the act.
The situation of the aboriginal people was to be improved through giving the people access to education, equal employment opportunities and contribute to the economy (Goot & Rowse, 2007). They were to face a panel, which will assess their qualification for citizenship. Once it is granted, the chief protector had the ability to snatch it when he feels like.
The changes in the constitution than more than 90 percent of the population voted for showed that Australian people were tired of the existing racial discrimination. The event was worth celebrating, as it is a show of social equality, power lying on the people and a choice against discrimination (Attwood, Markus & Schilling, 1997). This occurrence did not do away with the nature of ruling that existed in Australia. The government of Australia in most times forgot to seek advice from the aborigines on the ruling of the country.
Now, the aboriginal populace still have a shorter life expectancy as compared to their non-indigenous counterparts. According to statistics, it is evident that the challenges of poor health, housing, education and high rates of unemployment are the main challenges facing the aborigines (Crotty & Roberts, 2008). Despite the fact that the 1967 referendum was a breakthrough for the aborigines, there are times when it is clear that Australian community is fighting the battle of addressing fully the needs of the aborigines.
The only impeccable period that showed that the Australians were concerned with the interests of the aborigines was during the referendum. There has been a moment of silence since the change of the Australian constitution. The forms of inequalities carried out by the constitution in silence have made the Australian people to look back to the evils that existed before the 1967 referendum.
The 1967 referendum did not bring about the end to racial discrimination that was in existence in Australia. It led to an improvement in the relationship between the aborigines and the entire Australian nation. The legacy that arose from the referendum is to some extent the most enduring (Tungate, 2007). The relationship that developed between the state and federal government became that of putting blame on one another.
Attwood, B., Markus, A., & Schilling, K. (1997). The 1967 referendum, or, When Aborigines didn’t get the vote. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.
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Attwood, B., & Markus, A. (2007). The 1967 referendum: race, power and the Australian Constitution (2nd ed.). Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.
Crotty, M., & Roberts, D. (2008). Turning Points in Australian History. Sydney: University of NSW Press.
Crotty, M., & Roberts, D. (2009). Turning points in Australian history. Sydney, N.S.W.: UNSW Press.
Goot, M., & Rowse, T. (2007). Divided Nation ?: Indigenous affairs and the imagined public. Carlton: Melbourne University Press.
Mason, K., Hill, K., & Davis, R. (2007). Celebrating Aboriginal rights?: 16 July – 7 September 2007, Tony Albert … [et al.]. North Ryde: Macquarie University.
Tungate, M. (2007). Adland: a global history of advertising. London: Kogan Page.