Referendum – The 1967 Referendum was a significant mark of recognition for Aboriginal people. Many Noongar have memories of how life changed for us afterwards.

Carol Pettersen explains what it meant to her:
And when this Referendum came along, it was really scary because after years of oppression, years and years of oppression and being punished for daring to be any different, all of a sudden they open a book to you and say, “Be black – it’s all yours.” And we were saying, “Oh no, hang on, this is a trick, you fellas, don’t take any part of that, you know.” “Don’t have nothing to do with that,” you know. It was very scary. So we didn’t – we didn’t take advantage of any of that stuff at all, those government programs, because if you were seen to be – see remember what the Commissioner said to my father? They had to be brought up as white children and they weren’t to be a burden on the State. Now for me to put my hand out for any government assistance is very scary, you know – I think, we got AbStudy but that’s about the only thing I ever got. Never ever took anything else.

Although Noongar people were counted in the next census after the Referendum, it did not confer citizenship rights. This created a demand for change and activism. Organisations such as the Aboriginal Advancement Council came out of this.


Start of page