Regional Aboriginal Consultative Committee, c.1970

It has been 50 years since the 1967 Referendum where Australians overwhelming voted to amend the constitution, allowing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be counted in the census, and to be subject to Commonwealth laws rather than an array of state laws.

Voters recorded the largest “yes” vote – 90.77% – in any Australian referendum. However, on a percentage basis, Western Australia cast the lowest “yes” vote at 80.9%.

A new display called Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 years on is now open at the Museum of Geraldton marking the 50th anniversary of the historic Referendum. Using photos, a timeline and a series of moving interviews captured on video, the exhibition gives local context to the vote and its influence on the community and its future.

The exhibition title is drawn from the slogan used during the 1967 Referendum campaign, “Right Wrongs, Write Yes”.

Western Australian Museum CEO Alec Coles said the exhibition is part of the Museum’s contribution to the 1967 Referendum commemorations in partnership with the State Library of Western Australia and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

“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,” Mr Coles said.

“Through local voices, the satellite exhibitions at the Museum of Geraldton, Museum of the Goldfields, Museum of the Great Southern and the WA Maritime Museum look to the past and the future, exploring personal reflections of the 1967 Referendum’s significance and meanings. The exhibition recognises the many aspirations that have been met since the Referendum, but acknowledges that social disadvantage still exists.”

The Museum of Geraldton has collaborated with Geraldton Regional Library and City of Greater Geraldton Community and Aboriginal Development Officer Nola Gregory. Both have contributed content and curated a digital display of images from the Yamaji Yanda Photographic Collection.

Ms Gregory, a Yamaji woman with ties to Kitja and Nyul-Nyul/Bardi country, has also contributed a moving poem entitled 1967 Referendum which will feature in all three of the WA Museum’s regional displays. It begins:

Sailed their boats

Up to our shores

Aimed their guns

And made their laws

No man’s land

Was what they said

Did not want to count

One single head

Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 years on is part of the National Reconciliation Week calendar of events happening in the City of Greater Geraldton.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs’ educational toolkit Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 years on is available online to assist educators to raise awareness and understanding with their students about the Referendum and other related historical events.

WA Museum visitors can see Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – WA 50 years on during the following display periods:

Museum of Geraldton, 28 May – 3 September 2017

Museum of the Goldfields, 28 May – 1 September 2017

Museum of the Great Southern, 28 May – 30 June 2017

WA Maritime Museum, 26 May – 16 July 2017

Right Wrongs: ’67 Referendum – the WA Story is on display at the State Library of WA 27 May – 3 September 2017.


Media contact
Sharna Craig
Media and Publicity Officer
Western Australian Museum